Please be aware this piece contains references to abuse, suicide attempts and addiction, which some people may find distressing.
I took drugs non-stop from being thirteen till about 2008. I started on the party drugs but it just spiralled out of control and I got into crack and heroin. The only time I had a break was when I got pregnant when I was 17. My son’s father was an awful person, violent and abusive. He left me when I was pregnant.
My son’s never not been with me but when he was about 4 or 5 my mum used to have him quite a bit. I always had a job, like waitressing, bar work, retail and could function on drugs and work. Obviously I was getting some benefits but I didn’t end up in prostitution or robbing and stuff. I was quite lucky where I had babysitters through friends, family, my friends’ family, cos none of my friends really had any kids when I did.
But in my 20s I was always in trouble. I was on tag a couple of times, probation, I was always in court, getting into fights. I wouldn’t say I always started them but I had problems with my temper.
During that period, I tried to kill myself. In my head I thought my son was better off without me, I just had a complete breakdown really, just like, a couple of bad relationships and loads of stuff that had gone on.
I was sectioned and it was terrible. I was in one-to-ones with students just sat there looking at me. They pumped me full of drugs. But I found that a lot of people that were on that ward were supporting each other. So I was lucky to be with other people that were in the same situation, feeling the same way and we all became friends. But half the time the staff were sat in an office just having a brew and there were people wondering about that shouldn’t have been.
After that I had to see a psychiatrist – I was seeing a different person every week and saying the same story. I just got fed up with it and half of them don’t engage with you properly anyway.
When I got into uni, in my late 30s, I was still injecting in my first year and then I nearly OD’d and I just thought, “You’re so selfish, what are you doing?”. I was thinking what would happen if something happened to me, what would happen to my son, I would ruin his life as well. So I just stopped.
After I graduated I suffered an injury that resulted in a disability so basically I had to give up my dream job. I only started drinking when I got this disability, cos it was helping with the nerve pain, and it just spiralled out of control. My dream job went, my career went and my life turned upside down. Everything that had ever pulled me through all the dark times had gone.
I think that alcohol addiction’s harder to combat than drug addiction, because you don’t see people shooting up as much on the telly, you don’t have to ring anyone up for alcohol, it’s everywhere you go, it’s advertised, it’s more socially acceptable. I just feel it’s a lot harder.
Recently I ended up in another abusive relationship with a man. I ended it cos he tried to strangle me.
I’m just volunteering at the moment because I have always identified with being homeless even though I’ve not been on the streets. I was couch-surfing for a year, I was in hostels, I have mental health problems, and I know having multiple complex needs that there’s just loads of barriers. I still face barriers now.
I’m stuck a bit in a rock and a hard place really cos I can’t get back into work cos they’ll take all my money off me and I am trying to sort out my debts. I’m really on the bread line and struggling. I didn’t expect to have done a degree and be worse off than when I was a single parent when I was in hostels at 18. I just want a good career, so I might be applying to do my masters next year.
There is help out there, so I’ve got options, but I’ve gone out there and got them myself. Cos no one’s gonna do it for you unless you do it yourself.
I just think that even though I’ve been up and down up and down, it has been a fair ride, my life. I got off the hard drugs and I got my dream job and then it got taken away from me, but I’ve still picked myself up and carried on. So even when it all goes wrong you can pick yourself up, it just might take you a few years. I’m definitely in a better place with my drinking and my mental health and state of mind now. I’ve got a new game plan.
Louise (not her real name) is a volunteer at Inspiring Change Manchester.