But my story breaks statistics and challenges what we think we know. Introducing my mother: a well presented woman with a generous salary, a great career in social work and housing, a brand new Mercedes car, a mortgage and two successful daughters. On the outside looking in, she is a standard mother.
But my childhood was anything but. A tragic childhood gave my mum the opportunity to victimise her future and allow herself to self-sabotage her happiness, and in turn her partner's and her daughter's. I am here to break the curse of allowing childhood trauma to shape your future and use excuses for not being happy.
Whilst she was high functioning, she still had the same symptoms as any other regular user. After a hit, she and my step-dad would pass out on the sofa and be unresponsive for hours. My mum is actually on her third marriage, and sadly she did not save the best until last. My stepdad is an abusive, power hungry narcissist who instilled fear into all of us with his violence and shouting. He played sick games like daring me to run around our garden naked at a young age, and daring my sister to lick the dead flies off his motorbike for a minimal amount of money.
I only left school recently and I was sworn to secrecy at my mother’s mercy. I was always told that not being with my ‘mum could have been worse, and I knew what she was doing was a criminal act - would you risk sending your mum to jail?
I also did not want to lose my sister. The roles were reversed where I felt 1 had become my mum's parent. Who else was going to look after her? I once told my school and showed them the bruises across my chest, and my mum told them I was lying so they sent me on a drug course where the counsellor told me how I could grow up to be a heroin addict and die whilst I sat there, pleading ignorance. I am hoping my story can shape a change in the approach to situations like these and safeguard the next child who has a story like mine.
My parents did not do regular food shopping My sister and I lived off Cadbury Mini Rolls, which I cannot stand now. We might have had some stale cereal in the cupboard which would do for dinner, but had to it eat with a heroin stained spoon. My parents injected themselves, meaning all of our spoons were also casualties of their addiction. I used to bleach them and was so embarrassed by them.
Even now, when I go out, I am so particular with cutlery. The spoons were almost black, like they had been revived from a bomb site and completely discoloured. I remember feeling disgusting when I stirred my tea with them. If 1 left my spoon in the cup too long I'd have to bin the tea and re-make it as I was scared I would get contaminated with the heroin.
The funny side of this, if there is one, is my mum's career choice. She was the one who would come in and report you to ChildLine if you didn't take your child to school, or report you if you were incorrectly claiming benefits. She does have an amazing work ethic and her work has always come first, well maybe second to the drugs. My sister and I would be third. Her work is what makes me do this, through the hidden lens of someone else. Whilst my mum has done me wrong, I couldnt expose her and be the reason she is unemployed because she could very easily be pushed to overdose and I wouldn't want to have that on my shoulder. My mum stilllooks down on other addicts that she sees in her work as if she’s better than they are because she’s high functioning, But they're the same. They are heroin addicts.
‘The hardest thing for me to stomach is why, when I was alittle baby, I wasn't enough to stop that urge of going out and seeking heroin. It wasn't available in hers or my dad's friend circle, so she had to actively seek it out. It's not like alcohol where she had one too many. She had to consciously stick that needle in her arm whilst she had a baby there with her. I hope she didn’t breastfeed me whilst pumping her veins full of smack.
But it isn't all doom and gloom. I am Penelope Red and I am trying to improve the education on the impact that drug addicted parents have on their children. Whilst I stayed silent for 23 years I am finally coming out and sharing the word, and trying to share light on this big issue. Through my re-search I found out that Joe Wicks MBE's father was also was a heroin addict, and I reached out to him. He was really good and open. He did a documentary about it recently on BBC iPlayer which I would invite you to watch.
Although my mum is a heroin addict, there were no Narcotics Anonymous near me so I found a local Al-Anon group for friends and families of alcoholics. Whilst alcoholism is different to heroin abuse, much of the impact have similar traits.
They handed me a book called Hope For Today, which covers a three 'C’ principle I would like to share with you:
These really resonated with me, because for most my life I’ve been trying to control my mum's behaviour and her use. I also thought I can ‘cure’ her if I acted in a certain way or was the perfect daughter. And I struggle with thoughts of causing the abuse: I can’t help but feel if I wasn’t born maybe she wouldn’t have picked up that needle.
Heroin seems to be quite a taboo word, but did you know every 25 minutes in America a baby is born with an opioid withdrawal? I think there is also an expectation for a child to hate their parents because of it: you can love your family as well as having deep wounds. A lot of people ask me why I don't cut my mum off? Why am I still protecting her? Parental relationships are complex and a child has a sense of unweathering loyalty, rightly or wrongly.
What is your relationship like with your mum now?
It’s strained to say the least. am lucky in a way because I don’t have to worry about the state my mum is living in: she has a house and keeps it respectable. She has disposable income, so she still impulse buys as well as spends most of her money on her ‘self medication’. She did go to rehab. It sounds like ‘m being unfair, but I genuinely believe she only went there to get me to speak to her again because I decided to cut her off. Ever since she’s gone to rehab she constantly calls me and tells me she’s changed, but I've found all her stuff.
Why didn’t you get help?
I did tell my school about my stepdad hitting me and I showed them the bruises, but I didn’t want to tell anyone about my mum's drug use for various reasons. A big reason is the shame and embarrassment I feel. It's only recently I've realised my mother’s actions don’t define me. Just because she is a heroin addict, it doesn’t reflect on me in anyway. I spent alot of time Googling about heroin and much of it is end of the world stuff: if you do heroin it’s a class A and you will die, so I was too scared to do anything, I also felt like no one would believe me because I couldn't find any other research on children with heroin addict parents.
What about your real dad?
I went to my biological father’s house every other weekend, and whilst we were presented ok he chose to look away. He said he didn’t know and, to give him credit, my mum is a great liar. We talk more openly about what I went through now that I am an adult and have my own house. I can’t say it could have been easy in his position, but I do feel he could have done more. My stepmum never wanted children so he probably would have had to pick between us and her, and that is a decision he couldn’t make.
The first thing we want to stress is that if you do not feel safe in your home call 999 immediately. However, I have listed some key helplines you can call:
Local Police: 101
Childline: 0800 1111
Samaritans: 116 123
Shout: Text SHOUT to 85258 for msg services
Please follow @Pencloperedtrust on Instagram or
email [email protected] for more information.