Growing up as me (started writing last summer, 2010)
I feel the need to write this book but have no real structure in my head, as I write . I feel an urgency to write it off the top of my head , to accompany my book that I am currently finishing, 'Stop using crack and reclaim your life'.
My knowledge; built on years of experience has been put as clearly as I could into a self help book for crack/cocaine users. People may want to know how I gained this knowledge and insight and also may wonder how come I don't work anymore in the conventional sense of the word.
I decided to write this book therefore to accompany the other and due to the knowledge I am giving out I may not be able to do it at a later date. So as a consequence of my life's path which I have followed or more so been guided down, I am currently placed in a position of nothing else to do.
I am homeless in a little sea-side village, staying by the human courtesy /hearty acceptance grace of god. Call it what you will , in a lovely bungalow very near a desolate sea. I have a unfit dog to accompany me and my life basically consists of writing , walking , going in the sea. Taking photo's and doing sudoku. Beyond that my brain is vacant, therefore I can not really concentrate on TV , DVD ,books etc. I can have an intellectual conversation, but nothing that requires any memory cells, they are currently on overload. I therefore saw the opportunity to release them onto paper and the subject matter may be of interest to many.
Where to start ? At the beginning, I suppose. I was born 1961, grew up on a housing estate in East London.
And was seen as a naughty child , who did as she liked . This was true I suppose I wasn't nasty , but I did do as I liked.
I didn't like doing work at school, so didn't .
With knowledge now I know I was dyslexic. So that is probably why I didn't like doing any work. I remember age 6 writing a story, which our teacher gave us sweets for, if story was good. I didn't get a sweet, she said I hadn't tried. But I had, so I couldn't improve on the story, and had been diddled out of a well earned sweet. I decided I wasn't going to try anymore, what was the point, from then on I refused to take part in any writing activity. By age 7 in came the authorities, telling my Mum they wanted to put me in reform school. It was that or visit a psychiatrist regularly. She opted for the second option.
Can't remember him doing much therapy, just IQ tests and vaguely remember him insinuating I was stupid and that was why I didn't do any work. So I wrote a 21 page story about a haunted house, on a hill. to prove my intelligence. Then went back to refusing. The solution was to give me clay to play with whilst the other children did the lesson. I then wasn't disruptive and that was enough for them.
Come age 10 , time to move on to next school, I was told I didn't need to come and see him anymore, I didn't really like that decision, as I quite liked seeing him.
At the next school I just went back to doing as I liked. I was very good at Maths;mental arithmetic but I never wrote the answers down; just shouted them out as the teacher wrote the sums on the board, it infuriated them, and the class got the answers.
The end of the year, much to the disappointment of the teacher and the swots girls, I came top of the class. and 6th in the school, with 98% for maths. They decided I was good at maths, but because of the way things ran in school in them days, was same grade for Maths as English, give or take a grade,I couldn't be in the top groups, as I couldn't spell, didn't write nor read. So the solution was I would need 'special work' but stay in the same class the following school year. But oh, I was with a new teacher who didn't anticipate my arrogance, when I told her I needed special work, she told me it wasn't going to happen and it didn't. So I just continued on as normal doing what I liked
I went on to senior school , not allowed anywhere near the O'level classes, I was placed in grade 4, for maths . I at that time decided no I wanted to take O'level, but grade 4 didn't teach it. So I asked that I was put up. Due to my disruptive behaviour I was told I would need to behave first, this I did for a month, but to no avail, I thought oh you are just playing with me, you will never put me up, you just want me to behave, so I went back to my fun life style.and consequently was placed in group 6.
Here they knew nothing. It was sad but the teacher for that class was the head maths teacher. I asked for a deal, give me an exam, and if I'm good put me up to o'level class, this he did but put me in grade 4 again, to assess my behaviour. Basically the time past and I was not taught the maths o'level material . so CSE's it was, I got 6 CSE but they weren't really worth Jack.
Click on image of report to view
So I left school and worked in shops was a sales assistant.
Bored and patronised and unstimulated. I decided no more selling, I wanted to work in a office. but I couldn't type do shorthand or spell. I was sent to a print room of a chartered accountants, by a temp agency. and there I stayed for 3 years. The fastest collator they had ever had, but mentally under challenged.
