Families of Addiction: A Mother’s True Story
The silent suffering of the “families of addiction” is one of the most devastating sides of drug use in Ireland today. And without help, the problems they face can rip even the best of families apart. See through a mother’s eyes to know the incredible difference your support of Merchants Quay is making for Noreen (not her real name) and her family.
“I used to think my son was drunk,” Noreen begins. “He was only 15, but I could never smell the drink off him.” The day she found a syringe on the floor of her son’s bedroom. It was on that day, for Noreen and her family, everything changed.
Concerned her son might be sick, she took the syringe to the chemist. “I’ll never forget the shock,” Noreen recalls. “He said my son was using the needle to inject heroin. I thought, ‘This couldn’t be happening to my child!’ I can’t even remember walking home.”
Fearful thoughts flooded Noreen’s mind, thoughts of shame and despair, feelings of isolation, anger and fear. Were there drugs in her home? What if the Gardaí came? What would her neighbours think? She’d always done her best by her boys. How could she help them now?
Like thousands of parents across Ireland, Noreen knew almost nothing about drug use, needles, heroin or addiction. She felt lost. And that wasn’t the worst of it.
Noreen would soon discover that her oldest son, aged 18, was also using drugs. Like many families impacted by addiction, Noreen sought out a family support group near her home, saying, “I wanted to talk about my problems, what’s going on in the house.” But the group wasn’t at all what Noreen expected. They told her to throw her youngest son, who was the most chaotic, out of the home. “I just couldn’t,” Noreen confesses. “What was I to do? He was only fifteen.”
Through the Fire, for Her Son
Years past. Noreen, her son – and her family – are living a life she would never have wanted. Money disappears from the home, as her son robs to feed his addiction. He meets a girl who also struggles with addiction. “It got to the stage that I took her in because she was pregnant. The baby was born very sick, and I took the baby on board as well.”
In all, her youngest son would attempt detox seven times. Powerless to stop, he always returned to drugs. “He took everything and anything,” Noreen remembers. “He’d be crying to me in the kitchen, he’d be so full of remorse. He wanted to get well, it was horrible to see your child like that, you know, crying and not being able to help himself and can’t get out of this net that he was caught in.”
Finding New Hope and Strength
Noreen began coming to MQI’s Family Support Services, where she found the coping skills – and the knowledge she needed about drug use – to hold her family and herself together. “Before I came to MQI’s Family Support Services, I actually was afraid of addicts, to be honest with you. Before I knew my child was a drug user if I saw an addict on the ground I’d just walk around. But then when I came to Merchants Quay I realised, they’re someone’s children! My son, he’s my son, and I reared him, and I saw the good side of him.”
After an eight-year battle with heroin, her son – who ultimately turned to MQI for help with his addiction – is now totally drug-free. Linking in with the counsellors at Merchants Quay “really helped him” says Noreen. “They eased a lot of the pain he was carrying. That was the breaking point for him. Today he has his own home and a job, I’m so proud of him.”
Like in many families, Noreen’s oldest son is still using drugs. She still relies on MQI’s Family Support Services for help and advice today, noting“Now I can talk it through with him, and give him his options. When he’s ready, he knows where Merchants Quay is. You can come down here and you can just pour your heart out because you know it’s all confidential – I don’t know what I’d do without the Family Support here.”
For some, the road to recovery is more than months or even years. But however long or dark their journey, your steady support keeps MQI’s doors open for men and women like Noreen. If your family is in need of support, please visit or family support section here.