In just two years Donna-Louise Edmonds has confronted her addiction, found recovery, retrained and is now starting a job at Addaction Cornwall.
The mum-of-three can’t believe how much life has changed and can’t wait to start helping other people reach their recovery goals by working at Cornwall’s drug and alcohol service.
Donna, aged 46, tried to overcome her heroin addiction several times before, including when her youngest daughter was born, but the support she needed wasn’t available.
This time, she spent time at Addaction’s residential rebab Chy, in Truro, with ongoing support from the Addaction community teams and has moved on with the confidence to achieve her goals.
Donna said: “I’m so glad I finally found recovery. It took me to get really depressed and anxious before I faced it properly, but now I can’t wait to get started and enjoy the new life I have.”
Donna first took heroin 24 years ago while abroad with two friends. She said: “I was having a relationship with a guy who had been into heroin. I found out he had a thing going with my friend and took his heroin. It was the first time I’d taken it. I didn’t take it again for about four weeks, but when I next had a problem I took some more and it became the way I coped with stress, a way of getting away from it all.”
Donna had two young children at the time and carried on working throughout, often putting in 12 hour days and weekend work to pay the bills, debts and for heroin. She tried to detox multiple times, but a lack of aftercare support meant she relapsed each time.
“Chy wasn’t around back then, so I had to go to Bristol for rehab which was too far from my children. I managed three weeks before having to go home to them and because there was no support I started using again.”
When Donna’s third child came along, she didn’t find out she was pregnant until she was four and a half months gone. “I’d done a couple of tests, but they were negative so I went to the doctors about a growth in my stomach to be told I was already half way through a pregnancy. I panicked about what harm I had done to her already. They put me on a prescription for the heroin substitute diamorphine.
“Back then I wasn’t encouraged to find recovery in the same way people are today. There were no groups and I only saw someone once a month to get my prescription.”
When her daughter started school, Donna’s health went downhill.
“The last nine years were pretty full on, using all the time. My daughter picked up on it and knew that there were times I had to get to the chemist or that I would lock myself in the bathroom and I couldn’t play for a while.
“Then about three years ago, I had to give up my job because I was getting really anxious. Even though it was only a 10 minute walk to work, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go out to the supermarket; my friends would bring the food for me. I would only go to the chemist and to drop my daughter at school. When I found I just couldn’t function anymore it became unbearable. I was pretty suicidal by the time I wanted to go into treatment.”
Donna did a detox at Boswyns in Hayle, in June 2015 and from there went to stay at Addaction Chy for the initial 12 week programme.
“On day one 12 weeks seemed such a long time, it was very daunting and I was so anxious. There were four people who I had met at Boswyns, so that gave me a bit more confidence. But after just the first day I felt part of the place, it’s such a caring environment. The first two weeks dragged because you’re not allowed out. Then suddenly, it was week four and I thought it was going too fast and I wanted more time there. It’s a real family community where everyone helps each other. Nothing is forced; you make your own decisions throughout.
“After eight weeks I applied for one of the move on flats in the grounds, even though it meant giving up the house I had with my daughter, who was staying with my mum at the time. People from Chy helped me sort out my house, which I’d left in a bit of a state.
“It was sad to leave the main house, but you still get a lot of support and I was able to continue with things like the art therapy which I had started in the main house. They also let my daughter come and stay with me one night a week, which was fantastic.”
After three months, Donna was put in a family hostel with her daughter and straight away went back to volunteer three days a week at Addaction Chy. In March last year, Donna started doing training courses with Addaction Cornwall, including the volunteer courses and by April was running support groups at the community service.
She now has a new home with her youngest daughter in Truro and was offered a job with Addaction Cornwall as a recovery worker for Truro and Newquay.
“My kids know all about what I’ve been through and are so proud of me for recovering. They feel like they’ve got their mum back. They all spent a lot of time at my mum’s house because I would be ill and my mum could see I wasn’t coping. She was an amazing support and propped me up. I’ve got a great relationship with my mum. Now I can be that support for them.”
To find out more about Addaction Chy or the Addaction Cornwall community drug and alcohol support visit www.addaction.org.uk