started using crack
ten years ago. She's not sure how long afterwards it was that her Mum became aware, but it was at least a year into quite a heavy addiction
. SWIM had begun to really struggle with it. She was a year into a degree course at uni but had virtually stopped going. Her life revolved around getting up, getting money for drugs
and getting high, then bed and start again the next day.
SWIM was living in London (where she still lives) and her parents were across the English Channel in Jersey, so they weren't having any face to face contact at the time. SWIM's Mum must've figured it out just from phone-calls (mother's intuition SWIM guesses).
Anyway, one day SWIM's Mum was on the phone to her and started talking about a magazine article she'd been reading - asking SWIM if she'd seen it. The article was about a young girl dying from a heroin
overdose, written from the parent's perspective. A photo of her death was being bandied about in the media relentlessly at the time. It was of this girl sitting kneeling on the floor, hunched over, dead, with a needle sticking out of her arm. The parents had released the photo to warn others about the dangers and horrors of heroin.
SWIM's Mum suddenly blurted out "are you using heroin?"
"Er ... no" SWIM replied hesitantly (well she wasn't, it was crack that was her DOC
). SWIM thought "it's now or never". Her Mum had given her the perfect opportunity to speak and tell all so SWIM did.
"I'm not on heroin Mum ... but there's something else. I'm addicted to crack".
SWIM will never forget that conversation and those words she uttered. She can't actually remember exactly what followed: the particulars of the conversation but she remembers the awkwardness, embarrassment and shame felt on her side and the disappointment, sadness and confusion on her mothers.
At first SWIM thinks her Mother might've been slightly relieved: that it wasn't heroin. She hadn't heard of crack before. "Was it as bad as heroin?" she wanted to know, optimistically. Other questions followed of course. One thing SWIM has never been able to get used too is explaining drugs to her parents and answering questions like "how do you take it?" "what does it do to you / how does it make you feel?" "how much does it cost?" "how much do you use?" "how often do you use?" "how do you pay for it?" (ie how do you fund your habit), etc.
SWIM tried to focus on the positive: it wasn't physically
addictive and she wasn't injecting it. It doesn't really matter what you tell your parents though, once they know
you're an addict
they'll soon find out for themselves. It must be horrible being the parent of an addict, loving and caring for the child you brought into the world and seeing them absorbed into a world that you know so little about, only that it could kill your offspring.
And the worst part is once they know it actually lets you off the hook somewhat. You've got an excuse for being a fuck-up. You stop trying to conceal the addiction and bit by bit they get to really see the ugly truth about your tawdry little life.
SWIM has treated her parents shamefully truth be told. It was never intentional of course. In fact by trying to protect them she's probably done more lasting harm than good. You see they let her and her boyfriend stay with them for 6 months - to get clean together. As soon as they returned to London however they relapsed. But for a while SWIM tried to keep up the facade of being a 'recovering addict'. It was a lie and worse than that it was an unmaintainable lie. The truth came out. Again they took SWIM in and again SWIM let them down. This has been the pattern for ten years. Worse still is that SWIM actually did
become a heroin addict. That was hard for them to swallow. "How could she be so stupid?" After everything she'd been through ... after everything she'd put them through ...
They even begged her to think of them - "was she doing it to hurt them?" SWIM was gutted: they were the two people she least wanted to hurt in the world. It wasn't supposed to be like this. She should be making them proud, looking after them, giving them grandchildren ...
These days SWIM is truthful with them: she owes them that much at least. It's a horrible situation. She can see that their hopes for her have faded somewhat and their belief in her has been shaken to the core. They take her statements of intent to get off drugs with a pinch of salt. Who can blame them?
SWIM is so sorry she let them down. The had to know though. There's only so long you can keep your loved ones in the dark. The truth hurts, but sometimes it just has to be told.