There are no reliable statistics about people in Russiawho use drugs, but according to reports from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, about 70 tons of heroin are consumed in our country every year. The same unit claims the opioid crisis is already taking place worldwide. Women are one of the most vulnerable groups among people who use drugs: they are employed at all stages of drug trafficking, are more at risk of contracting HIV and the hepatitis C virus, and often resort to drug use in order to cope with mental disorders and serious events. We are publishing the story of Amina F. (name changed at the request of the heroine): her mother used heroin for more than ten years and contracted HIV - and her confused loved ones preferred to hide their family problems.
Secrets from childhood
What good things do I remember about my parents? They were very loving. When they were young, they adored each other and enjoyed the time they spent together. My father was a member of the Pervaki organized crime group in Kazan: they held the entire district, and their main asset was the market right across the street from our house. My mother did not work when I was born, but before that she worked as an accountant in a bank for a very long time.
I remember touching moments from my childhood. Dad came home in the evening, we sat in the living room, and he played the console. He chose between Sony and Sega (we had both at home), and I sat on his shoulders and interfered, closing his eyes and ears. Mom sometimes played with dad, but more often she just sat next to us and knitted. I also remember that my mother had a special mask that she put on to scare me when I didn't want to eat porridge. I was afraid, roared, tears dripped into the porridge - I hated it, but obediently ate it under the supervision of a masked monster.
And then my father was killed - it was done by members of another group, it was called "Hadi Taktash". I was fond of the topic of organized crime groups and I know the details from the words of my grandmother, grandpa and other people who remember those times. In a documentary film about such groups, which was shown on Channel One, it was suggested why the members of large gangs began to kill each other: one group owed the other two hundred grams of cocaine (in the 90s, Kazan organized crime groups competed among themselves for the drug market. - Ed.). The guys from "Hadi Taktash" came to a friend of my father's, and my father called him at the moment when the "guests" arrived. A friend listed everyone who is in the apartment - maybe he felt that something was going wrong. There was a shootout, this man was killed, and a couple of days later his father was also shot as a witness.
Dad came home in the evening, we sat in the living room, and he played the console. And then my father was killed
The death of my father was hidden from me for a long time. Until I was eight, I did not know where he was: I was told that he was seriously ill and would not leave the hospital. One day, my grandfather accidentally blabbed out, and he and his grandmother had to tell the truth. It turns out I remember my dad's funeral. The coffin did not stand in our apartment as it should be - most likely due to the circumstances of death: after the murder, the body was immediately taken from the morgue to the cemetery. Then I thought that we were celebrating some kind of holiday, because a lot of people came, everyone was sitting at the table and eating. But there is a detail that distinguishes a funeral from any holiday - these are the curtained mirrors, which I remember well. So, being already at a conscious age, I realized that this was the day when we said goodbye to my father.
Shortly thereafter, heroin appeared in my mom's life. According to granny's version, her father's brother got her hooked. It’s as if he’d just told my mother that it would be easier to get over the loss this way. When my mother first started using, I did not understand what was happening. I guessed that the adults were hiding something, but I didn't give a damn, I played with dolls. Mom often began to quarrel with grandmother, some strange people began to come to visit.That is, my mother made friends with whom they had common affairs, but at the same time she did not drink. When you are little, you think - so what? And after a while it dawned on me that they were all just in use.
Mom used heroin from about 1997 to 2010, until the end of her life. She had a three-year gap when she was 100% clean. At this time, her life was gradually getting better, it seemed to us that everything was finally over. She was brought back to addiction by a chance encounter with a person from a past life. You know, how two former alcoholics meet and drink together - the same story. Many knew that my mother used heroin, and gossip quickly spread. But no one spoke openly about this. I think that in my family they were afraid that the attitude of others to my mother would dramatically change for the worse, and did not want this.