Bored by its futility, an opportunity arose to go to live in Glouchestershire, I took it.
Took a while to adapt to the slow pace of life and find myself a path, and I realised I liked psychology. I found this out via finding a book in the library by Desmond Morris on animal behaviour, with many picture, I just loved it. took note of the section it came from, 'psychology', and chose some more books, only to find they were written in another language 'academia'.
I wanted to read the books but didn't understand the words, it was hard work with a dictionary. So I returned to London to study psychology. I was planning on doing O'level because of the struggles i had with education and the prejudice received from being unable to read and write too well. I thought at the time very clever people did O'levels , but this wasn't to be a new tenant moved into the bedsit where I was living, whom was extremely academic and told me no not to do O'level, as I would be extremely bored. I would do better to go for A'level. So I did.
Wasn't completely simple as my life never is, but then I accept I choose the abstract ways. To get onto the psychology A level course one is required to have o'level maths , to be able to do statistics, which I had never done. I suggested as it was a two year course and o'level maths would be extremely easy for me to learn, I would do it the following year. Basically I blagged. Because I didn't really see the need to have o'level maths , just needed to be able to understand the maths related to psychology , mainly statistics. They accepted my offer but refused to help me during the course when I did find statistics hard. But I found a wonderful book 'statistics without tears' , which basically explains how the statistics work logically so it became easy. Phew!
I got told off for not writing anything down as they spoke , but I felt I was being very good, listening, paying attention, after about 3 months I learnt the skill to listen and write at the same time. I no longer was perceived as disruptive, as an adult my questions were valued, whereas as a child I was told to stop contradicting them, and when I asked 'what does contradicting mean' the teacher said ask my Mother.
Sometimes I would say what happened in the research and the lecturer would tell me to stop reading ahead, but the truth was most outcomes from research was predictable.
When it came time for entering the exam, I said I wasn't intending to, I just wanted to know the words; to be able to read the books in the psychology section. The lecturer insisted I entered for a degree in psychology, which I did. they asked I got a 'D' to enter, I got a 'B' I was in
I was apprehensive about doing a degree, now they were really clever. I felt I was in right over my head but persevered. and was OK after a while . Only problem was it was 1986 -1989 and I am a lesbian, and those were prejudice times. We have changed a lot since then.
On completing my lecture , the lecturers who attended were very impressed and amongst them was the editor for the Women's section of the 'Journal for the British Psychological society' (1989). She offered me that if I could write my speech as a paper withing 6 weeks she would publish it. I did and it was published ;now others have a publication to cite these views. I called it 'Academic Aliens'.
Click on image to view the published paper.
After finishing my degree I wanted to learn counseling but I wasn't entitled to anymore grants, I had seen a course I wanted to attend but it was £3,000 I decided I would need to make some money fly pitching in the street, it was winter so I decided to sell gloves and scarfs, I was doing OK until Christmas arrived and the police clamped down on the fly pitchers, I don't condemn their actions as there were too many people selling something but consequently I was unable to get the funds for my chosen path.
Becoming depressed by the fact the benefit agency called me in, I needed to do some community development or what ever they called it then, basically I told them I wanted to learn counselling and get certificates needed. They said they would pay but I would need to be a volunteer somewhere and find my own placement. This I put off, but the certificates were two, one for skills and one for theory.
I finished one and the benefit agency they wouldn't fund the other one unless I found the required voluntary work, I had 2 weeks. I looked in Thompson local there was one drugs service, so I phoned them for an interview, my friends suggested I try other services but I insisted no if they don't want me, no one will so I am only trying the local one.
I attended the interview, was asked about my experience, I told of how when I street traded previously with badges; where many skin heads hung out; to meet and sniff glue, I had just by nature tried to hear them and reason with them and supported them to stop. I also had previously had a partner whom met me as they were coming off; cold turkey from heroin. He liked me and asked when I wanted to start, I said I have to start in a week, to stay on my training course. This I did in 1991. I had noticed on the gay scene how many people took drugs and had alcohol problems. I also noticed that they didn't attend services, once I started working at the service I soon saw the prejudice by some staff towards gay people and even the resistance to address the issue, which I kept raising, consequently an ignorant member of staff objected to me keep going on about gay issues. When I insisted we monitor how many gay clients we actually saw, they argued if that was to be happening we should measure married people to. Therefore had in mind to make lesbian and gay needs my agenda.
