Video: Carol’s Story - Concerned For A Loved One
Thursday, November 4th, 2010
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Founder of Manchester Carers Group, drugs campaigner and mother of six Carol has experienced addiction first hand as a parent, carer, and an addicted person herself.
Carol’s son began misusing substances at the age of 12, starting with glue, progressing to cannabis and ultimately amphetamines and crack cocaine. It took him on a rollercoaster journey through the care, drugs and mental health services, ultimately ending up in prison.
The first noticeable signs were small changes in moods and behaviour, but the changes got bigger as the drugs got harder. At the peak of his addiction he would be hyperactive and paranoid, normal life became a nocturnal existence, he would regularly go missing for days on end, and inevitably he got into trouble.
It was then that Carol found herself locked into what she describes as “a never ending cycle of no help”. It started with the family GP whose best suggestion was locking her son in his room, then social services who didn’t provide any help, and drug service Lifeline couldn’t provide a place for him; and so to the second inevitability, he ended up in care.
The care service simply fuelled the habit
Nothing else had stopped him using or getting into trouble, so eventually after being convicted for stealing again, he was faced with the prospect of care. Carol initially thought that care might be good for him. It wasn’t, it made things even worse.The care service simply fuelled the habit by giving him money to go school, money that he didn’t have to steal, which he spent on drugs.
Care obviously wasn’t the answer so Carol took him back home, but even that didn’t work, the drug habit continued to grow, the symptoms and the behaviour just got worse.
Carol’s breaking point became her turning point
By now his mental health was deteriorating and he became paranoid and psychotic and three years after his time in care he was sectioned. After two weeks in a psychiatric hospital he was back out again, and this time he was angry, blaming his Mother for being sectioned and sedated. Over time his anger grew and finally led to the incident that put him in prison after he chased his mother around the house with a knife.
For Carol the stress of her son’s addiction has been a 20 year journey of co-dependence and a two and a half year period where she fell into addiction.
She had turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism but just like her son it only made things worse, she went down to six stone, couldn’t work, couldn’t go out, stayed indoors for weeks on end and eventually had a complete breakdown after the knife incident.
Ironically her breaking point became her turning point, after the incident victim support services arranged counselling; and it took eighteen months to begin to turn her life around. But it was through counselling that she was to meet Rhanjeev Choudray who introduced Carol to mental health carers meetings in Manchester in 2006. There she began to understand the connection between alcohol, drugs and mental health, and the effects of some drugs such Olanzapine prescribed for Bipolar and Schizophrenia which can cause alcohol problems.
Carol’s interest and commitment to carer’s issues grew thanks to Rhanjeev and she has devoted the last three years to developing the Manchester Carer’s Group and campaigning for better treatment, particularly for those with combined mental health and addiction problems.
Carol’s son is still in prison at the time of writing, a man of 35 he is not using drugs but still considers himself addicted. He still has mental health problems but they are better understood and under better control than ever before.