After losing her daughter last year to alcohol misuse and mental health problems, Jan appeals to the public to combat the stigma there is around these still misunderstood issues, and the importance of drug and alcohol services in helping people get back on the right track.
I don’t work for Addaction. I’m not a fundraiser.
I’m a mother; a mother who lost her beautiful daughter far too early.
All because my Sammi thought she was alone and didn’t deserve help.
Despite the improvements that have been made in prevention and treatment for people suffering from drug, alcohol or mental health problems, there are still lots of people who don’t find help; either because it’s simply not available, or because they don’t feel like they have the right to it, like my Sammi.
Sammi was a joy from the minute she was born. Eager to learn from a young age, she excelled both academically and physically and set her bench mark high, never giving up on any challenge. She was always such a strong and determined young girl and her sunny nature and infectious laugh lit up everyone’s lives around her. She was our sunny Sammi.
Just when she should have blossomed in her mid-teens, she started to change. She developed an eating disorder but refused to see her counsellor because she felt she was being judged. As she became more and more anxious over the years, her desire to ‘sort it out myself’ grew stronger and more stubborn.
We were helpless. Parents cannot force any help on their children after a certain age, and nothing we said could get through to her.
Alcohol became a means for Sammi to relax and to reduce her anxiety, but slowly she lost all control over it. She couldn’t stop, even when she knew the alcohol made her anxiety worse. But she wouldn’t accept help, and kept hiding her suffering and anguish from doctors. She was embarrassed and ashamed of her alcohol use and started to isolate herself from the very people she needed most… her friends and her fiercely loving family.
Over the years alcohol began to take its toll and eventually she spiralled into an emotional hell, unable to ask for help, trying to work through it all on her own for fear of being seen as weak and an ‘addict’.
After another episode of drinking and in a moment of madness and desperation, our beautiful Sammi took her life last year. A tragic, fleeting moment that has changed our lives forever.
All this because of stigma. Worse, her own stigma.
Telling herself she didn’t deserve help, she didn’t deserve to be happy.
The fact is, everyone deserves the help and support they need to live a happy, fulfilling life. But prejudice and stigma are still rife in our society, and have a huge impact on the decisions people with drug, alcohol and mental health issues make – such as telling their friends and family, accessing services, getting the medical treatment they need, or even just admitting they need help. We, as a society, have a duty of care. We need to let people know that we are here for them, and that we will provide them with the bespoke and specialised support they need to make positive changes in their lives. We need to let people know it’s ok not to be ok.
We need to encourage more people with lived experience to tell their story to our young people. Everyone who wants to should be encouraged to become a recovery champion. I truly believe that had Sammi come across people with their own lived experience earlier on in her journey, her story would have ended very differently.
Thank you for reading this letter. It has been heart-breaking writing about my beautiful daughter’s tragic death, but I hope that by sharing her story far and wide we can make sure no mother, father, carer, sibling or loved one ever has to go through this pain again.
If just one person who is struggling takes a deep breath and tells someone about their suffering, this letter will have succeeded.
Please make a donation today to help Addaction ensure more people have a chance at a healthy, happy life. On behalf of all the Sammi’s out there, thank you for offering them the hope of recovery.
With best wishes,