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Written by Annette Rodgers, a mother's account

I am constantly asked the question "what is Lauren's Link", here is my account of not what is Lauren's Link but more why is Lauren's Link.

November 11th - Rememberence Day, A day the Nation remembers a day I will never forget - Lauren was born on 11th of 11th 1981

When Lauren was 16 years old I discovered that she was using heroin. The way I discovered was from an entry in her diary. I didn't snoop in her room or in her bag, she had left her diary out on the kitchen worktop - what Mother wouldn't be curious. The date was 18th December 1997, I remember it distinctly as the words are etched on my mind - TRIED HEROIN IT'S WICKED. I frantically flicked through the diary to look for the word "heroin" again -but it wasn't there. There were words such as - smack, brown, had a dig, got gear and had meths. I thought "Oh my God! she's drinking methylated spirits not using heroin anymore". Apart from the word heroin I knew nothing of what the other words meant.

How can one of MY children use drugs, nice people from loving homes don't use drugs - do they? Drug addicts are nasty, dirty people who live in squats with no family to love them - aren't they?

I confronted her and we had the most enormous row, she fell to the floor and begged me to help her. I didn't know how, I didn't know where to start. My perceptions of a drug addict did not relate to any of MY children. We calmed down and Lauren asked me to take her to the GP. I made the appointment and along we went. I arrived with Lauren in tow to get the miracle cure I believed the GP would have. There was no miracle cure and in fact the GP stated, he didn't deal with "drug addicts" in particular 16 year old "heroin addicts".

We left with a sense of total despair with no idea of what to do next.

I nagged Lauren constantly "Stop doing it - surely you just stop taking it", Lauren screamed back "Mum you just don't understand". How right she was - I didn't understand.

Two weeks later our GP referred us to the only local drug clinic in Derby. Lauren was assigned a Drug Counsellor. We went along expecting the counsellor to offer the miracle "cure" to her drug addiction. He didn't have the miracle "cure". However, he offered some hope, he gave Lauren some options - Cold Turkey, Warm Turkey, Community Detox, Methodone, Hospital Detox. I thought what is the turkey thing all about, it wasn't long ago that we were eating the damn stuff, what the hell does it mean. Oh boy, how innocent I was of the drug culture!

Lauren thought about her options, I'm just glad she knew what he was talking about. She chose to go into Hospital and do her "rattle", another word I didn't understand. I'll tell you what I was learning a whole new language thanks to my daughter.

Right then, great, hospital when do we go. Well, I was soon shot down in flames as the Drug Counsellor told us about the long waiting list, possibly 8 or maybe 12 weeks.

OK then brace yourself - what do we do now. "Well", he said, "She has to continue to use street heroin while she's on the waiting list". What do you mean she has to still use street heroin? I really didn't understand how it works.

We went home and I decided that to "save" Lauren from crime and prostitution I would consciously pay for her heroin. Lauren had a boyfriend at the time who seemed a nice young man and I was fed the story that he had been a heroin addict but was now clean and helping Lauren. "What a nice young man", I thought, "he's helping my daughter get off drugs" and of course he'll understand what she's going through.

Here we go again, innocent or what!!!

So, heroin cost me between £10 and £40 per day depending on what Lauren needed. Life was chaotic with stealing, lying, the dreadful deceit and what I really couldn't get my head around was that this was MY daughter, MY beautiful daughter who I loved and cherished. How and why does a loving child treat their parents this way. This was not MY daughter this was someone evil who had taken over Lauren's body.

Lauren has two brothers, Louis who was 15 and Jake who was 11 at the time. Louis hated his sister with a passion - a passion that was once brotherly - sisterly devotion. Jake, on the other hand, was oblivious to the chaos and what was actually happening, which was fine, the less he knew the better. I have a partner who also couldn't understand what sort of hell we were living in.

Life continued along this vein, a long story which I cannot go into now. One story I will share with you is that one particular Friday when Lauren and her boyfriend needed a fix, (I had since found out that the boyfriend wasn't actually helping Lauren get off it he was, in fact, using the stuff himself). Anyway, they came to me to say that there was a new dealer on the usual estate they "scored" from (you see I'm learning the language). This dealer was having a bit of BOG OFF weekend, even in the drug world they have special offers and if I gave her £30 they would go away for the whole weekend. What a nice thought that was, a whole weekend without walking on egg shells or screaming my head off. I handed over the £30 and off they skipped, do you know it's amazing how a drug addict can go from telling you they're going to die any minute if they don't get their "fix" and as soon as they see the colour of money they recover immediately. The power of money is incredible but then we all know that.

However, the peace was shattered when they returned within the hour, certainly a sight I didn't want to see. "What the hell are you doing back", I screamed. "Mum, you won't believe this but we've been ripped off" she said with a smirk. "What do you mean, YOU'VE been ripped off, this is MY money I'm the one who's been ripped off". I was furious, like someone who'd just been short changed at the local shop, I wanted to go and see this person and get my money back - welcome to the seedy world of drugs!

