“Never give up when drug addiction brings you down”
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Charlotte* talks about drug addiction and having the mental strength and resilience to turn your life around. The 30-year-old moved into a two-bedroom Bromford property with her 11-year-old son at the end of December following a five-year battle with heroin.
So Charlotte, when did your problems with drug addiction first begin?
I was living up in Liverpool at the time and had a good job in nursery management. Unfortunately though I was in a really bad relationship and I had already started to develop a problem with drugs. I moved home to Gloucestershire with my son to be closer to my family but that, of course, meant I had to give up my job and the void that left meant I had even more time to let my addiction spiral and spiral out of control.
How bad did it get?
I was in a really bad place and some days I’d spend £180 just to fund my habit for heroin. I still did normal stuff as well like take my son to school but it was the times in between which became the problem – I became focused on short-term aims and this led me to become involved in fraud and shoplifting just to fund the drug addiction.
In 2011, I was sentenced to 18 months in prison for theft at a shop. I served 10 of those months and shortly before I went inside my dad stopped me seeing my son. It was a shock to the system and whilst I was in prison I didn’t have any visitors which looking back probably helped me because I was able to get my head down and purely focus on what I needed to do. My son moved in with my dad who was also looking after my younger sister and it was a whole year without seeing him – for a mother there’s nothing harder than that.
Was there a turning point for you?
Serving a prison sentence and not seeing my son made me realise what was important in life. Social services were involved and after finding out my dad was an alcoholic as well they were threatening to put him into care.
I’d already started getting help for my addiction and then within a week of coming out of prison my father sadly passed away. Social services agreed to give me one last chance and it suddenly meant I was left caring for not only my son but also my sister too. I had to grow up quickly and it gave me even more focus to turn my life around.
How are you being supporting now?
I’ve moved into a lovely, new two-bed house and I feel for the first time I can now properly focus on how to move forward and it has given me that stability which I haven’t really had since leaving prison and getting off the drugs. Bromford have been helping me change my bills over and get on top of my finances but most of the changes in my life I had already implemented – what they’ve really done is give me that independence, stability and extra impetus that I needed.
The house I was in before was far too big for the two of us and the rent was extortionate so I was left in a situation where I might have been forced into getting any job just to pay the bills and keep my head above water whereas now I can actually build something long-term.
I’m currently studying for a criminology degree which is an area I’m really interested in and I’m hoping to complete my masters as well. I’m not exactly sure which field I want to go into yet so I’m keeping my options open. On top of that, I’ve also just started some voluntary work for a charity within the probation service which deals with substance misuse – I feel like I want to give something back and use my experiences to help other people.
And do you have any advice for people in a similar situation?
I was lucky in a way because my circumstances kind of fell into place and that helped me. But people need to know there are so many organisations, charities and support groups out there which can help you overcome this horrible disease – you don’t have to do it on your own. My little boy kept me going and was my inspiration and I would just say to people, no matter what happens along the way, always keep trying and never give up when drug addiction brings you down.
It’s also a great idea to share your story because we always hear about the failures in the media but actually there are so many success stories where people have beaten drug addiction and come out the other side.
*name changed to protect identity