I have been living with my son for 15 years. He abuses alcohol and drugs and more recently has progressed to heroin. I have been physically attacked, spat at, had my finger broken and my home has been wrecked from time to time. I have had to call the Police to remove him from my home and he has also attacked others. The verbal abuse is unbearable, and my life has been pretty much unmanageable for some years now. As a result, I have suffered from depression and anxiety and my marriage and other relationships have also suffered. I have very few friends that I can confide in, and my husband has switched off from it all, so I feel completely alone. I have also spent a great deal of money trying to get my son support and he has been in rehab and “day-hab” on and off for the past 2 years. When he went into “day-hab” I was advised to attend the family group.

On my initial meeting I took along a notepad and pen, expecting the facilitators to give me instruction on how to “fix” him. I was somewhat surprised then to be asked how I was feeling. I cried as nobody had asked me that question before and although I was initially uncomfortable (and very tearful) I made the decision to attend further groups as I was assured that by helping myself it would be helpful for the whole family.

Every week I cried and cried. I haven’t cried for a long time, obviously having become immune to the disaster that was now my life. I began to read materials and books and say the serenity prayer constantly each day. As the weeks passed I began to appreciate that attending was a space for me to process, grieve, shout and scream. Always supported beautifully by the facilitators, I was never felt to be foolish and was able to share.

Sometimes it is painful to reflect on something that has come up, but I now appreciate that this is an important element of the meetings. I began to cry less and feel more comfortable. It is amazing how many of us there are, how we all feel the same things including the shame and guilt. I have been able to reflect on my own upbringing and now recognise that some of my go-to behaviours are a result of my upbringing. My parents were demonstrative, and my father was prone to bad moods and arguments. As a result, I hate conflict so when my son attacked me, I simply let him. I know that I have not put in boundaries that I should have done but even though I take these thoughts to meetings I am never judged, I am only supported.

The meetings have become a lifeline for me and even if I have had a good week with my son I still attend as I am fully aware that life with an addict is like a rollercoaster and things can change rapidly.

I am learning that I am important too. I deserve simple things like being treated respectfully, the right to feel safe in my own home and to be able to enjoy my life. I have become more reflective and read short stories daily. I pray and I continue to pray despite the appearance of a lack of support from my higher power! I live in constant fear of losing my son, in fact he was on life support for 3 days following an overdose and we planned his funeral and talked about donating his organs. I have been to hell and back but now having the support of The Living Room I can get access to support free of charge which is completely astounding.

I feel very blessed to have found the group. Debbie and Nicola “hold” me and even though I am sitting here crying now writing this, I know that I will see them on Wednesday. These services are so vital for the community, and I know that all the people who attend think so too. It helps to have a platform to voice concerns, share successes and, yes, cry. After each group I always feel brighter and more able to cope. Having facilitators who themselves have abused substances means that they completely understand, and I think this is also a vital part of the programme. I was always told, “just get on with your life and ignore what is happening”, but that’s simply not possible. Debbie and Nicola accept me with all my faults, with all my concerns, with all the “stuff” that I bring and they are always willing to share their own stories, thoughts and feelings which gives me an insight into the world of an addict.

My son continues to struggle. He was one of the first IVF babies to be born. He is a beautiful soul but doesn’t think so. A much-wanted baby whom I have to watch destroy his life. If I didn’t have the group I feel that my own emotional and mental wellbeing would have deteriorated. Can I ask that this group is supported as much as possible? We really need it.