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This is by far the hardest story I have written. As I transfer the words from my notebook to print, I relive in my mind every expression on her face with every word spoken. Reliving the pain, sleepless nights, arguments, and memories whilst she's explaining her story to me. Her words echoing around the empty room where we sat. Two chairs, a glass of water, and a small table surrounded by empty white walls and a high ceiling. There I sat with a notepad, as this woman is pouring her heart out and my heartbreaking further every time she opens her mouth.
Many of us judge before we understand a situation, we find blame easy. Our smart comments that seem harmless cut deep in to the recipient. Proof that sometimes we need to think before we speak.
This is the story of a mother whose fourteen year old girl was exploited, and is their story for the last twenty six years. To protect their identity from further repercussions, we shall call the mother Linda and the daughter concerned Sharon.
Sharon as a little girl was loved, nurtured, and raised by two caring parents. Christmases and birthdays were happy memories, where love and joy was shared. Family photos evidence the memory, but shadow a past, parallel life.
Linda tells me how one day when Sharon was fourteen she discovered a small plastic bag, containing what resembled a white powder. Prior to this point Sharon was a loving, kind girl, who worked hard at her education achieving her eleven plus, and acceptance into the local Grammar School.
Linda tells me how she noticed a change in Sharon's behavior. Her patience drew thin, her determination and concentration deteriorated, and her desire to succeed had gone. Her close group of friends had gone, and she was now associating with girls from the academic, years above her. Linda raised these concerns with friends, family, and the school, but until the powder was discovered the reasoning was left to puberty.
Linda told me she had no idea what the powder was, as she had lived a sheltered life, but knew deep down it was drug related. Sharon's behavior deteriorated further with drastic effects. From late night parties, getting into cars with older lads, and coming home drunk. Rules and sanctions were put in place, but Sharon would either escape, or not come home for days. This beautiful, sweet, innocent girl had transformed into a pale, aggressive, and violent lady, that tore a household apart.
Linda and her husbands relationship stretched to breaking point. The arguing and devastation witnessed by Sharon's younger siblings. No one knew what to do. All Linda could do is break inside piece by piece, trying to hold a household together, and watch her daughter self destruct before her eyes. The once mother and daughter relationship had gone with the nurturing loving home. A house had gone from a home to a war zone, and the younger children were innocent victims.
Linda asked for help, she turned to professionals for answers, but found her self the one being blamed. Linda would drop her younger children off on a school run, and she would hear the other parents whispering and passing judgement. Close friends soon turned their backs and distanced themselves. The younger children quickly became victims of bullying for their sisters actions. Linda was brought to her knees. As a wife, as a parent and as a decent human being she felt isolated, and like she had failed.
Sharon in her teens had quickly progressed to heroin and crack, and even admitted to prostitution. Social services and other agencies were involved, but didn't seem to be coming up with any answers. That was until Sharon became pregnant, then they removed the baby from her care. Linda fought hard to keep the baby within the family, and was finally able to raise her as one of her own. Sharon was offered rehab in Suffolk, but fell off the wagon. A young girl that had been exploited, made drug dependent, now watching her mother raise her child because she was incapable. Her only comfort a needle and a small bag, for a short lived freedom. Things got a lot worse for Sharon. Her life was in turmoil. Homeless with an addiction and pregnant again. The father also being a drug user and her main supplier. Sharon in the eyes of the law was now an adult and was losing her second child to the system.
When the child was born the grandparents on the fathers side fought to raise the young infant. They were successful. There were now two innocent children brought into this world that were denied the opportunity of a family home with their mother, two children raised separately in two different counties.
Linda fought for her daughter to change, pleading with her, funding her second trip to rehab. As a grandmother, a mother, and a role model, Linda fought hard even when the world turned its back on her. Linda got Sharon back into rehab. Don't get me wrong Linda is by no means wealthy. The debt Linda has accumulated, the possessions she has sold, and the bailiffs she has closed the door on, all for her family, in Linda's own words "her flesh and blood."
Sharon's second stint in rehab has been successful. She has now been clean for a couple of years. Sharon is living on her own, working, and currently fighting to bring her children home. I have been fortunate enough to speak to Sharon, who in her own words told me her graphic story, and to where she has got to now is an incredible achievement.