Maria, 25 (incl audio)

This is Maria’s story, told in her own words:

(You may find the contents of this story upsetting.)

“When I was 13, we moved because of my Dad’s job. I just rebelled. I started smoking. I started getting into drugs, smoking cannabis. I started having sex at 15, quite an early age. I look back now and think that was too young.

When I was 15 my boyfriend tried killing himself. He was 16. And there was other issues with him that I never really told anyone about. I didn’t class it as rape because he was my boyfriend – even though I was begging him to stop. Then I met my baby father when I was 16 – he was 22. I started using heroin with him, it was a nice warm floaty feeling and I forgot about my ex. I never really dealt with what he done to me really. I just blanked it out by using the heroin and before I knew it I was addicted.


I was living with my parents but staying with my partner a lot. The abuse that went on in that relationship was unreal. The arguments we used to have. It wasn’t love. The way he used to talk to me, being sworn at like he used to swear at me, call me names. That’s not love. All because he couldn’t find a vein, couldn’t get the drugs in his bloodstream. My parents found needles – it wasn’t that they kicked me out, I left because I was so ashamed.

My daughter was born on methadone. I was lucky she wasn’t really ill. I was scared she was going to get taken from me. Even when my mum and dad stepped in, it still didn’t feel like I was her mum. I got clean from the drugs for a year and a half. But it was boring for me, being sober. The way I’m used to dealing with feelings is by blocking it out through drugs and that’s what I done. I went back to using again. I walked out. I couldn’t cope. I moved in with my partner. And then he left me for another girl. Obviously my parents weren’t willing to take me back after I’d walked out on my daughter, and I was homeless.

I’ve been on the streets, here, there and everywhere. My mate broke into a caravan once for me, and I slept in there. I’ve slept in cars. In public toilets. I did go to services and ask for help, but help is not always there. One hostel said, ‘No, you’re over 24, the max age’. There was a lot of only-men hostels but no only-women hostels like in London. I got taken to this place by the spot [outreach] team, but I didn’t stay as I was scared to be sleeping in a room with loads of different men. I feel I let them down really – they were trying to help. The only hostel I was allowed in, I was kicked out because I wasn’t there enough. You have to be there four nights a week, which is fair enough.

When I come to London, I was scared because it was not my area, it’s a big place. Everyone’s up and about, even late at night. I came with an ex but I split up with him because he was trying to get me working the streets. He wanted the money to spend on drugs, and I thought, ‘I’m worth more than this’.

georginacranston · Maria

Women definitely feel more vulnerable on the streets because obviously you can get picked up. A man picked me up where I was just sitting. I wanted to be warm and somewhere safe – even though I didn’t feel safe. He didn’t force me, I chose to do it. But I was so drunk I just let him. Then he took me back in the morning to the station. I felt so dirty, gutted that I had done what I done.

I use drugs, I’m not normal – how people in society would see normal. It’s not normal to be sticking needles in yourself, is it? I think mentally I’m still at that age of 16. When you’re using, even though you grow up physically, mentally you don’t.

People say, ‘If you stop your drugs you can be with your little girl, it’s simple’. But it’s easier said than done. It’s not just an addiction. It’s a habit, a way of life. People think, ‘Oh you’re asleep all the time, you’re gouging out on drugs, you’re out of your nut’. But it’s hard work, it’s very tiring, it’s horrible. And it’s very hard to change.

At first you take the drug for a buzz, but once you become addicted, you use it to feel well. If you haven’t used you are awake all night, your body feels tired but your head feels wide awake. Even walking up the stairs, that’s hard work if you haven’t used, you just feel weak and ill. I know people say I put drugs before my daughter. I don’t see it like that – it’s like methadone is a medicine that keeps me well.

I haven’t had a proper relationship with my daughter because of my drug use. She knows mummy takes medicine, she doesn’t know what for. She loves seeing me – it’s when I have to leave that it hurts. She is starting to cry and really cling to me. I can’t even go to the toilet without her following me up the stairs. It’s too much for me to deal with, that I can’t even walk up to the toilet.

She hasn’t got her dad because he’s a user as well. It does make me think I should sort myself out. But in ways it’s made me worse. I think, ‘What’s the point? I might as well use because I haven’t got nothing in my life’. When I am allowed to see her it gives me that boost to get clean. I badly want to be a mum to that little girl. I know my parents would give me that chance. They’ve been brilliant. But the fear of feeling ill and dealing with all the grief is more powerful at the moment. I’m gutted. Gutted.”

(All material on this page is copyright of Georgina Cranston.  Text editing by Sarah Carrington.)

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