Attempts at treatment
In the 2000s, when we were actively fighting mother's addiction, there was no adequate information about what to do to loved ones in such a situation. It was not clear how to treat her. Relatives sent my mother to work in monasteries, then there was a rehabilitation center, fortune-tellers-healers came to our house, and once a man appeared who practiced acupuncture. In general, the family looked for different ways to solve the problem, but in the end the same thing happened: my mother was sent to a psychiatric clinic. She was in the ward where very seriously ill patients were placed. There, my mother, it seems, was the only person who was generally sane and understood who he was.
My grandfather took very harsh measures: he believed that drug addicts could only be beaten out. He did not consider them human. At the same time, he had problems with alcohol, and when he drank a lot of alcohol, he showed not the best traits of his character. He beat my mother very hard several times, broke her ribs - unfortunately, this happened at our house. I remember how my grandfather brought handcuffs from somewhere. Several times my grandmother and grandpa strapped my mother to the radiator when they left home. First of all, in order for her to wait out the withdrawal - they thought that it should become easier for her, because she could not do anything with herself, she would not go anywhere and would not take things out of the house. For several years she really carried away some kind of nonsense like small equipment and fur coats, and at the end of her life she had many loans for small amounts.
Grandma and grandpa fastened their mother to the battery so that she would wait out the withdrawal - they thought that this should make her feel better.
The use has been associated with constant danger. After the death of dad, they set fire to my mother's car several times: I think that she was threatened that way, or maybe she already had some debts back then. Several times my mother and her “comrades” in the use of heroin unsuccessfully took away heroin, they were deceived, mixed with something - they added, for example, paracetamol. Now I understand how she risked: in her hands were the compositions about which she knew nothing. In Russia, a person who is addicted to hard drugs can kill himself at any second - not even because of the use of specific substances, but because it is not clear what gets into his body.
And yet, for the most part, Mom was socialized. As a child, it seemed to me that I could see when my mother was "high" and when not. Now I understand that most of the time when she used heroin, we did not notice it. And when it seemed to us that it was in use, in fact, it came out of it. She was getting nervous, she was obviously uncomfortable. I will not say that I noticed any terrible withdrawal symptoms: she was just tense, as if she was constantly being electrocuted. In drug intoxication, she looked rather lethargic, but at the same time remained quite calm and contact. Perhaps her reactions were not like sober behavior, but it was almost unobtrusive.
Mom contracted HIV from the last man she lived with.I think it was after the diagnosis was made that she had no chance of being accepted either in the family or in society. In a psychiatric clinic, she could no longer be kept in the same ward as usual - they were very strict with HIV-positive patients. She was transferred to another department, where the conditions of detention were terrible.
Everything was covered with tiles and there was always an eerie smell. But my mom didn't want to give up, she was looking for a way out. Perhaps the disease became a signal for her to cling to life, and not to continue killing herself further. She developed a drug regimen and regimen, and began to give up drugs with varying degrees of success.
But at home they began to treat her even more severely. Granny made her wash the dishes and cook only with rubber gloves so that I would not get infected. She told me not to hug my mother again. And at that moment it seemed to me that the most important contact that could occur between us was just a hug. This is the simplest thing that we could give each other as support. Mom tried to explain to me that HIV is not scary, she shared information from some sites. In general, I thought that she would get a little sick and all this would go away like the flu.
At the same time, my mother began to have problems with finding a job, especially in recent years. For about five or six years she worked in one place where her grandmother helped her get a job. And while no one knew about my mother's problems, she suited everyone, because my mother is a wonderful person, no one has ever treated her badly. But other employers, who heard rumors about the disease, were no longer ready to accept it after the diagnosis was made, despite the fact that my mother has a higher education and extensive experience in a bank.
