Loved Ones Unite came into existence due to the lack of local support for friends, family and loved one’s of those affected by alcohol and substance misuse. As people locally and indeed, nationally, talk more openly about these issues, more and more support is becoming available and we are pleased to play our part. Here is Ann Marie’s personal story and why LOU was founded …
The photo here is my son Keith David Richardson, aged 33. Born 26th July, 1976 and who sadly died 15th October, 2009. He was my first born. When Keith was little he loved life to the full. He was articulate, artistic, imaginative and very musical. His art work is what made him such an individual. The stories he would write as a child were very imaginative, his fantasy worlds were what made them special. He was excellent at art in school, drew marvellous pictures and all his books would be covered in his personal artwork. When Keith was seven years old, along came his sister Chrystel, who he adored. He watched out for her and made sure nobody hurt his little sister and became her big brother the minute she came home from hospital, he was so proud of her. Not long after Chrystel, came his little brother, James. Now Keith had two siblings, who he loved and cared for as their older brother. Keith would push the double buggy with his two little siblings in wherever we went; he would negotiate with lifts, escalators and narrow shop doors for me.
We moved to Whitby to run a bed and breakfast guest house. The fresh air and the beautiful sandy beach was a perfect environment for my children to grow up. The guest house was very busy and my life was full of making beds, cooking breakfast and evening meals. Keith joined the local secondary school. The truancy started and the educational authorities would make regular visits to me, but I never connected anything to Keith’s unhappiness, as I thought how a child could be unhappy in such beautiful surroundings as Whitby? The arcades were his usual hangout, with the local boys, of which I knew nothing about. During the summer months my life was just so busy with tourists and making their lives happy during their stay at the guest house that maybe I took my eye off what mattered, and that was the unhappy son in my home.
Keith was mixing with the wrong crowd. The fairground boys and the local boys in the arcades were leading Keith into drugs and alcohol, and I had no idea. The change in Keith was obvious, his moods were low, and his motivation for going to school seemed to have gone completely. I still had no idea of what the problem was, and I certainly did not think about drugs, not in my family, we were just an ordinary, honest and hard working family. I worked hard to gave my children everything, love, security and a wonderful warm environment to grow up in.
To take this story forward I will tell you about when things really started to go wrong in Keith’s life (this is only apparent now that I look back) We returned to Halifax due to Keith third sibling being born, and the guest house was just too much for me to handle, as my husband was offered a job abroad. My family encouraged me to return to Halifax so they could help me with the children, and to this I agreed as it seemed the most sensible thing to do. Leaving Whitby was a sad time for me and the children, as they made it clear they did not want to leave the seaside, but we agreed with my family in the end, and returned.
Keith became withdrawn from the rest of us, he seemed to be in his own private world, he excluded himself from family outings and gatherings. But he had made new friends, unbeknown to me, were not the best of people for my son to be involved with.
Keith stayed out at night saying he was staying at friends, I knew nothing of his friends, I believed that all friends of my children would have the same standards and morals that I held in my own family. Keith left school with no qualifications. I tried to encourage him to gain some training or qualifications at the local college, but he refused to be interested. I worked full time as a carer for the elderly working long hours. My husband and I divorced, which meant I had sole responsibility for my children. Keith’s father left us when Keith was only six months old, and we never saw him or had any contact with him, which Keith all his life blamed me for, this was becoming obvious to me during his late teen years. Those years were very difficult, he became very subdued and introvert. His moods were low and his motivation was non existence. In discussions with Keith which often got heated, he would blame me for his father not been around, and he blamed me for obviously being the cause of his father not being in his life, saying that it was because of me he had no father figure. I took the blame on the chin, thinking this was just Keith sounding off to the one nearest and dearest to him. He would shout and tell me to find his father, and make him come back. I always explained to Keith that his father and myself were very young when we got married, I was only 18 and his father was 21.
Keith became withdrawn, and he didn’t share anything of the family, his actions and moods would upset his siblings, which often caused arguments. It became clear to me that Keith was depressed, the way I dealt with this was to tell him over and over to get a job and cheer up, I did not know that my son was involved with drugs at a speedy rate. I knew nothing of drugs, why would I? I was told by my friends that Keith would be seen in town obviously high on drugs, (which was their words not mine) I completely denied and argued with them, that no son of mine would take heavy drugs, why on earth would they, how would they know about them, I had never spoke of drugs to my children.
The Police involvement became a regular occurrence in my life. Keith would have been arrested for stealing, he was eventually sent to prison. This too became a regular occurrence – the prison sentences, the call to me from the police to say Keith is being released and can he come to my address. Of course this was always allowed, he was my son. Keith was seen with people in our town who were known to be heroin addicts; I still did not connect the fact that because Keith was hanging around with these people, that he too would be a heroin addict.