"Mum don't be daft you can't go and demand money back from drug dealers", Lauren was astounded but I was so desperate to get rid of the chaos for the weekend that I drove them both back down to the estate and demanded to see MR BIG. Well, Mr big was actually Mr small and pathetic. Everyone thought it was hilarious that a Mum would have the "balls" to go and demand money back. I screamed and shouted in the street like some mad woman. Obviously, I didn't get my money back but Lauren and her boyfriend were offered some "good gear" which cost me another £30, I had now spent £60.

I drove home in a daze and when I got home I just flopped in a chair and sobbed, I really couldn't believe what I'd just done. Not only had I just shown myself up in the street but bought drugs and supplied them all in one go. My God, what if the dealer had been under police surveillance and they arrested me. I made the conscious decision from that day that I would not be facing drug dealers again. I really must get a grip back on reality.

Eight very long weeks and a very long story passed before the letter dropped onto the doormat. The lifeline to normality had finally arrived. Of course, she had to have one last fix before I drove her to hospital. It was decided that whilst she was in hospital being treated her boyfriend would stay at my house doing his "cold turkey". His mother had obviously seen lots of sense and had thrown him out weeks ago and he had since lived with us. I wasn't at the seeing sense stage but couldn't bring myself to throw my child or anyone else's out onto the street. I needed to protect her and look after her she was my baby and my responsibility.

Lauren was in hospital for 2 weeks, she was actually supposed to stay for 6 weeks but she felt that she was "cured" after 2 weeks and insisted on coming home. Lauren wrote lots of letters from hospital and interestingly always referred to me as Mummy, she was so full of remorse for what she'd put the family through and how she was going to be a changed person, even having her long hair cut short to change her image, she would go back to study for her GCSE's. It all sounded so positive and everyone was looking forward to the new life.

Whilst Lauren was in hospital doing her "warm turkey", her boyfriend was at home doing his "cold turkey". He'd obviously done it before as he just sat in a corner and sweated it out. He received an offer of a flat which he jumped at. OK it wasn't in a particular nice area of Derby but it was independence. He shared the good news with Lauren and she decided that she wanted to move in with him. I wasn't too keen on the idea saying that I wanted her home to keep an eye on her new life but Lauren was a force to be reckoned with and said that she was 16 anyway and she could do what she liked. I relented and struck up a deal (not the heroin kind), I was to see or speak to her every day and the day this didn't happen I would come looking for her. I fetched her from hospital and moved her and boyfriend into their new flat.

Lauren was back and things were good. She stuck to the deal, we would meet for lunch in my lunch break from work and she attended education part time. This lasted for about 4 weeks in which time I had also moved house so things were quite hectic. Lauren and her boyfriend argued and fell out quite a lot - well when they were both using drugs that was all they had in common but when they were both "clean" they were two different people. Although from Lauren's writings in her diary she did love him in her own way.

Lauren was still having her counselling sessions to which I always attended but I couldn't attend one particular session as I was too busy at work. Her counsellor rang me after her session and said that he was worried about her as she was quite depressed and that he would keep an extra eye on her. We met for lunch and I could see what he meant, she said that she was just a bit fed up as nothing seemed to be happening quickly enough. "The thing is Mum", she said, "heroin is an instant reward, but everyday life isn't". I suppose she's got a point although I have no idea what the feeling of heroin is like. We gave each other our usual hug followed by "Love you" and off she went.

We arranged to meet for lunch two days later, on the Friday, she said that although they were not sharing the flat together anymore her boyfriend was taking her out Thursday so I wouldn't be seeing her. Her boyfriend had moved out of his flat and gone back to his mother's which Lauren was furious about. She couldn't understand why he wanted to have anything to do with his Mum after she had thrown him out. I find it interesting as to how everyone involved in drug addiction, either the drug user themselves or the family involved have their own perceptions and understanding. After all, Lauren and her boyfriend had caused so much distress to everyone involved.

Friday came and went and because I was so busy at work I hadn't realised until time to go home that she hadn't been in contact. I rang around to see if anyone had seen her but couldn't get hold of anyone. I rang her Dad (we had separated some years before) but he wasn't in. I didn't panic as I thought maybe her Dad took them both out for tea which he sometimes did.

Saturday morning I awoke with a start, sat bolt upright in bed and felt sick and anxious although I didn't know why. I opened the living room curtains with the same sick feeling thinking that something was wrong. I hadn't seen Lauren or spoken to her for two days now. I drove over to the flat but couldn't make anyone hear me. I went to my parents, did the usual telephoning around then went back to the flat. It was like that most of the morning and the more I didn't speak to anyone about Lauren's whereabouts the more I panicked. Lauren should have been moving out of the flat in the afternoon as it was the boyfriend who was the tenant. Lauren had chosen to live at her Dad's but somehow I knew that was going to be a disaster, they were so alike.

