How heroin destroyed our family

By KomodoMK · Oct 14, 2008 · Updated Oct 19, 2008 · ·
  1. KomodoMK
    A year after we ran the story of Hannah Mayne's addiction, we reveal how her mother's health and marriage have been casualties

    In April last year Kate and Hannah Mayne made quite a splash across these pages. It was a story that they wanted told but dearly wished that they were a million miles away from. Hannah was a gaunt but beautiful 19-year-old heroin addict who, despite a loving family and a life of privilege, had been sucked into the world of habit-feeding. Her mother Kate, a specialist interior designer, was desperately battling for help for a daughter who was slowly killing herself.

    In the 18 months since I met them many things have changed, but not for the better. Hannah has collected her first criminal conviction (for shoplifting) and is illegally squatting, having moved addresses six times in the past year.

    Kate's marriage to Hannah's father, a financial director, has collapsed as the reality of their daughter's addiction and illness took its toll on the family. And, perhaps inevitably, Kate has suffered a nervous breakdown. It came one day when Hannah, rattling for a fix, stood outside the family's Georgian home in an exclusive street in Brighton banging on the doors, throwing her shoes at the windows, screeching, swearing and begging her mother for money for drugs.

    This was relatively tame compared with previous flashpoints. In the past the police have had to subdue Hannah with pepper spray after she went berserk, lunging at her mother with a glass - and she and her boyfriend once burgled the house, stealing the TV. Every day Kate dreads the knock telling her that her daughter - who, unknown to her parents, became alcohol dependent at about 15 - is dead. But for some reason this incident outside the family home last summer was the final straw.

    “I just went into shutdown,” says Kate, 49. “I went catatonic. I spent the day just walking round the house unable to do anything until my husband came home and found me.” He took her to The Priory Hospital, Brighton, where she remained for two weeks. The crash had been a long time coming. For months Kate had lain awake at nights, imagining Hannah's death unfolding. “I would go through the whole thing from the knock on the door to the flowers on her coffin,” she says. “That was the only ending I could see. My future was always linked to Hannah's death. I felt utterly trapped, like there was no way out.”

    But she believes that the thing that really defeated her and tipped her into mental breakdown was the bureaucracy that comes with seeking help for a drug addict. Navigating the redtape surrounding drug-treatment programmes and housing schemes was a nightmare: however hard you try, you never get anywhere. There are, she says, petty rules to follow that are totally at odds with the chaotic lives of addicts. She felt that she was screaming in the dark and, despite appearances, those who were supposed to help weren't listening.

    Such is the experience of many parents with drug-addicted children. After The Times told Hannah's story last year Channel 4 spent the next 12 months filming her life and her complex, but still very close, relationship with her mother (Cutting Edge: Mum, Heroin and Me, October 23, 9pm). It will leave you in no doubt as to how enslaved Hannah is to heroin (she has been dependent for three years) begging and stealing in Brighton to get that next £10 for the dealer. There is footage of her injecting into her foot because the veins in her arms have closed.

    The thing about heroin is that it creates ripples that pull everything else under. Kate does not want Hannah to blame herself for the breakdown of her parents' marriage: Kate definitely blames the drug (she now has a new partner, a businessman, whom she met when he read her story and offered to fund a rehab stint for Hannah. She now uses her maiden name McKenzie).

    But even the strongest relationship would struggle when shouldering a daily handgrenade, with holidays ruined, quality time stolen and finances swallowed (Hannah has been through expensive rehab stints and has received hundreds of pounds in handouts from her mother ). “It has cost us a great deal, the financial part being the least of it,” she says.

    Kate and her husband separated earlier this year, a not uncommon occurrence for parents in their position who find their own relationship being consumed by addiction in the family. They had differed about how to deal with Hannah: her father favoured a tough-love approach, which meant not handing out money when she needed drugs. But Kate sometimes found it impossible to resist the desperate screams of her child, fearing what she might do to get them if she didn't help. “There is a strong umbilical cord with a mother; when the child tugs you feel it and you want to do all you can to protect them,” she says. “My husband seemed able to compartmentalise it, rationalise it. I couldn't.”