Death of mom
I was growing up, and my mother's authority in my eyes was falling - she became for me something like a friend. We were very close, but I lived with the feeling that I did not owe her anything. Shortly before the final, it became extremely difficult for me to force myself to communicate with her. Now I understand that this was not due to the fact that my mother was really guilty of something in front of me, it was just that it was easiest for me to close my eyes to the problem. It was easier to imagine that she was not in my life than trying to help her get out of addiction. I remember that a few days before my mother passed away, she wrote me a message with the question: "Don't you need a mother at all?" Her number was not in the list of my contacts, but I understood who was writing to me. I decided that it was better to let her get angry and feel guilty and only then answer. A couple of days later, I found out that my mother was no longer there. We got a call in the evening, we thought she had an overdose, but it turned out that she had committed suicide.
Mom didn't leave any notes. She hanged herself in the apartment where she lived with her then-man. The family decided not to disclose the reason for the incident. We even faked the death certificate: it seems that it says that my mother died of cardiac arrest. I understand that this was done in order not to take this whole story out of the house. It seems to me that my family still cannot survive the pain associated with this event, because they cannot talk about it. If they had learned, perhaps it would have become easier for them to live with it too.
We even faked the death certificate: it seems that it says that my mother died of cardiac arrest
When I found out that my mother had died, I, of course, cried. But literally on the same day, when her body was taken to the morgue, I felt as if nothing had happened. I took her death as an ordinary event in my life. For a very long time it seemed to me that she simply disappeared - as when she was put in the hospital, or when she disappeared somewhere for a couple of months or moved. Only a year later, I realized that she was no longer there, and I remembered that stupid message. I felt guilty about my mother's addiction, her death, the fact that my family had collapsed, and I myself began to incline towards destructive behavior.
Skeletons in the closet
When I was little, I tried to be friends with all adults in general, I was like a connecting link in all this mess. Everyone treated me well, and in turn, as a child, I did not see anything bad in those around me. I became angry with my mother closer to adolescence - I did not understand why she was doing this to me. Grandma and grandpa considered my mother to be guilty of not having a normal childhood. By and large, I did not think that something was especially wrong with me. For a very long time I was sure that some kind of drama was taking place at everyone's home, just no one talks about them and it seems that everyone is happy. Growing up, I put up with the belief that I would never have a normal family. Thinking about it all the time is terrible.
I guess that for my mother, marriage to my father was the only way to get rid of the relationship with the family. Granny loved her very much and still loves her. Apparently, my mother could not stand the overprotection: one adult strangled another with love. Mom said about her father that this was her only true love. I remember telling her that clinging to this all her life is very stupid - it, of course, offended her. Perhaps my mother traveled from one codependent relationship to another all her life, and after killing my dad, it was easiest for her to switch to some other addiction. My attitude towards people who use drugs began to change when I tried to look at my life from the outside. I think that now it is difficult to find sensible instructions on how to live with this loved one. The families of drug addicts simply do not know what to do, and more often than not they only make things worse.
It became easier for me after I first told a close friend about the true cause of my mother's death - and heard the phrase: "It's not your fault." After that, I began to think about the real motives of my actions. I understand that I did this, and not otherwise, not because I did not love my mother. I really thought that my tough stance would help her fight her addiction. I didn’t know that it’s possible to behave differently, or I assumed that it would be more correct.
Last year I was going down the subway and I was stopped by two police officers, one of them was in civilian clothes. They looked at my documents and asked me to go somewhere with them, and that evening I drank two glasses of wine, was scared and obediently followed them. They took me to the subway station, where a detainee, a girl, was waiting for them. It turned out that they called me there as an attesting witness: the girl was taken with heroin, they were going to inspect her, and they offered me to look at the substance found with her and assume that it was. And I was horrified by the way the police treated this girl. They ridiculed her every word, every request, made fun of her when she tried to ask them for help. It really hurt me: I imagined that people in uniform could treat my mother in the same way. I would not want anyone to treat drug addicts in this way, they also have the right to sympathy and understanding. And if they are in use, they need even more support than we do.
Images: Artem - stock.adobe.com