Drugs, drug abuse, addiction, alcoholic, alchie, smackhead, junkie, druggie, dipso, doper, smackhead, pill popper - for some they're just a word, for others they are a way of life, for those affected by addiction they are a nightmare and are often words association with the stigma of an addict in the family.
I know only too well about the horrors of addiction having seen friends and loved ones descend into this ghastly spiral of addiction, leaving their families destroyed and ruined by the effect of drugs and alcohol. Having spent 5 years in the police I met my fair share of addicts and had to pick up the pieces when the addicts stole from family, friends and strangers to feed their addiction.
Five years ago I met the powerhouse that is Elizabeth Burton-Phillips and through her I learnt more about the devastating effects an addiction can have on a family. Elizabeth is a very normal person and was leading a very normal life when her twin sons became addicts. For seven years, Nick and his brother Simon were addicted to heroin and crack and, after many attempts at recovery, Nick took his life in 2004. This gave Simon the strength and determination to become free of drugs in Nick’s memory.
Elizabeth wrote a brilliant, heart wrenching and at times unbearable to read book " Mum, can you lend me twenty quid? " which is a must read for any parent, grandparent, anyone who works with children, knows children - infact anyone. It's a tough read, Judith Woods wrote in the Daily Mail in 2007 and the sentence "There is a moment reading Elizabeth's book, Mum, Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid?" when I find myself crying out in horror". Having read the book and seen the theatre production I agree. Speaking to people who have read the book they too will concur.
DrugFAM was founded in Twyford in 2006 by Elizabeth Burton-Phillips in memory of her son, Nick Mills.
This morning an email containing the following press release appeared in my inbox and I assured Elizabeth I would share it. Read on, it's long but if you are a family suffering with addiction or know someone who is then this might be the most helpful thing you read.
Press Release 31st March 2017
Local Twyford born charity DrugFAM invites families. friends and partners affected by addiction to a unique service at Westminster Abbey on Tuesday May 9th 2017
A Twyford born charity, DrugFAM, which supports the families, friends and partners of those addicted to drugs or alcohol, is working with the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey to host a ‘Service of Celebration and Hope: Lives Worth Talking About’ on 9 May at midday.
The charity is inviting local people affected by someone else’s addiction, including those bereaved, and professionals working in the field to the even. Confirmed guests include Russell Brand, Brandon Block, Cheri Lunghi, Professor Keith Humphries (Former Obama White House Drug Policy Advisor), David Burrowes MP, Professor Jim Orford, Professor John Kelly, Dr Owen Bowden-Jones, Gerry LeJeune (CEO of the Berkshire Community Foundation), Mayor of Woodley, Mayor of Wokingham and Chief Constable Francis Habgood.
For seven years, Nick and his brother Simon were addicted to heroin and crack and, after many attempts at recovery, Nick took his life in 2004. This gave Simon the strength and determination to become free of drugs in Nick’s memory.
Elizabeth said: ‘’Drugs had a devastating impact on both my sons, drawing them into a life filled with deceit, crime, squalor and danger. Simon found freedom from drugs when Nick died and we were both determined that something positive would come from this tragedy. The charity ensures that families affected by addiction are understood, educated and supported. We provide a lifeline of safe, caring and professional support and guidance to families, friends and carers who are affected by someone else’s addiction to drugs or alcohol, including care for those who have been bereaved by addiction.’’
‘’We understand from our own experience that families are confronted with feelings of helplessness, shame, fear, isolation and despair. DrugFAM is here to ensure that no family member, friend or carer ever has to face these challenges alone,’’ Elizabeth added.
Emotional support is provided through DrugFAM’s national helpline, open from 9am to 9pm, seven days a week; by email and, in person. DrugFAM is unique in the range of support it offers, locally, nationally and internationally. The charity also connects families and friends to local weekly DrugFAM support groups including the Swallowfield group which runs on a Monday evening at the Renewal Centre, 7.30pm – 9.00pm.
The charity receives little government funding nationally, largely relying on the support provided by its volunteers of whom 61% have been affected by substance misuse and almost half (48%) have previously received support from DrugFAM. Last year the charity provided support to hundreds of local clients, who are both bereaved by addiction, or affected by someone else’s drug or alcohol use.
Sarah Bromfield, Chief Executive of DrugFAM, said: ‘’We are proud to hold this important event at Westminster Abbey to provide a voice to those affected by the addiction of others. The service will provide an opportunity for families to proudly and publicly remember the lives of those lost to addiction, and acknowledge the strength and courage of all those who are affected by someone else’s drug or alcohol misuse. These are all ‘lives worth talking about’ that deserve to be heard.’’
‘At DrugFAM we are committed to raising awareness about the impact of others’ addiction on the emotional wellbeing and physical health of their family, partners and friends. Public health funding tends to focus on those in addiction and, whilst DrugFAM bridges the gap as best as it can, more needs to be done to address the severe lack of specialist support for the families affected by drug use. We hope local people personally affected by addiction and those working in addiction services will join us on 9 May to mark the achievements of DrugFAM and help us raise awareness of the work that needs to be done to help families affected by this growing issue," Sarah said.
Around one in three people is affected by a relative’s alcohol addiction and at least a further 1.5million adults affected by someone else’s drug misuse. The direct support they provide is estimated to save the NHS a minimum of £750m each year.
Elizabeth added: ‘Bereavement through addiction is less understood and acknowledged than other types of family loss and often carries a stigma which adds to the burden of grief and has a serious impact on psychological and physical wellbeing. I hope that the event at Westminster Abbey will inspire further discussion about how to tackle the prejudice and stigma experienced by the family, friends and carers of those affected by addiction.’’
DrugFAM also works in partnerships with schools, drug services, prisons and community groups to promote awareness of the impact of substance misuse on families. This includes performances of the play by Theatre in Education: “Mum, can you lend me twenty quid? What drugs did to my family’ which is adapted directly from Elizabeth Burton Phillips’ memoir of the same title.
People interested in entering the ballot for a ticket to the Westminster event must register by 7 April via this link http://bit.ly/2nHXAJJ or by contacting DrugFAM on 01494 442777 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like support from DrugFAM contact the helpline 0300 888 3853. To find out more information about the charity visit www.drugfam.co.uk
For more information, please contact:
Sarah Bromfield CEO Tel: 01494 442777
Elizabeth Burton-Phillips Founder Tel: 07766113679