For the last four years Fiona, who began taking heroin as a young mother, has been supported by the charity’s Family Outreach service in Edinburgh, which works with parents who are experiencing difficulties as a result of drug abuse.
She was introduced to the Class A drug by a former partner when she was struggling to cope with the death of her mother from cancer.
Having grown up watching people in her community succumb to heroin, she swore she would never try it.
Fiona, 34, said: “The way I was brought up, my family was dead against drugs. My mum would be turning in her grave if she knew. I used to look at people think, ‘I will never be like that’.
During a vulnerable moment she tried the drug. “It just sort of numbed everything and made everything better. Before I knew it, it was every single day and I was out shoplifting and trying to get money for heroin.”
Over the next decade her life descended into chaos. She lost her job as a manager in a cafe;, she was evicted from her flat for not paying the rent and ended up, two weeks before Christmas, turning upon the doorstep ofat her father’s flat with her two children.
She was able to stabilise her heroin addiction with a methadone programme, but subsequentlybecame dependent on alcohol and came close to death when an ulcer burst in her stomach.
She said: “Once I stopped taking heroin and I was stable it was like I needed the Dutch courage to face everything that had happened. I felt like a failure. I felt so guilty for everything that I’d done but I ended up worse with the drink. I nearly died.”
For the last four years, she has been supported by Aberlour’s Family Outreach service in Edinburgh which works with parents who are experiencing difficulties as a result of substance use.
The patience and guidance of her support worker Tracy Quinn has turned her life around at the outreach service.
Last Christmas she was seriously ill as a result of the alcohol abuse. This year she is looking forward to spending the day with her new, supportive partner and her children.
She is pregnant and has not touched alcohol since the start of the year. She said: “My daughter Helen will say to me that she is so proud of me and Lewis said yesterday; ‘Mummy, this Christmas is going to be so different’.
“I don’t think I would be where I am now, if I hadn’t had that support from Aberlour. Sometimes that is what you need, to see somebody who believes that you can do it and who is supporting you and who is going to tell you how it is, no ifs or buts.”
Karen, 32, a mother of four, was referred to the outreach service, which works with families in the community and in their own homes, after being introduced to heroin by an ex-partner two years ago. When she was five months pregnant she stopped taking the drug and turned up at her mother’s home asking for help.
A social worker put her in touch with Aberlour and she has met support worker Tracy on a weekly basis since to deal with money issues, dental treatment and parenting issues or sometimes just for a chat.
She said: “If I didn’t have Aberlour and Tracy I don’t think I would be straight. I’d be still on heroin..”
With Tracy’s help she has now secured her own tenancy on a two-bedroomed flat and got some basic essentials to help her furnish the house. She is gradually reducing her methadone prescription and slowly increasing contact with two of her children who were placed in foster care. She is looking forward to a family Christmas on December 23 when she will see them for three hours.
Karen’s baby was taken from her at three months old and has now been formally adopted. A heartbreaking landmark in the New Year will be a final meeting with her daughter, now aged two, but she now has the support network in place to help.