‘Margaret’ would only go out under cover of darkness when her son was living at home.
“Shame and self-blame, that’s all I felt. I used to go around in the dark ashamed. I wouldn’t even go to the shop. I’d found out some of my neighbours were talking, judging me as a parent,” she says.
Her neighbours didn’t need to cross her threshold to know her life had been torn asunder since her 23-year-old son, ‘Seán’ moved home.
“There were people breaking my windows, damaging my property; there were assaults going on and it all came back to my house and I had to pick up the pieces all the time,” she said.
The gardaí were regulars at Margaret’s door as her son fed his heroin habit by robbing people and houses. He was constantly in fights too. Eventually, he was sentenced to prison for assault, for slashing a young girl’s face.
“There was a petrol bomb meant for my house but it went to one of the neighbours’ houses instead. I said to myself, ‘that’s it’. I went and got the protection and barring order,” the single mother of two said.
He didn’t hit her until after she got the protection order and barring order.
Seán was on heroin for just six months before he was jailed.
“Once I found out he was smoking it, I would just always be waiting for a knock at the door. There was constant hassle. Even now, with him locked up, I’m scared. I don’t go into the bathroom and turn on the light at night time, I shower in the dark. We don’t open the front door, we look out the bedroom window first in case there’s somebody around looking to cause damage; it’s the fright, like,” she says.
The guilt, shame and anxiety led Margaret to depression. She started taking anti-depressants but still “wanted to go to the river”.
“It just came on me, I was on the anti-depressants but I just took painkillers, I overdosed. I wrote out the letters to the people and sent my child to my sister’s house. I couldn’t cope with things over and over again,” she says.
Two hours later, alone in her house, she realised that she couldn’t die and leave her younger son alone.
“It came back to me that my son’s friend’s dad had died and he’d said to me one time ‘mam, he isn’t the same since’. Then I realised I had to think of the guy that was 13. I rang the ambulance and was pumped out in hospital. I remember sitting there in the hospital bed and I felt so alone. All I wanted to do was pull the curtain back and talk to somebody but I couldn’t with the shame. I swore then I’d never do that again.”
Margaret has since joined a concerned parents’ group run by Youth Work Ireland’s drugs outreach project in Gurranabraher. Those weekly meetings have been her salvation, she says, plus the fact that her son is behind bars.
“I’ve learnt so much and got so much support from everyone in the group. Most of all I learnt the three Cs: I can’t control it, can’t cure it, didn’t cause it. I’ve learnt that. Heroin, it can happen to the best of people.”
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