My parents brought me up to believe drugs were awful and, if I touched them, they’d kill me. So, I never thought I’d even try them. I was really good at school, I got strong grades and my studies were important to me.
The first time I took cocaine, I was 19 years old. I was in a relationship with someone who did it and, after an hour of him and a friend convincing me ‘it wasn’t going to kill me’, I tried it.
Growing up, I always felt like everyone had the manual to life and I didn’t. I felt empty inside—like something was missing. As soon as I snorted that first line, that hollow feeling went away. Drugs became my solution to life.
I was at university at the time earning a fashion degree, working two part-time jobs and trying to socialise, all while also suffering from ME (chronic fatigue syndrome). Everyone around me seemed to balance everything with absolute ease. For me, it was hard. But suddenly, I could do all of those things – thanks to both the energy from the coke and my new found confidence. But it wasn’t long until my magical solution back-fired horrendously.
I only used coke socially, at first, like when I went to the pub. It became a very normal thing for me. However, very quickly, I wanted to do it much more than my partner did. I wanted to use all the time.
Soon, I was doing it at home, when I was having a quiet night in. Within two years, I was using every single day, all while still studying for my degree.
While the coke started off as my solution, life soon became unmanageable. I couldn’t get out of bed because I was on a comedown. I wasn’t really turning up to lectures — I was much more interested in staying at home and using. I dropped out of uni three months after starting my second year. I was in a horrendous amount of debt, my student loan had been spent on coke, and I had credit cards run up to stupid amounts just to fund my habit.
My ex-boyfriend had lost his job, so he started dealing, which meant we had it in the house all the time. My relationship started to break down, and we eventually broke up. I got a job in a shop but that became really difficult as I’d be up all night using and then going into the toilets at work to take more.
What I was like on coke
I was an exaggerated version of myself on coke. I could talk up to 100mph and I had confidence I’d never had. I could go and talk to people I would normally be intimidated by.
In my head, coke was a very glamorous drug. It was what celebrities did so it seemed acceptable. That kept me in denial for a long time. ‘It wasn’t heroin. I wasn’t injecting it. I wasn’t that addict,’ I would tell myself. It seemed to be a very socially acceptable drug.
Always going back to it
I had bouts throughout the 13 years of my addiction where I was clean – sometimes for up to two years – but eventually, I would go back to it.
I met the man who would become my husband when I was 25. He’s never touched a drug in his life. I moved down south with him (I’ve moved a lot, which I can now see as running away from my addiction) and quite quickly we got engaged. I had told him about my past, including the debt I’d accumulated, but I neglected to tell him I was still recreationally using.
I was very adamant I wasn’t going to go down the road of drugs in my new life with him. But whenever I went back to my hometown to see family and friends, I ended up using.
One weekend, I went home and took coke, methadone and some other legal highs — anything in white powder form that I could stick up my nose, really — from the Friday I arrived until the Sunday. I didn’t sleep and somehow managed to drive home. I couldn’t see or think straight. When I got to the front door I had to come clean to my fiancé about everything. This was two months before our wedding. I was in such a state that I made him drive me to hospital because I thought I was dying.
It was a difficult time. I’d broken his trust but we worked through it. We got married aged 27 and everything seemed fine. I fell pregnant with my first child – I was clean throughout my pregnancy – and we moved back to my hometown where I had my first child at 28. But motherhood did not come naturally to me. Putting a little person before myself was hard.
£10,000 spent on coke in one year
When we moved back, I found myself a mum of one in a remote area, and I felt really lonely. By this point, I had one friend who still took drugs. Soon enough, I was taking day trips with my baby to spend the day with her when we would use together. That old empty feeling I had as a teenager became very apparent in motherhood. The coke numbed it — that hollowness would go away when I used.
I never wanted a second child, but I began to think my eldest should have a sibling. Plus, if I was pregnant, I told myself, I wouldn’t take any drugs because I didn’t in my first pregnancy.
I got pregnant, but this time it wasn’t enough to keep me clean.
I used cocaine the night before my 20 week scan. I remember lying on the ultrasound table and my baby was moving around like crazy in my stomach. I just thought: ‘I’ve done that to you. What have I done?’ I didn’t use any more in my pregnancy after that, it terrified me.
Now 30 years old, I gave birth again. I wasn’t able to breastfeed my second-born but, to be honest, I was relieved because I wanted to do coke. I had post-natal depression, two young children and a new renovation project my husband had signed us up for. My answer to all of that stress, plus my ME, was coke. I went back to using on a daily basis and my husband still didn’t know.
I had set up my own business which meant I could very easily hide money. My business account paid money into my joint account, but I kept some of it to fund my addiction. Within one year, I’d spent £10,000 on coke.
The decision to stop
After that year, I made the decision that I no longer wanted to take coke. I could see what it was doing: My work had become unmanageable, there were too many questions from my husband, my moods were awful and I knew I was out of control. Every morning I’d wake up thinking how could I get the money and how could I hide it. It was exhausting and I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t stop.
I came clean to my husband, even though I was terrified. He told me we could work through things and he took control of my finances. I went for counselling but talking about coke made me want it so I’d leave therapy and pick up on the way home.
Then the pinnacle moment came. One day, I asked family to look after my children and said I was popping out to the shop. I went to my dealer’s house, got a load of expensive, pure coke, a couple of bottles of wine and used all night at home until 6 the next morning when I had a fit. My heart was through my chest and I thought I was dying. I wanted to die because I didn’t know how to stop my addiction and knew I was hurting everyone around me.
Despite this health scare, and the fact my husband and mother found out as an ambulance was called, two days later I was driving round to my drug dealer’s house crying my eyes out again. I used until 2 a.m., when I decided to Google treatment centres.
I spent one last day with my children and then admitted myself to a 30-day rehab programme. I was absolutely terrified and was physically shaking on the way. I was completely ready to stop, I couldn’t do it to myself or my family any more, this was my last chance. The rehab doctor looked at my nose and told me I had damaged it. It was constantly weeping and I had a permanent cut.
It was a relief to go to group therapy and have all these people who knew what I was going through. I finally realised that I was really sick. I wasn’t this horrible, disgusting human being I thought I was; I actually had an illness that needed to be treated.
My husband is a good earner, I had a house, car, my kids were well-dressed. Everything was picture perfect but on the inside I was dying. We have a really stereotypical idea of what an addict looks like but I was a high-functioning addict for many years, holding down a job and looking after children. On the outside looking in, there was nothing wrong, but, in reality, something was desperately wrong.
Eventually, after all my treatment, the urge to use just went.
What life is like now
My life today is so different. All the materialistic stuff that used to matter me doesn’t now — that was me being really sick and trying to put on a mask so no one could see me on the inside. I stopped working to spend more time doing one of the things I feared the most: Being a mum. I love that I can be fully present for my children, something I never thought I would be able to do or enjoy.
Sadly, last year my own mum got diagnosed with cancer, but I have helped her through her chemotherapy, radiotherapy and helped nurse her back to health. Rather than be the constant worry I’d been to her for 13 years, I was finally able to step up and be there for her.
Life really is so much simpler today.”
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