It was terrible to see my son in this state

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Dorothea Bickerton's son David was a drug addict. After he became "clean" she set up the Community Drug Helpline to help other families and users.

My son began taking drugs at university. He went from a secluded boys' boarding school and I think it was a strain coping, but we didn't realise. He had a breakdown at the end of his first year, but although I knew he had smoked a bit of cannabis I didn't make a connection.

He was in a bad state. He slept all day and seemed to be up all night, which was upsetting, but it was not until our credit cards were mysteriously going over limit, and then jewellery started to disappear, that we realised something was wrong. By this time he was taking amphetamines, but we didn't know. We just found it difficult to open a conversation with him, and he seemed terribly distressed.

My husband was ill at the time, and the anxiety and feeling of not knowing David any more made us both very unhappy. It was also very hard on our daughter, who was just five and adored David, but he stole money from her and gave her a lot of aggro.

Once we realised what was going on we tried to talk to him, but drug abusers go into denial and begin believing their own lies. I felt he was terribly lonely and lost, and I became obsessed with trying to think of ways to help him. He was a gifted painter, but his painting gear was under the bed and he never picked it up.

Things became very bad between my husband and me. We fluctuated between despondency, anger and fear. I reached the point where I knew we had to do something.

We decided we would prosecute David if he didn't seek treatment. He said he would, but he just went once or twice to placate us. Then we were back to him stealing, taking drugs, getting into wild angry states, abusing me.

Then he made an attempt on his life. He took an overdose of paracetamol and half a bottle of Drambuie. It was that which saved him - it made him sick. He was so full of self-loathing that I was able to persuade him to go into a place with a tough 12-step treatment. I saw him a few days into it, and he said: "I only have one choice: I either live and see this through or I die."

It is terrible to see your child in this state, but even worse is knowing there is nothing you can do. He had to reach the absolute bottom and know he would not live to have the will to stop. Using confrontation, they broke down his veneer, then helped him to develop self-esteem, something he had not had for years.

When he came home he started to study, he did courses and became HIV co-ordinator for mid-Surrey, and went on to live a life without drugs. He died recently from pneumonia, but at least he proved to himself that he could kick the drugs, and that made him really happy.

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