But no another path was chose differently for me. Very soon after starting my voluntary work there, a woman came storming in the door, saying 'I'm a crack head. someone better see me now'. Everyone disappeared I was alone, I said I don't know anything about crack but would try and help her if she wanted. She agreed, so we went upstairs to a counselling room, I asked her what she wanted , I asked her what she wanted, she said she didn't want rehab but wanted to come off in the community, after assessing her use, it didn't seem very likely but I agreed with her to try it her way; but if it didn't work she agreed she would then try rehab.
I arranged for her too see an acupuncturist, (I previously had a partner who was an acupuncturist and believed it would help).
During the time with her my employer popped his head around the door, he spurted' don't bother with her she has got no ears', his tone was jokey but serious,. Apparently he had tried to help her previously by offering her rehab, but she refused to go; she had children. I arranged for her to come back in a couple of days after seeing the acupuncturist; to see how she got on. After a couple of days she arrived, but she said never did get there she did try, she got a cab but then diverted to dealer on the way. But had returned and now was willing to try rehab. My boss was shocked, to see her arrive; she usually only came in once about every 6 months. So he in shock asked how did you get her to come back, she never comes back. You must have something special. He now wanted me to focus on women crack/cocaine users and offered to employ me to do it as a job.
At that time no where else in the country was running a service for Women crack users; not really for crack users either. There was crack users even visible on the street the drug had been marketed since about 1986/87 but they didn't use services and services didn't go out of their way to get them. The truth was they felt inadequate with crack users, for with heroin at that time, we gave methadone to heroin users, so the clients tend to tell you your the best and don't put their dose down. they have something to come to you for and we have something to give them. So the worker is left feeling powerful, but with crack the worker knew of nothing they could give them, so felt inadequate and instead of getting praise from the client they could be condemned for being of no use.
So consequently services didn't rush to draw into services crack users. There was no funding being made available
funders couldn't see a problem . Clients weren't using services, so no need for funding. My boss had worked with some crack users but recognised that females could be very seductive towards him to try and have things their way. So now he chose to give them to me.
The initial client I saw then went onto the street telling users about me and soon they were coming in insisting they saw Lou.
And a guy did eventually turn up, but insisted he was smoking cannabis a lot and nothing else. It didn't make sense to me because I have met many cannabis users and know how their energies felt, but this guy it felt like I was choking, I ask a few times are you using anything else," no just cannabis." I excused myself and rushed downstairs to my boss, I told him I can't handle the client , I felt like I was being strangled . I asked he would deal with him. He said no , the guy must be a crack user, I told him no he is insisting he just uses cannabis. He said no that is how some men felt. go back up and work with him. It was hard for I was scared of the feeling , but did it.
Another crack using male and again I felt the strangling feeling, after that I no longer picked it up the feeling , I just became able to sense a male crack user in a way. I continued on working with both men and women really.
The information available to me to learn from at that time was very little. A couple of books from the states , viewing it from a medical , academic view point not really telling you how to work with users. My boss had some experience of working with crack users so passed some knowledge onto me. and that was it really, the rest was up to me to work out.
Meanwhile the media wanted to cover the topic and because we were the only service seeing users in London and beyond, they insisted coming to me , they claimed I was an expert. This title worried me for I did feel like an expert, but who else would they go to , so I decided I would become an expert and study every aspect of the drug I could.
I ran a group made up of female crack users and ex-users and partners of users. Together we created informative cards for users and partners of users. But I tried to have it written by the users,They took 3 years to create because crack users in my experience do not do well in groups. they compete and have self esteem issues, therefore they are better off with individual counselling and treatment.
Click on image to view the cards
I continued learning all I could about crack users and in 1995 I was asked to speak at the first women and drugs conference ever held in England and possibly the last. I called my speech 'Run around can't get a rehab'. which went down well and I was deliberately emotive, after which John Major put up £16 million for crack services for users. Then everyone suddenly could see users in there neighborhood.
