When an addict needs help, there are plenty of support groups. But what if you are not the addict, but the person left picking up the pieces? Natalie Walker speaks to one woman who struggled to cope with her former partner who was a drug addict.
Life as an addict is tough as they face a long way to acceptance and recovery.
As they require the help and support of their loved ones, it can take its toll on everyone involved - not just the addict.
Family members are often caught in a life of misery and despair as they watch someone they love spiral out of control.
In some cases they take out their anger on those closest to them.
Caroline* is a 34-year-old mother-of-three living in the Lancashire area who had struggled for years with an abusive partner who was a drug addict.
She says: “My first partner was violent towards me due to his cocaine binge addiction. I managed to escape that relationship and I met my son’s father.
“When we got together, he used recreational drugs but it was very rare, so I didn’t think it was a problem.
“But I didn’t notice certain behaviours which I should have been aware of. His addiction slowly went up and he was using cocaine, marijuana and recreational drugs.
“He used steroids which affected his moods and he was violent to myself and my children. We escaped that and went into a women’s refuge.
“We ended up going back to him because I thought he had stopped and I loved him.
“But things were still bad and I had to go out and get the drugs for him. Money was tight and social services were around a lot as I was at risk of losing my children.
“One child had to live with family members because they could not cope with the hectic lifestyle and abuse going on.”
Things came to a head in May 2017, when Caroline visited her partner and found him unconscious.
She recalls: “I walked into the house and he ignored me.
“I wondered what I had done and I felt I was walking on egg shells. I was wondering how to approach him when he was not acknowledging me.
“As I walked to the sofa, I realised he was not being ignorant, he had passed away. He had choked on his vomit. I pulled him off the sofa, which was very difficult as he was 18 stone and I had recently had spinal surgery due to the domestic violence.
“I rang an ambulance and tried to resuscitate him, but when the paramedics came, they told me he had passed away three hours ago.
“I cried for four days solidly. My son was away on a scout trip and I had to tell him when he came back.
“That was very hard as he doesn’t show his emotions very well. He cried for seven hours.”
Following her traumatic experiences, Caroline was diagnosed with bipolar, depression and anxiety.
But after seeking help, she has been able to feel more positive.
It was a new-found friend who pointed Caroline towards Red Rose Recovery (RRR) and Lancashire User Forum, which helped her take control of her life and family.
She adds: “My son had just started high school and he had made a new friend.
“His mum came round and invited me to a meeting with an opportunity for training at Red Rose Recovery.
“I didn’t want to leave the house, but she said she would come with me. I completed five days of training and realised I was not fully aware of what addiction was.
“I was not aware of how hectic our lives were. But doing this training really helped me to understand.
“I thought I deserved the violence because I didn’t have enough vodka in the cupboard or I had got back late so I couldn’t inject him.
“But Red Rose Recovery helped me to understand what I went through was wrong.
“I had lived the experiences of an addict, going through the lows and consequences but not getting any of the ‘highs’ attached to it.”
Caroline went to work with Red Rose Recovery, supporting addicts through recovery.
She has gone back to university to study a BA Hons in children, schools and families as she wants to work with the families of addicts.
She is also part of Families Matter, which supports the loved ones of those living with addiction.
She adds: “I have almost completed my first year and I am on course for a first. Considering where I was, I can’t believe it.
“I am involved in Families Matter because I understand what it can be like as a partner of someone with an addiction, being a mum, running a house and being the one to make sure there is enough money.
“I had gone through a difficult time but now things are amazing.
“My children are settled and it is really nice to see them live as happy children, without the stigma attached to everything.
“I am also newly engaged and very happy.”
*Caroline wanted to remain anonymous so her real name has not been used.
Read more: Reformed addicts: Meet the founder of Red Rose Recovery in Lancashire and Reformed addicts: How Emma Daggers beat her addiction to form a support group Families Matter in Lancashire and Reformed addicts: Here is how a prison visit from Red Rose Recovery helped drug addict Steven kick the habit which killed his brother
Red Rose Recovery helps its users find activities and training opportunities to assist with relationships, housing, education, and employment. The organisation, which has offices in Fox Street, Preston; Fleet Square, Lancaster; and Cannon Street, Accrington, has links with the Lancashire User Forum (LUF).
LUF is a county wide group for individuals, family, friends and carers who have been affected by addiction.
It is led by service users, supported by their friends, families and RRR workers, giving them a voice in how recovery should be accessible. It has support groups across Lancashire, including Preston and Blackpool.
Families Matter is a support group aimed at relatives of addicts. Call RRR on 01772 821440 for more info