Looking back on this I was totally naïve to the fact of drugs, and most of all heroin and the implications of this drug. I did not know what to do; I had no idea how to handle this information, I didn’t have an idea who to talk to or where to go for any help. I worked harder and longer hours, as I was the sole carer of my children. Keith was often asking me for money saying it was to go for job interviews, or that he had to go to the job centre about his job seekers allowance. If I told him I had no money he would shout and swear until I gave in and gave him whatever I had in my purse. It was this time Keith and I became distant, he was in his own world of which I had no part, I became a stranger to my son, the barriers were up and Keith became a stranger to me. He would lie in his bed all day, to me he was just been lazy, but looking back now he was high on heroin, and this was being taken in my own home, right under my nose, and in the same home as his siblings. His siblings became aware that Keith had changed, and eventually his isolation was obvious to them, so now Keith was isolated from us all, it was him and us. This was breaking my heart, the moods and the lack of motivation to wash and look after him was clear, I knew that something dreadful was happening as Keith was always very particular about his appearance, and now he had no pride in himself at all.
Things got so bad at home, the arguments between us all was all exasperated by Keith’s obvious lack of awareness of how he was destroying his family. His bedroom was the only place he would go, dark, music playing and him still on his mattress with dirty plates, cups and ashtrays. You may ask why I didn’t go into clean; Keith was 30 years old, a man not a child. I was scared of what was behind the bedroom door; it was an unknown and dangerous world behind that door. Keith became lower and lower, he only surfaced to get money and go out without a word, except the famous words (Mum can you lend me 20 quid) A drastic change had to happen, his brothers and sisters were suffering, his sister was not going to school, is brothers chronic asthma was getting worse, and my health, well I never took much notice of my health.
The drastic thing that had to happen was Keith had to be made to leave, but I knew that he would not go of his own accord, he would not even get up of his own accord so how could he collect his belongings and find another home?
I had Keith arrested – this you will almost surely disagree with, but, I needed to save my son’s life – and I didn’t know how to do that. When my son was taken from my home, my heart broke into little pieces, but this had to be done to save Keith’s life and to save my other children’s lives, everybody was suffering because Keith was taking his drugs in our home. My intention was that the police will help him to get clean, even then I knew nothing of drugs, the services out there, those available for family support and individual help. I was totally ignorant to the fact of drugs and alcohol and even more so to the facts of addiction.
I had no contact with Keith for 12 months; he was not allowed to come near me or in fact near my home. I had for a long time known that one day I was going to bury my son. I prayed every night and every morning for the safety of my son, I cried non stop some days for my son. I loved my son so much that I made him stand on his own feet, hoping that this would be the answer.
After a period of 12 months, I reached out for Keith on a social networking site, he replied to me but only with a lot of abuse and swearing and blame and filth. What did I expect? I only got what I deserved after what I did, but at least I knew he was alive, and in contact with this social networking site, he had regained his life, or so I thought. I was pleased even at this amount of abuse, because I had the knowledge he was alive.
After a month Keith replied back to me with apologies for how he spoke to me, and we contacted each other several times. I was nervous about the feelings I had experienced with him, what if he was still the same, and all the pain and heart ache I had been through would have been for nothing. Eventually we met again, we cried and we chatted and cried some more. Oh how I loved my son, I kept it a secret from my family that Keith and I was back in contact, I knew they would not approve, but I had to see him, and meet him and hold him. He would continually say he didn’t want anything from me, but I did give him bits of money and took him for food and drink in coffee bars during our meetings. He started coming round to my home when the others were not around, to have a bath and I would do his washing. He told me he had been evicted from the flat he was living in due to disturbances from other people. His landlord gave him plenty of chances, but time ran out for him, and he had to leave.
I paid for a bond on another flat for him out of the area he was living, I thought if he was away from these people then he can get better (how wrong I was). He moved into the flat I bought for him with only a bed, microwave and towels. I was slowly buying him nice things to go into his flat, I visited him and we had lovely chats in his room, I did his washing for him, and made sure that his bedding was always clean, so when he slept he could smell familiar smells.
“Mrs Richardson, I am sorry to tell you but, your son Keith has been found dead in his flat”
My life crashed my heart broke into smaller pieces that I could ever imagine. I cry more intensely than I have ever done before in my life, the pain is so intense and so deep I vomit when I cry, the howling is loud and the pain in my heart hurts so bad I think I am gonna die too.
I founded Loved Ones Unite some months after Keith’s passing – The purpose of this support group is to help other families, carers and loved ones gain support with the affects alcohol and drug addiction has on the family.
There is a contact section to enable you to make contact with us if you need immediate support, or just a chat or signposting to get help for your loved one.
Founder and Chair,
Loved Ones Unite