Suzana, 37 (incl audio)

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

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

“The first time I tried heroin was to kill myself. They had taken my kids like I am a useless person. So I bought three £10 bags and injected it. I so wanted to die, and in a way I did – because the next day I was just a heroin addict. Maybe not the next day, but that’s what it was heading for.

I was a happy child to the age of 11. But my mum left and my dad was a social drinker, so I was on my own a lot. I was 14 when I fell pregnant with my daughter. Her father got done for sexually abusing someone that was too young. I went to a mother-and-baby hostel and ended up getting my own place. Everything was great, but then I got pregnant again.

Suzana

My partner was battering me – I was in a bad old way. He did it in front of my daughter one day. I got rid of him but he’d still come round, smashing windows and doors. It was a living nightmare. When you are from a small village, it’s not like London. Everyone makes assumptions. I was struggling and instead of people trying to help, I was just being watched constantly. They treated me like the enemy.

Social Services had to come back into my life. They took my children away because we got busted for drugs. It was the worst feeling in the world. It’s like your heart’s been ripped out. That’s why I tried to kill myself. I set fire to my flat, I tried to hang myself – I fell on my arse as usual. I got done for arson and I spent a lot of time in a mental hospital.

There is no going back from that, really. I feel guilty that I should have been a better mother, I should have done things better. I just felt like I was damaging everyone. I was desperate to get out of the place. So I ran away to London.

Back in them days you had squatters’ rights, so I weren’t really on the streets. I’d go from place to place and do anything and everything – things I shouldn’t be doing for money. I was calling myself an honest thief. I would never hurt anybody or rob anybody. I was begging, people were giving it to me. When I got introduced to crack, that’s when it got really bad. I got arrested all the time, just for walking the streets. They say prison is a bad place, but it saved my life so many times. I used to turn up at court really ill because I hadn’t had my drugs. [In prison] I’d eat and sleep and get better again. If I didn’t have them lie-downs I would be dead.

georginacranston · Suzana

I have been offered help but I never necessarily took it. When you are in the midst of it, you don’t think you need help – it depends on the person, and when they hit rock bottom. Some of these workers make you feel small as well. They don’t know how to deal with people. They’ve studied the human mind and all that, and they think they know everything, but they haven’t necessarily lived it. I always feel really uncomfortable talking to arrogant people that look down their noses at me. I think they should get more people like ex-users and ex-working girls to work with people – they’ve been there, they understand.

I eventually got help because I ended up with pneumonia and I was in intensive care. [The hospital] sent me down to the housing place, and they got me in a hostel. I went to detox and they put me on a methadone script which really helped stabilize me. I am four years clean, but now I drink, which I never did before. I have filled the gap, but with drink.

I was living in a hostel and because I was behaving myself, not bringing anyone back there, and had my methadone script, they thought I was independent enough to go to shared [semi-independent] accommodation. I have been here a long time now. I’ve been in hostels with loads of drug addicts, loads of drinkers. I don’t think it would be a good idea to go back to a hostel like that. Whereas here we have all got our own individual problems, but we are kind of half-way to solving them.

When you first come off the street or out of nasty hostels, you’ve got to get your life together. You need time to recover. Normality is so far away. It is very important to have time to be able to get yourself sorted. My next battle is going to be with the drink. I am always gonna struggle for the rest of my life, but it is very important to have time to be able to get yourself sorted.

This is the first place that’s ever felt like home to me. I had these little pots of paint and I was sick of the blank walls – it reminded me of a prison cell. So I thought I will make a difference and at least I have got something to look at, so I got a sponge and just started.

In a way, I am glad they’ve done it [taken her children]. My kids are gonna have a better life. So I don’t beat myself up any more, they’ve had a good life, that’s all that matters. I am in the process of trying to find them now. I always wanted to meet my kids, even if they don’t want to see me. I don’t mind, I just want them to know that I loved them very much and I am looking for them. On their birthdays I get a card, write a letter. I got nowhere to send it. I have got them in a big bag under the bed. But when I do meet them I will give them all then.”

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

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