lifestyle

"My mother was a heroin addict."

Jessica Masuglia

It is confronting for me to tell this story because apart from family and close friends, I keep my mum’s story a secret. I don’t talk about her.

There is a sense of shame attached to having a drug addict in the family and I realised at a young age that there are people who will judge me based on my mother’s history. Drug addiction and mental health are both still stigmatised in society because people just don’t understand it. I don’t think they can ever really understand it until they love somebody with an addiction or live through it themselves.

My mother died of an overdose a week after my 21st birthday.

I remember my father walking into my room and waking me he said “I’ve got some bad news bub, We’ve lost your mum” he started sobbing and sat on the edge of my bed and cuddled me and I wasn’t sure what to feel. I had been expecting this for a few years and there were even moments in my life where I had wished for it but now that it had actually happened I didn’t feel the relief that I once thought I would, I just felt a numbness, one I hadn’t felt before.

I remember having to get daily updates from the coroner because they needed to perform an autopsy and weren’t sure if they would have her body ready in time for her funeral. I remember not showering for a week because I physically didn’t have the energy to. I remember not knowing what to say in her eulogy and the regret I felt in not writing one. The thing I will never forget is looking down into my mum’s coffin and not recognising the lifeless body that faced me.

My mother was in and out of sobriety for a majority of my life. Heroin and pills were her main problem but in her later years she also succumbed to alcoholism.

I always felt she was different to other mums but in my younger years was oblivious to the situation. As I got older I started to piece together what was going on but somehow knew not to speak about it.

Jessica and her mum.

Our relationship only started becoming tumultuous as I became a teenager and she developed psychosis due to her addiction. She started changing at one of the most pivotal parts of my life and just when a girl needs her mum the most I could no longer communicate with her. I moved in with my aunt and started avoiding my mum. Whenever we did see each other we would argue, partially because of the paranoia she had developed from her condition and partially due to my hostility towards her. I started to deny that she was my mother when people asked. I pushed her to the back of my mind and went on with my life.

I had not seen my mum in four years the day I found out she had passed away. I had made no effort to see her in those four years because it caused me a lot of pain that I couldn’t deal with at that time. After she passed away I felt allot of guilt. I remembered all of the arguments we had, the nasty things I had said to her and the times I wished she would just disappear out of my life, the times I even wished she would die.

It took me a long time to realise that I’d held her to blame for things she could no longer control. My mother had changed she hadn’t always been this way addiction and psychosis had taken over her.

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The truth is even though my mum was an addict she was a great mum. I was always fed, I had a roof over my head and never went without a thing. I never witnessed her taking drugs and in her own way she tried to shelter me from it. I know she loved me, maybe more than anybody else will ever love me. The parts of me that I pride myself were all her lessons to me. She taught me to love, to be kind and to be open, because of her I will always be as honest as I can and I will always try to do the right thing by whomever I cross paths with.

Drugs can and will bring out the worst in people and I know my mum had done things while she was high that she regretted once she sobered up. I’m sure that there are people who have some not so fond memories of her but the people that really knew her loved her and she loved them. She had a glow about her, a spark. She could draw people in and would converse with anybody. She would go out of her way to help someone in need, loved other people’s children as her own and she was the most beautiful women I had ever seen.

I’m not sure why or how my mum became an addict but I do know she had a great deal of pain inside of her, pain I don’t think I’ll ever understand. My mum fought a daily battle with herself and her addiction and I can’t imagine having the strength to go through everything she went through.

“Heroin and pills were her main problem but in her later years she also succumbed to alcoholism.

As I write this I’m reading about the failed push to drug test all recipients of the Dole with the results determining if they are paid or not. Friends of mine are making comments about it and saying it needs to happen and how “it’s about time” These friends don’t know our story and I wonder if they would change their views if they did. I see hateful comments towards people with addictions on a daily basis some even going as far to say they should be sterilised. Addicts are portrayed as a danger towards the public, criminals and deadbeats. We lose our empathy whenever addiction is mentioned and don’t see the human side; we forget that addicts are also brothers and sons, some even mothers.

I know I’m not going to change people’s perceptions of addiction but hopefully it will make you think about it. Maybe I have just written this in vain, maybe this is just the eulogy I never got to write for my mother or maybe I just no longer want my mum’s addiction to define her.

I am proud of my mother because even though she was weak sometimes, she was the strongest person I know.

I have felt shame, I have felt grief and I have felt guilt, I finally now feel pride. I’m proud of my mother and I never got the chance to tell her that.

Jessica Masuglia is a 24-year-old Melbournite. She is a writer of stories, teller of jokes and feeler of feelings. You can follow her on Facebook.

Help for individuals and families who have been affected by drug use: You can find information regarding help services here. You can find information regarding treatment for drug addiction here.