I was asked by SCODA for the paper I presented at the conference,but it wasn't in paper form , I just had guideline notes but I wrote it up in a similar view. and titled it 'The catharsis of women and crack'. It was printed in a 'Drug link ' journal and now can be found in many different languages on the Internet.
In the speech I outlined the experiences of a female crack user and the obstacles that existed within our system that prevent entry into rehab and services; to be honest things have not improved since 1995, now it is extremely difficult for this client group to get anywhere near a rehab or suitable services.
I also started in 1995 training other drug workers in how to work with women crack users on a intensive day training.
Due to John Majors funding arrival the service I worked for was able to set up and offer a day care service for crack users, here I set up weight training for clients and found it was welcomed by both male and female clients.
I also spoke at a conference held in Euston , London by women's aid, 'Women drugs and violence'. This time I explained the predicament women crack users were in and the systematically went through the list of services set up to help the public and showed how each was failing her. I was raw I wanted to be to drive the truth home, but I think after that I was prevented from speaking any more, which I will come across later.
Click on the image to view write ups on the conference
Then in 1997 the structure changed in our funding system , throughout the care professions, the health authorities now required accountability for the public monies they were putting into services.
I didn't like it one bit , prior to this I had been told by an ex-crack user from the states that the reason I did so well with my clients was because services were not compulsory , she told
me how in the the USA drug users did not attend services of their own free will, they were actively ordered by courts to attend , which throws a whole new game into the equation. People forced to attend often do not want to stop using and therefore change the dynamics for those that do. Along with the new accountability assessment and outcomes we started to have courts ordering clients to services. Prior to this change it was quite rare for a drug worker to push for the judge to give alternative to custody. I became quite skilled at requesting this decision of a judge. and because they didn't hear it often they agreed. But when it was applied as a way for all it changed the whole system to having rehabs with many people in them not wanting really to be clean but avoid custody. This often puts clients who want to stay clean in a compromised position as they do not want to grass on their fellow clients, but the 'knowing' that another client has used can create cravings for them and they may wish to get it, so it makes it hard to be in a rehab and stay clean.
The out come and assessment requirement further annoyed me as there is/was no standardised questionnaire to assess clients, with each services they were required to create their own, this was required by the funders; the health authorities. This is an interesting point cos normally within the health sector they have standardised assessments and outcome questionnaires used throughout the country developed through experience.
Services were therefore having to create/provide these questionnaires which really was a waste of time, because the data couldn't be compared with any other service as everyone was designing them in isolation. And worse than that, crack users are often paranoid about answering any question on personal info , especially on their first visit to services. If I was to carry out the questionnaire not only would it have caused the paranoia to obstruct success but also my/their time is then taken up filling out pointless forms , and they may often not get the time to actually talk about the problem they have attended for. Therefore reducing self referral further. Consequently changing the structures of services to that similar to U.S.A and that was not compatible with my style that I had proven works. I decided it was time to set up my own service and avoid this new assessment = pen pushing /time wasting twaddle.
In addition there was a Black organisation for Black drug workers , for which she was chair of and from my view she was squashed out of position by him. When she and I spoke on the phone is when my education in phone tapping begun. We became good friends after the training and talked a lot on the phone. A clicking noise occurred , not always , not noticeable to me at first, but she pointed it out, 'whats that clicking ? Your phones tapped' . we jokingly guessed words that caused the click for it seemed to respond to words. This never happened with anyone else I spoke to. I ignored it really , asked around about it, I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong so it didn't bother me , although intrigued to find out who's behind it.
A women who was married to a politician told me of course 'they' will tap you, you have a high profile and they would just watch you for that reason. Also because the service had a very Black focus was another reason to watch me.
I also used to talk to my partner often on the phone and one day yes it clicked there. she heard it and had always told me be careful, you sure your boss ain't tapping you? . Erm no I would say , and if so , well I only speaking truth.
Remember no payment for training. I had been developing services for Women crack cocaine users for 5 years , very successfully but I really wanted to help all areas that have contact with my client group.
