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Addiction and me: ‘I’ve always loved my children but there’s been times when I haven’t liked them’

To have one child who becomes a hardened drug addict is a parent’s worst nightmare. To have three is an unimaginable horror.

But that is the reality that bank worker Barbara Lawrence has been forced to deal with for the past two decades.

Barbara Lawrence says she initially blamed her son Tony for her younger son's death Credit: ITV Yorkshire

She has had to watch on helplessly as her three oldest sons all became heroin addicts. The Class A drug cost third son Paul his life, when he was aged just 19.

Barbara admits that when Paul died, she blamed her oldest son Tony for bringing drugs into the house.

"I’ve always loved my children but there’s been times when I haven’t liked them."

– Barbara Lawrence
Barbara Lawrence, middle, with daughter Rachael and son Paul - taken two weeks before his death in 2001 Credit: Family

Barbara’s five children were raised in a stable South Yorkshire home with hard-working parents who ran their own business and were married for 25 years before amicably splitting up.

Oldest son Tony, a talented artist, began taking drugs at college, saying it enhanced his work. Cannabis led to LSD and then onto heroin. As his addiction took a grip, he dropped out of art college.

Looking over his works and poetry he has penned over two decades, Tony regrets ever letting drugs into his life. Now 40, he is on prescribed methadone and is in recovery.

Second son Gary began taking drugs at 18 while sharing a bed sit with Tony. The duo would steal from their parents to fund their habits. Like his older brother, Gary is now in recovery.

Third son Paul always vowed never to follow in his brothers’ footsteps, but eventually succumbed. Barbara believes he first tried them to see why his older siblings were so taken by them.

But at 19, Paul took a fatal overdose and was found dead in his bed by Barbara’s only daughter Rachael.

The Lawrence children Credit: Family

Two years later in 2003, more tragedy unfurled as Rachael died from a congenital heart condition. Barbara says she never got over the shock of finding Paul dead.

Her twin brother Richard has never touched drugs and is a successful tradesman today.

After 10 years of counselling, Barbara now uses her own experiences to counsel other families who have a loved one who is an addict through the organisation, Families In Recovery.

Tony hopes viewers will learn from his mistakes: "Make a life, don't waste one."

If you have been affected by addiction and would like to talk to someone, there is contact information available here.

Click below to watch Barbara and Tony Lawrence speaking to Jon Hill:

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