Charity gives hope to mums in Cornwall overcoming drug addiction

  • Charlotte Gay was exclusively invited to meet the mums at We Are With You

A group of mums in Cornwall who have worked hard to get help for their drug and alcohol addictions say they have been able to enjoy Mother's Day for the first time in years.

The women are part of the 47 families being supported by the drug and alcohol charity 'We Are With You Cornwall' to overcome their substance misuse.

Gemma says before seeking help she was in the "drugs scene for more than 26 years".

"I started doing drugs at a young age 'cos I was running from something and I was hiding from stuff that I didn't want to think about."

"But obviously as you get older, you saw understanding situations better and you start realising if that did happen to me.

"So you can vocalise it and you can make it a real thing. It's not just a dream in your head."

"But as your kids get older they see your actions and they start acting the way that you are, and you start realising it is time [to change]."

Becky says before she met the With You team she "didn't see a way out" of her life dealing with drug addiction but with support from With You's Family Lead Natalie Ashby she learnt to trust the team.

She said: "When you start to realise that you are worth something.

"That gave me hope that maybe this is the opportunity to go to detox and treatment and to not be homeless anymore with the kids."

Holly agrees, saying "it's all about trust", especially when it comes to family workers supporting them in working with other organisations such as social services.

Holly added: "Before you can trust them, I ain't gonna say nothing."

Natalie Ashby says "the most important thing is for us to they know that we believe in them. We always say you're not bad, you're hurt."

We Are With You run bespoke workshops to support mothers in their recovery journey and also to develop essential parenting skills.

The charity says women’s substance misuse is often a more complex picture compared to men.

Statistically, more will have experienced abuse as children or have experienced a crisis such as a divorce, they are also more often the main caregiver and have real concerns over having their children removed.

Others are also experiencing domestic abuse and restrictions on their ability to freely access services or coercive control.

This means women can often ask for help far later than men which can result in delayed treatment, health issues, and strained personal relationships.

Claire* didn't know how to control her emotions after of neglect and abuse. Credit: ITV News

A childhood of neglect and abuse led Claire*, not her real name, down a path that led to her daughter being taken away from her.

Claire* says her relationship with her daughter's dad was "quite toxic" and she did not have the skills to self-regulate her emotions.

"So the minute like my emotions got hot inside of me, I would just tend to fight instead of flight.

"I ended up doing something stupid with her my arms and then she got taken off of me, and that was when she was about nine months old.  She'll be two in May."

But knowing it was "not fair for my daughter to have a drug addict for a mum" Claire has persevered to give up Class A drugs and a special guardianship order was given so her daughter could be cared for by a family member who she now visits regularly unsupervised.

She doesn’t know how to play, or how to sing nursery rhymes - no one taught her, but slowly with the help of the family team Claire is learning those skills but also learning how to manage her dependence on substances, something she is succeeding at.

One of the ways Claire has found comfort and support is with the Fabulous Flamingos, a peer group designed to strengthen connections between women in the community.

She says "I used to think I was not really worth it like 'You're better off staying a drug addict' or 'better off just being a prostitute and supplying your drugs that way'.

"When I look at myself in the mirror nowadays I don't see an absolute failure. Yeah, you might have been there, but look where you are now, I've come so far. I'm just really proud of myself."

'We Are With You' addiction charity are currently helping the families of 68 children in Cornwall Credit: ITV News

Emma Phillips, a family worker covering West Cornwall, says the team often act as advocates for the mums they support so they can best represent themselves to other services.

Ms Phillips said: "Because they are so scared, they can come across really angry as well.

"So we try to put their voice across, what they really feel, how they are feeling. [Social services] want the families to stay together. So it's just giving that reassurance to be able to work with all the professionals that involved."

A landmark review into the state of drug treatment in England found that drug-related deaths are currently at an all-time high in England and Wales, having risen for eight consecutive years.

The Dame Carol Black review also said the societal cost of drugs in England is approximately £19.3bn.

In February, the Government promised £1.5 million to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to fund additional drug and alcohol treatments in 2023/24. That's the largest grant in the South West outside of Bristol.

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