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Tuesday, 13 June, 2000, 14:02 GMT 15:02 UK
Surviving crack cocaine
Crack smoker
A Crack cocaine smoker in the USA
My name is Jeanette Walcott, and I'm a 23-year-old mother of two young children, who is battling to survive an addiction to crack cocaine.


It started off as a social thing - I'd only smoke once every few months

I'm currently undergoing treatment in a residential rehabilitation centre in London.

I was brought up by my father, who is an alcoholic, and so, from a young age, I was taught that it's all right to rely on something, it's all right to rely on something to make you feel better - whether it be drink or drugs.

I ran away from my dad's home when I was 15, and moved in with my mum, who is a crack cocaine addict.

Glamour

She kind of glamorised drug-taking for me. I saw her in nice cars, with fur coats and taking drugs with all her friends. And I thought it was the It crowd - it was the crowd that you had to belong to.

I got pregnant at the age of 18.


One day I just decided I'd had enough - I couldn't live like this any more - and I tried to commit suicide

Up until then, my drug-taking had only been soft - it had been what I class as soft drugs: speed amphetamines, ecstasy, weed (marijuana).

I always stayed away from crack cocaine, because I'd seen what it had done to my mother.

After my son was born, my friends were heavily into smoking crack, and I wanted to belong to them.

I wanted to be like them. And so I decided to start smoking.

It started off as a social thing. I'd only smoke once every few months.

Then it went to once a month. And then it went to once every couple of weeks. Until it went really, really downhill, quickly.

Addiction

My drug counsellor once said to me: "There is nothing in this world that's going to make you feel as good as drugs do." And it's so true.

Crack
Crack is a highly addictive form of cocaine
When I smoked it, I no longer had any problems. Everything was easy. I used to feel really good about myself.

You feel this kind of internal warmth, which starts at your feet and just moves up.

In order to survive, I needed drugs, because it got to the point where I couldn't live without drugs.

I was addicted. The only thing that was on my mind was crack cocaine. And if somebody offers you any of it, you'll jump at it and take it.

It's like offering a starving man a loaf of bread if he walks for miles.

And he'll do it. It's the same if you're on drugs. You'll do anything, just to get that drug.

Suicide

Things came to a head for me in May, when I'd been smoking constantly for a couple of weeks.


That's what taking drugs is - trying to kill yourself, trying to self-destruct

And one day I just decided I'd had enough - I couldn't live like this any more. And I tried to commit suicide.

I tried to slice my wrists, and I was found by my sister. She came round to the house and found me.

I remember sitting in the hospital ward and thinking: "I've got two choices. I can either live like this or I can just die." And there was no way on this earth that I was going to continue living like that.

It was then that my survival instinct kicked in.

I decided that I'd had enough of trying to kill myself, whether it be slowly or quickly.

That's what taking drugs is: trying to kill yourself, trying to self-destruct.

'My children'

I think one of the worst things was my son coming to the hospital after I'd tried to commit suicide, and me looking out and seeing him sitting in the car crying and asking my mum: "Where's Mummy?"


I was taking drugs throughout the end of my pregnancy with my daughter - and so I already owe her a lot

And my sister was standing over me, shouting: "How am to going to explain to him when he's 18 that his mother was too weak to fight, or that his mother was selfish and put herself before her kids?"

And I decided to try and fight. And that led me into coming into rehab. And the children have given me a reason to survive.

I think of my son, who's four years old.

I think of how much he loves me and how much he wants a mother and needs a mother.

I also think of my daughter.

Fear

I was taking drugs throughout the end of my pregnancy with my daughter. And so I already owe her a lot.

I just think, as a mother, I have to do my best to make up for what I've done to them in the past and to try to give them a normal, stable life.

Even now that I've survived my episode, I still feel scared thinking about my future, because this place can only give me clean time.

I could just as easily walk out of the doors and right back into it again.

Sometimes I wish that the rehabilitation centre would just wrap me up in cotton wool and keep me here for ever.

But that's not the case. Sooner or later, they're going to open the doors and push me back into the world.

I'm going to have to try and fight. And then is when I hope my survival instincts kick in. That's when I really need to fight.

Jeanette's story was first broadcast on the BBC World Service programme, "My Century".

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