Saturday, 5 November 2011

Cocaine: the family's story

(Illustration only)
GIBRALTAR (GibChronicle/Brian Reyes) Like many people in Gibraltar, Rachel has been personally touched by the scourge of drugs. Someone she loves is hooked on cocaine. Unlike most others, however, there is another dimension to her problem. John is a dealer too, and he is currently serving a long stretch in prison. The names have been changed to protect their privacy, but the message is as raw as it is real. Rachel cannot hide her emotions as she recounts the harsh reality of life with a person addicted to hard drugs. "It's like I'm inside a wave and I'm drowning and I can't get free," she said. The couple met seven years ago when they were both at a low point in their lives. She, in her late 30s, had just divorced and was raising a daughter. He, early 20s, had grown up in a troubled background and had just broken up from his ex girlfriend, the mother of his young child.>>>Together they found solace and built up a friendship that slowly evolved into a relationship.

"He was a normal person," she said. "He had his ups and downs, just like everyone else, but we had a bond."

John was a heavy drinker, but Rachel claims she had no idea of his drug consumption until quite late into their seven-year relationship.

By then he was heavily hooked. His character had changed and he was occasionally aggressive with her. He began to lie to her too.

They stuck together though and around three years ago, Rachel became pregnant and they had a child. She focused her attention on the child, now two. But John continued to struggle with drink and drug problems. He also began to sell cocaine to fund his own consumption.

John is one of several local Gibraltarians serving long terms in prison for dealing cocaine. Many of them are small-time dealers caught in a similar trap. At £60 a gram on the street in Gibraltar, cocaine is not a cheap commodity.

Often there is little public sympathy for men like John, whose wares destroy lives. But a closer look often draws out a less clear-cut reality, one where the dealers themselves can be victims.

Rachel claims John was gullible and that he was misled by some of the people he was hanging around with.

"But where are they now?" she asked. "I'm the only one who's still there for him."

"I keep on telling him to grow up and become a man but… now he's touched bottom."

"It's no life. It's always suffering."

Rachel says John eventually sought help but that, for one reason or another, he never made it into rehabilitation. Once the centre was full, while on another occasion he had court matters pending and was unable to sign up for treatment.

"You have to be brave to ask for help [but] he's asked three times and he's been turned down," she said.

As she faces the prospect of life as a single mother until John emerges from prison, Rachel is hopeful that the prison term will provide the opportunity he needed to clean up his act.

But she also believes that more needs to be done to help addicts resolve their problems before they get out of hand.

"I know that the authorities have to be tough on cocaine, Rachel said.

"I know what it can do to a person because I am suffering it."

"But if they are going to keep handing down tough sentences, then they are going to have to make the rehab centre bigger to help these people."

"They have rights too."

See also: Cocaine Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous Online
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