The day got longer and longer and still I couldn't get hold of anyone or get into the house where the flat was. I rang the owners of the house who were based quite a long way from Derby. The Manageress wasn't available and I was told to ring the police, so I did.

The conversation went:

    * Me - "I'd like someone to go round to Flat ... I think my daughter is in there and I believe something has happened to her".
    * Police - "Why do you think your daughter is in there?"
    * Me - "She's a recovering heroin addict and I think she's in trouble".
    * Police - "Oh well there you go then love"
    * Me - "There you go then love, what, what do you mean?"
    * Police - "Have you telephoned A & E, have you asked the owner to come and help".
    * Me - "Yes, I've telephoned the owner but they can't come".

With that I put the phone down and rang A & E. They were lovely and said that no one had been in with a suspected overdose. Oh my God overdose, I had a gut feeling she was in trouble but hadn't actually thought what kind of trouble.

I telephoned the owner again and said I'd had no joy with the police and please could someone help me. I was told to ring the police back and tell them that if they went to the flat they could break in - they had permission. I made her repeat this and telephoned the police again.

The conversation went;

    * Me - "I've just spoken to someone about my daughter in Flat ... and I think she's in trouble, I've also spoken to the owner and they said that someone could go round and break the door down.
    * Police - "Why do you think your daughter is in that flat and why do you think she's in trouble, what kind of trouble?"
    * Me - "She's a recovering heroin addict and I haven't seen or spoken to her for 2 days and I think she's in that flat and something has happened, please can someone come and help".
    * Police - "Oh well, there you go then love. Sorry we can't come out and break the door down that's called breaking and entering, have you rung A & E.
    * Me - "What do you mean - there you go then - what are you trying to say - how dare you assume bad things about me and my daughter you don't even know me. My daughter is not a bad girl she is just a recovering drug addict".

I just slammed the phone down and sobbed.

My frantic panic continued and it was now 9pm in the evening and eventually the manageress for the property came and met me at the flat, my partner and two friends were with me. After the pleasantries I said that I would stay out in the street if she didn't mind as I was afraid of what she was going to find.

My friend appeared on the doorstep looking very worried and pale, I asked her if Lauren was in the flat. My friend didn't reply she just said that someone had telephoned the ambulance. I remember screaming at her, "why have you rung the ambulance there's no point she's dead isn't she". My friend just stood staring at me repeating over and over - "we've rung for an ambulance".

In what seemed no time at all as many police, paramedics, CID officers and drug squad were there within minutes. I went to stand outside the flat while everyone was running round and then listened to one of the extremely arrogant CID officers say, "Oh it's just another junkie", to which the other one said "Yeh but this one looks a bit young". I can remember that as if it was yesterday. How dare they talk about my little girl like that, they didn't know how intelligent, beautiful and loving she was, when she wasn't using drugs. How dare they assume what sort of family she came from, I love my children, they were cared for and looked after.

A drug squad officer at the scene came and spoke to me and treated me and Lauren with the compassion we deserved, he didn't judge Lauren as a drug addict or me as her Mum we were ushered into another flat and told to stay there. I was hysterical one minute and calm the next but all I wanted was for someone to tell me that the body was that of Lauren and that she was dead. The drug squad officer told me that they couldn't definitely say it was Lauren in the flat as the body needed to be formally identified. (I would like to add that the police response to drug related death and families has improved dramatically).

We went to see her Dad to tell him the news and then we went to the mortuary to identify her. I remember going into a room and looking at her - this was so bizarre - part of me had feared this moment but when it does happen you are plunged into a very dark place. I screamed at the poor police officer and mortuary technician accusing one of them of hitting her as she was bruised on her face. Eventually I calmed enough to confirm that "Yes" this was my daughter, Lauren, lying there all alone and no longer able to tell me that she loved me and hear that I loved her.

From that moment on my life changed forever.

June 6th - D Day, A day the Nation remembers, a day I will never forget - Lauren died on 6th of 6th 1998

A Day I certainly will never forget.

God Bless Lauren, love Mum x
Lauren Rodgers
Lauren Rodgers 1981-1998

Angels is a support service of Lauren’s Link specific to drug/alcohol related death

Death due to drugs/alcohol is the most feared of a family/carers affected, always fearing “the knock on the door”.

Angels can provide support with the difficult task of identification and mortuary visits. The process of organising a loved one’s funeral can be a mine field after the death of someone due to drugs/alcohol. There is nearly always an inquest in these kind of deaths and Angels staff can provide support through the inquest process and at the inquest itself.

Angels will liaise with any relevant agency, i.e police, coroner, funeral director, mortuary etc.

Angels by your side – we know how you are feeling please talk to us and we will listen

Lauren Rodgers 1981-1998

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