I met someone out of the gang. We moved in together. I was 16 at the time. I was working on and off after this but never maintained a job because of the weed. I started getting panic attacks because I would smoke constantly, so I chose to stop smoking and growing weed.

We were still living together when I stopped taking drugs. I became the manager of Greggs. I loved life. By then we were just totally different, so we clashed. I didn’t take drugs, I wanted more out of my life.

I met an older guy at a party, he was a dealer – to be honest, I don’t know what it was about him, I think I just wanted to get away from what I was in at that time.

He tried to give me cocaine, tried to give me weed. I said no, so instead every night after work he would take me to the gym. I became very reliant on him taking me. After a while, he started beating me, controlling me. I couldn’t even look at a man in the gym. He would say ‘wait until you get out of the gym, I’m going to knock the fuck out of you’ - and he meant it.

As a child, you can’t run away from someone beating you up and abusing you. You learn to cope with it. When this guy started beating me up it was as if that coping mechanism, that strategy, kicked in straight away from when I was young, and I learned to deal with it. It’s a comfort zone. I was already comfortable with it, so I allowed it.

I gave up my job for him. Then – because I didn’t have an income - he started taking me shoplifting with other users. I Still wasn’t taking drugs then. But he kept enticing me, eventually, I started taking crack. It felt like it naturally happened, but it was as though he conditioned me to think fuck it, this is all I’m worth.

When I fell pregnant, I believed it was because he was drugging me up and pimping me out. He would put needles in me when I was asleep. I’d be out for days, waking up with needle marks on my arms. If I asked about the marks, he’d say I was going crazy. Worse still, I didn’t know if my son was the product of rape, or if he was his.

As the pregnancy reached its latter stages, I once again began to fight free from a lifestyle I did not want for myself or my unborn child, but I was in too deep.

Because of the extent of the beatings, I was covered in bruises and black eyes. I had broken fingers and ribs. Around this same time, I got my first jail sentence. While I was in there he got caught. When I came out, I pressed charges, he got two and a half years in prison.

I thought when he was gone then the problem’s gone, so I won’t be taking drugs anymore. That wasn’t the case, I had a habit. I was still using heroin and crack when I was pregnant. I was still involved in crime to support my habit.

Social Services got involved. They gave me every opportunity. I saw a judge every 2 weeks, had appointments to see how I was doing, they tried getting me on a methadone script. I suppose I had gone through so much trauma that it didn’t go that way. 

A month before he was born, I signed a document to say my mum could look after him on a special guardianship order. He went as soon as he was born… My son wasn’t my first thought, it was myself and my habit. When you’re on drugs you don’t care about anyone but yourself, you’re so selfish.

While serving another prison sentence, I reduced my methadone and was ‘clean’. I asked for help. I had to do groups on relapse prevention. I did it all. I proved myself. I thought it was best to do this somewhere where I couldn’t run away. I was practicing mindfulness daily. A positive mental attitude got me through. I kept away from a negative outlook, kept myself to myself, and did what I had to do.

On my release day I was picked up at the gate by my worker and went straight to Phoenix in Sheffield. This was my first time in rehab. When I got to rehab it was different from prison, but the structure helped.

At first, I intimidated people quite a lot in the way I presented myself. I was flipping out over minor things, walking around like I was still on the wing, bouncing around like I had to defend myself from everybody. But if I didn’t act in that way, I wouldn’t have known I needed to change.

Eventually I started to welcome the challenges and learn from it. You’ve got to have that acceptance; you’ve got to take responsibility.

I was encountered by several male members of the therapeutic community because I flirted that much that I gave a wrong impression. I thought what I was doing was normal. I was distraught, but it clicked for me that I lacked self-worth and self-respect. I had no boundaries. I had a false sense of confidence.

It’s not normal to act like that. To a predator they see it a mile off, they thrive on it. They groom you into what they want you to be. I suppose you don’t know yourself why you’re acting like that but these clever men, these people that groom you, know what to look for and know how to manipulate it.

In rehab I displayed the mindset of ‘show affection in this way and I will be rewarded’, which I didn’t know I did. It was almost like I went back to my childhood. I didn’t have a proper father figure. Rehab gave me the opportunity to parent myself again.

After I completed my program in the rehab, I moved on to Phoenix Futures’ supported housing. There I can live a substance-free life, with support available from Phoenix Futures staff where required. This has enabled me to make plans for my future education, begin saving for somewhere to live, and, most importantly, spend as much time as possible with my son. I see him twice a week now, and he’s happy when he sees me. This year was the first Christmas I’ve seen him opening his presents. It was a special time for him and for me. I’m gradually building that relationship with him. It’s special, I’m really happy.

I love fitness, I love health. I’m doing personal training level 2&3. I love running, I’m getting help to sign up for the foundation course, so I can get a degree in psychology. I leave the past where it is. I won’t let it define me, but it has made me a good, strong person today. It’s made me who I am. I feel so sorry for all the women that go through it. It’s a dark place. There’s a lot more than just drug use that goes on.

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