Losing her daughter to heart failure at just eight weeks old triggered an addiction for 33-year-old Carley from Wiltshire and started a long and heart-breaking journey that nearly saw her take her own life and lose her children for good.
Back in 2005, the worst thing possible happened to Carley. She lost her baby and, in that moment, her life as she knew it. Addiction didn’t happen straight away. It rarely does. It creeps up on you and before you know it, you are in the grip of something you can’t get out of. For Carley, drugs and alcohol became a pain relief – a way to numb the grief and curb the worry that this was going to happen again. “I was terrified. I can’t explain the fear I experienced when I became a mother again” said Carley.
Drugs and alcohol were used as a way to cope, or even function back then. Looking back, it’s easy for Carley to see how everything unravelled, but at the time it didn’t feel like that. She picked her children up from school on time, cooked them dinner and put them to bed. She held down a job and home life and to everyone else, it was pretty normal.
Until one day Carley walked out of her home and found herself lost for three days. Waking up in the care of mental health services was a crisis point and unbeknown to her, things were about to get worse for Carley. Her partner left her, and she found herself living in a women’s refuge, without her children.
Under the care of mental health and living alone, Carley tried to start to turn things around. She made several attempts to detox and set herself free from addiction, but it continued to grip her. It was only after a stark warning that she was at risk of not seeing her children again that Carley decided it was time to get her life back. William, her 15-year-old son, decided that he wanted to live with his mum and this was the opportunity and motivation she needed.
Determined to make peace with herself and break the cycle of self-harm, Carley enrolled on our Moving and Parents and Children Together programme (M-PACT) – which provides a safe space for children and young people to talk about a parent’s addiction – to re-build her relationship with her son.
Attending every week, without fail, Carley and William embarked on a three-hour round trip by bus to take part in the programme and meet other families, just like them, who have been impacted by addiction. For Carley, it was hard. Life was not great at that time and depression was taking control. The temptation to turn to alcohol and drugs again was strong, but William was by her side and she knew she had to do it for him.
What she didn’t realise at the time was how M-PACT would change her too and send her on a new path – one filled with hope and compounded by pure grit and determination to turn her life around. Carley recalls: “The staff were kind, supportive and on my side. It was not like any other programme I had attended and because I had tried many options, I was sceptical. But because it was a family programme, I was willing to give it a go”. It turns out, it was a good decision.
William met boys and girls ‘just like him’ and for the first time in his life he didn’t feel alone or to blame. He realised there were many other families just like his going through exactly the same. An otherwise shy teenage boy started to open up and it was at this point that Carley realised that William had been blaming himself for something that was not his fault. . Despite this revelation nearly breaking her, the support M-PACT gave both William and Carley helped them overcome these feelings brought them closer together.
When the M- PACT course ended, Carley and William enjoyed a fresh start. Carley enrolled on a health and social care course and after completing all the modules, started working for a homeless shelter – supporting others who have fallen on hard times. William is doing well and is helping to educate his younger brother and sister about addiction.