The Children Left Behind: How I Lost My Parents to Heroin Addiction
My mum was one of the best mum's a child could ask for. Growing up I never felt unloved, she would always make sure we knew we were important and worthy. That we deserved the best this world had to offer and that we could achieve anything we wanted.
Mum loved life and all it had to offer. She loved to entertain and surround herself with family and friends. Through friends she met Bobby. A loving man who treated her like a queen and treated me like a princess. I called him dad, and he always treated me like I was his own. I would look forward to waking up in the mornings, to a note next to my bed from him "have a wonderful day at school my little possum, I will see you when I get home, love daddy"
But there was one thing about Bobby that wasn't perfect, he was addicted to Heroin and eventually mum would become addicted too.
I always think why didn't she just walk away? But I guess my mum's love for him was just too strong?
Although I felt like I had a normal childhood, looking back, I now know it was far from reality.
I would always be yelling "Mum, your falling asleep with your cigarette" how she never burned our house down I don't know? Her quilt and everything else we owned was covered in cigarette burns. I would get home from school and our power would be cut off. Luckily we had an Electrician across the road who must have knew what was going on and felt sorry for us, cause he would reconnect it for us.
One day I came home and we had this awesome stereo, then a couple of days later the police came to our house and were taking all our stuff, including the new stereo, which I yelled at them "that's our stereo, my mum bought that, why are you taking it?" But one of the saddest memories is, my mum loved doing tapestry. She had done this huge tapestry which had taken her three years to complete. She had it framed with this beautiful chunky gold frame and it hung on our lounge-room wall, where it was the first thing you saw when you walked in.
One day I came home and it was gone. I asked mum where it was and she said they had to take it to the pawn-shop so they could pay the mortgage. The tapestry ended up being taken by the pawnshop because they did not have the money to get it back. This was also the same story for a lot of our stuff.
I remember going to the toilet and finding a syringe filled with blood sitting on the sink. I came down the stairs with it, yelling at mum and Bobby saying "I know what you are doing and that I hated them" Mum looked at me horrified, I think she thought I had no idea, but, even though I was only about 8 years old at the time, I wasn't stupid, I knew what my parents were doing. It wasn't my parents syringe that had been left in the bathroom, it was someone who had just been over.
After that I remember my mum and dad fighting a lot over the drug use. Mum desperately wanted to get off the drugs, but Bobby was weak and she couldn't do it while he was still using.
When I was 9 mum got pregnant, something she thought was an impossibility. This was just the excuse she needed to help her and them get clean. Mum did really well, for the first few months she didn't use. She went on a Methadone program and each day would have to go to a clinic where they would give her her daily dose. I went with her a few times. I remember the little white cup with a liquid in it, that she would drink down in front of the doctor and then we would leave, till the next day.
Mum was now 5 months pregnant and doing really well. Bobby got scared because she was doing so well, he thought she may leave him because he was still using. One day he said to her that he had a surprise for her. He took her into their bedroom where he had a fully loaded needle ready to go.
She couldn't believe that he would do something like that. That she had a baby inside her didn't seem to matter, but the temptation was just too hard to resist. He injected it into her arm and that was that, all the hard work she had done was now wasted with one person's insecurity and selfishness.
My brother was born addicted to heroin and had to stay in the hospital for what seemed a very long time. I wasn't allowed to hold him, I would have to watch him through the glass window. Eventually he came home and I doted on him and did everything I could for him.
One morning when I was 12 years old, I had gone into my mum's bedroom to wake her up before I left for school and my dad was still asleep. I tried to wake him up, telling him he was going to be late for school, but he just wouldn't wake up. I woke mum up, saying that dad wouldn't wake up. She started freaking out trying to wake him up. She yelled at me to ring an ambulance. We didn't have a phone, so I ran around to the shop and rang the ambulance, telling them our address and saying my dad wouldn't wake up.
I stood outside waiting for the ambulance, they ran upstairs to the bedroom and started putting those electrodes on him. I remember watching them trying to start his heart, but it was too late. Mum was a mess, I looked after her and just wanted to make sure she was alright. Normally your parent would make sure the child was ok, but again, it was like I was the mother and she the child.
My brother was just 3 years old when his father died. This evil drug had taken another victim and left another trail of devastation behind. Although Bobby might have been a heroin addict, he was also still a father that loved us as good as a father not on heroin would love their kids. Unfortunately, my brother would never get to know his father, but my mum vowed he wasn't not going to know his mother.
My brother was taken into foster care and I was sent to live with my Grandmother. At first mum still continued to do what she did, whilst I thought my world had come to a crushing end. I cried myself to sleep every night. I couldn't stand being away from my mum. I had just lost my dad and now my brother, mum and friends were taken from me.
In the school holidays she came to stay with us. I wouldn't let her out of my sight. The day she left I cried and cried, I felt sick to my stomach and just couldn't understand why I couldn't go home with her. This must have been unbearable for her too, because she went straight into a rehab facility when she got home, paid for by my grandparents, who also paid the mortgage, etc. so she wouldn't lose everything she had whilst in there.
After mum got clean, we moved back home and concentrated on getting my brother back. After getting my brother back, mum decided to move to Adelaide where her family were. Sydney was not the place for a person fighting drug addiction.
We moved to Adelaide and mum stayed cleaned, but this evil drug was not finished causing grief to our family.
Due to sharing needles and doing what most drug addicts do to get money for their daily fixes, my mum and dad had contracted Hepatitis B & C. Mum also ended up with Sclerosis of the liver.
After fighting so hard to get off the drugs and trying to redeem her life and have some sort of normality, mum was diagnosed with Liver cancer, due to the damage from the hepatitis and sclerosis. They couldn't operate because of the disease and mum was given 3 months to live.
My mum fought on and lived for another 7 years. I had 3 children which absolutely adored her and she them. Even through all the chemotherapy she fought on and never let us down. Never complaining even though she was violently ill.
When my brother was 15 and I was 24, mum lost her long fight with cancer. You would think this would be it, but our misery was still not over. Mum and Dad had contracted hepatitis before getting pregnant with my brother. All his life my brother had to be tested to see if he had contracted the hepatitis himself. Long after our parents had died, the effects of our parents heroin use carried on.
When my brother had turned 21 and had two children himself, he was diagnosed with hepatitis C. I couldn't believe it, here is a young man trying to make the most of his life, even though he had been through more pain than some experience in a life time and the effects of our parents drug use still carries on.
So I would just like to say, that even though you may have been a heroin addict and had beat the addiction, there are more consequences than just those that you think effect you. Heroin addiction does not just affect the user, but those around you as well and can go on for generations.
Not only have my brother and I lost both our parents at a young age, but my brother now has to live with a disease that does not concern him whatsoever, but also our children have to live without their grandparents, which I know is a great loss in their lives. To this day, I do not understand how parents could choose heroin over their own children?
Remember, Heroin does not just affect the user, but it affects all of us, perhaps even more so, as we are the ones left behind to live with the devastation and loneliness that addiction leaves behind.
I love you mum xxx