    And it was always Kate to whom Hannah would run. “He was not usually there in those situations,” she says. “It usually falls very much to the mother. The nature of the beast is that it will identify which one has the weakness and exploit it. Our experiences of the problem were different.”

    This, perhaps, is comparable to a mother who gives her child sweets to stop a toddler tantrum in the supermarket - anything for peace. An expert will say that she should not have done that: but they are not the ones dealing with it in that tense, head-splitting moment. Both parents, however, remain committed to helping their daughter.

    Since her breakdown, during which she had cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), Kate now recognises the value of tough-love. She rarely gives Hannah money, having learnt that it makes little difference in the end. “I had been rehearsing the funeral in my head, thinking that if I didn't give her money she would die, but CBT taught me to think that wouldn't necessarily happen,” she says.

    Should she have been harder on Hannah earlier? “There is no right or wrong. You don't get a manual on how to bring up a heroin addict. But what I know as a mother is that I had to do it exactly the way I did it. I had to work it out for myself. When I heard the experts saying that you must cut them off I dismissed it because, as her mother, I thought I knew better. Sometimes I still help her.” One occasion came this week when Kate left a theatre in Brighton to find Hannah waiting outside. The electricity had gone in her squat and she wanted her mother to buy her a £7 electricity key, which she did. “The advice would be not to because by doing so you are helping them to bump along the bottom,” Kate says. “People say ‘withdraw and say no'. I say ‘How?' I love her. I'm still asking how.”

    In hospital Kate had time to reflect on another dilemma faced by parents of an addict: how siblings become neglected. She had been so consumed by Hannah's situation that her other daughter, Lucy, 18, had suffered. “The breakdown made me realise how much I was neglecting Lucy. You can see it only when you step back. But Lucy is an amazing girl. She has coped with it incredibly well and without resentment. I have a huge amount of respect for her.”

    Hannah has never blamed anyone but herself for her habit and cites low selfesteem as the cause. “I always have the best intentions and things that I want to do but it never happens. Heroin always comes first,” she says wearily. When I first met Hannah her mother was furious that her bank, despite being told of her addiction, gave her a £1,200 overdraft. She spent it all on drugs. Hannah and Lucy attended a beacon school in Chichester, but while Lucy flourished, Hannah found it harder to cope with life. She was prone to depression, something that her mother attributes partly to her being born with Hirschsprung's disease, a rare bowel disorder that required relentless medical treatment.

    “It's my choice to take drugs, but I would say that if I hadn't started smoking cannabis then I wouldn't have progressed to other drugs,” Hannah says. “You take speed and say ‘I'd never take coke', then you take coke and say ‘I'd never do heroin'. Then you smoke heroin but say ‘I'd never use needles', and it just progresses. Once you start taking drugs it completely changes your morals.”

    It is extraordinary how close mother and daughter are given the circumstances in which their relationship must work. Hannah chose to leave home last year as her life became increasingly chaotic and she graduated into the world of hostels. Both have chosen to tell their story because they want to highlight how hard it is for addicts, even with well-off, educated, determined parents, to get the specialist help that is needed. Kate believes that in some cases heroin should be prescribed to decriminalise the condition and to protect the public; that we should be building more rehab centres. “We make it so easy in this country for children to get alcohol and drugs, then when they do we punish them, not help them,” she says.

    For now she has resigned herself to the fact that Hannah won't be getting better any time soon. I ask what has been the biggest loss to the family. “I think it's joy,” she says. “Even if I have a fleeting moment of laughter I'm brought down again straight away. I honestly don't think I'll feel carefree ever again. You can't. It's like your child almost dying every day.”


    # The Times
    # October 14, 2008

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  1. demons187
    I found it heart breaking reading this, i went to school with hannah when she used to live in Havant, She was a beautiful and intelligent girl, we used to drink and smoke but i cant belive it has come to this. I really hope she gets all the help she needs so she and her famliy can have a happy future.
  2. nikky36
    such a sad story but not unheard of..............:(
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