My boss had me sit down in his office and on his white board he outlined the structure of how I could run training for social services ,if I agreed he could bid social services for monies to employ me full time, I only worked 3 days a week. I agreed . Never was I in a full time post but I trained each team in the borough on how to work with women crack users. Nice.
I wanted to train staff in prisons and set up groups for women users. He said write it up, I did, it never transpired.
Months later another service was in the prisons , Holloway. They advertised posts, there were grass roots posts , which I would of liked but a manager would be placed above me, I didn't want that job, I wanted to train the staff and inmates to teach each other by imparting my knowledge but no. I wrote offering that package to them and was told that there wasn't really that many crack users in the prison yet, They would come to me if they needed me, but they never have. At that time my clients estimated for me that 60% of inmates were crack related clients.
I was frustrated that I couldn't spread out my knowledge and skills , it so empowered those I trained. Oh I thought I will do out reach ,to working women , they were getting notable in the area. It was a new area to me so I approached the few services that offered outreach but try as I did to go along with their staff to witness their approach it never transpired.
I had a women I met whilst speaking at a conference in Birmingham March that year. She invited me down to see her team and she was doing outreach,in Leicester I went with her and enjoyed it, she said there was a post coming up I said I wanted it, for I was feeling frustrated where I was working and sickened when my female clients would turn up and be looked at like a piece of dirt , by the male volunteers for the service. I did complain , but it was a mans world . One asked me if he could interview one of my female clients , I said No, she was vulnerable, next thing I knew , she is telling me he has asked her and she agreed , but didn't want to. I wasn't happy. I confronted him, he shrugged it off. I complained to my boss. He said put it in writing , I did and nothing happened. I asked why and my boss said 'oh if it is an official complaint you need to write that on it. So I did. A meeting was due to be held. Prior to this the harassing male volunteer wrote his response and all I know is he didn't appear very well educated and articulate when I had spoken to him, but on reading his response to my statement he wrote so eloquently , it was surprising he couldn't get a job, just like my boss.
I needed childcare in the building and highlighted it as an issue for years. I had a volunteer whom was extremely natural to the job, she had pre-school children but no child care, she was so determined to help in this field that she would bring them in with her. This was not ideal, we had nowhere for them to rest, play. I complained to my boss , how can I train women , when there is no child care. he said find somewhere tell him the cost and he will pay. And Pigs flew, she found a service I think it was £15 a day in total for both , they were twins. We told him, he said it was too much. We turned and left the room. No I was frustrated in my job and the health authorities were asking for assessments and outcomes , for no real good reason, only time consuming and stopping many who attempt to enter into services.
No it was time to leave , I complained to my boss and told him , you think I won't leave my clients ; and yes that was true, but when I find.
I found a way ; free at last
I had made good relations with a community centre in the area over my years of working in the drug service, and they had previously told me they would be willing to help me regarding women crack users anyway they could. I therefore approached the centre and asked that I could use their facilities to counsel my clients for free. They agreed for me to use their facilities free of charge and therefore I create my own independent service to run from there; which was actually a better venue for women to attend as they can remain anonymous, as to why they are coming to the building.
Just weeks prior to this I was approached by 'Community care ' magazine journalist, Audrey Thompson She had the task of asking services what they thought of the Governments new outcomes and assessment policy. But due to services fearing they may have funding removed they refused to speak out against the policy. Would I? Of course I wasn’t asking for their funding anyway. And had set up on my own because I felt it was the only way. In her article I explained what was wrong with the policy and then other people in the drugs field said how wrong I was. The published article came out whilst I lay in hospital, so my timing was spot on. There was a lovely photo of me in the article where I am holding myself up on work surface, no sign I am in so much pain.
To view the article click on the image
I tried everything I had pain killers but also went to a Chinese doctor for herbs, acupuncture and massage. I read Susan Hayes, worked through as much emotional baggage I could find, loads of lateral thinking. Whilst in plaster I could lay on my back , but after a few weeks it was removed and then I could only lay on my front or side , most of the time I had a guy come and do reflexology make me hold some bar things that supposedly destroyed free radicals and he cooked me Ital food. I was well looked after during this time.