My life today is really, really beautiful. I’m a step-mum and I have three children who I love so much. I live in a beautiful home and life’s really calm, quiet. Shopping, housework: just normal stuff. It’s taken me nearly years to get to where I am today – I’m now 6 years free from the streets.
A little bit about my background: I was born into a military family. I had a very difficult life as a teenager. I was in boarding school, but when I was at home I was a victim of sexual abuse from my step-father. This went on for a long time – it started when I was little, a 7 year old girl and went right through to when I was an adult at 22.
I always wanted my dad to love me, I was a daddy’s girl before my mum left him and I wanted to find him and make him proud of me, proud of my achievements. I need it so much. Coming from a military family I wanted my dad to see that I was going into the army and make him proud. But instead we ended up drinking together, mixing with the wrong crowds and it was there I met the wrong man.
I wanted so bad to fit in and make a man love me, that’s where it really went wrong for me. He ended up being my partner – he was a heroin and crack cocaine addict though I didn’t know that when I got with him. I ended up trying it with him one night and that was my love. I fell in love 100% with heroin.
Very, very quickly I started sex-working to support his habit and then to support my own. And that was my life for 11 years. I was 16 when that started and I continued along that path, in and out of prison, in desperation. I had no hope; I had no faith in myself. Some of the consequences of my using was that I had a little girl 9 years ago and she was adopted as a result of my using. And I didn’t know how to deal with that so I took more drugs.
It got really, really bad on the streets a lot of the time. Many times I’ve been taken advantage of, many times I’ve been held against my will. I’ve been thrown from cars, I’ve been raped. I’ve had some really horrible things happen to me. Yet I carried on because I was desperate. Heroin’s so powerful, you don’t think like an average person. You just think: ‘Where’s the next bit going to come from?” You get to a point of desperation and think minimally.
I returned to Bristol after my daughter was adopted to try and sort my life out. But very quickly it didn’t happen as I didn’t know how to help myself. My mum had died by this time and I had no-one. I didn’t want to interact with strangers; I didn’t want anyone to care about me or interfere with my drug using. So I continued sex-working and avoided One25 like the plague! I didn’t have any time for them wasting my time as I thought then.
One night I was sexually assaulted. It had happened many times but this time I was convinced by my hostel to ring the police who strongly advised me to get help from One25. At this point I did because I knew that if I continued along that path I was going I would be dead very soon.
So I engaged properly with One25 and had and still have a fantastic caseworker who’s stuck by me and loved me regardless of my actions and never ever left my side. Eventually after a big long battle she took me to a treatment centre in Weston super Mare in July 2010. I am happy to say that I have not used an illegal drug since that time. I haven’t used methadone or other substitute medications. I’ve only looked forward and held onto my goals and one of those is now volunteering at One25 and giving a little bit back.
I can’t describe what I’ve got today. I can sit here and say that I’m the happiest woman alive. I have my own business, property managing eleven places, cleaning, caretaking and decorating. I’m married with three children who are the apples of my eye, with absolutely no intervention whatsoever from social services as a result of how I’ve turned my life around. I could never have imagined this life: it’s beyond my wildest dreams. My children are my whole reason for living today and I pray they’ll follow a happier life and won’t have to know heartache and torment and abuse.
The services that One25 provide for women like myself are absolutely amazing. They’re out in the van until 2 o clock in the morning. The drop-in workers, the caseworkers, everyone who’s there to support and love and cherish and encourage us…I’m so proud to be a part of that and so proud to be able to give a little bit back.
If it wasn’t for One25 I’d have never got the help and the treatment that I needed. I wouldn’t have the love for myself today because the caseworker I had at One25 loved me unconditionally. And it started to teach me that I could do that for myself. Big up One25!