20/20 Special Edition - Mom, Heroin and Me on TV2

9:30pm Thursday, September 30 on TV2

Tonight’s 20/20 Special Edition, Mum Heroin And Me tells the story of Kate McKenzie and her battle with 20-year-old daughter, Hannah, a heroin addict living on the streets of Brighton with her boyfriend, Ricky.

Shot over the course of a year by award-winning documentary-maker Jane Treays, the cameras follow Kate, Hannah and Ricky as Hannah moves from pavement, to hostel, to bedsit. The documentary provides a moving portrait of a mother and daughter trying to love one another through the fog of heroin addiction.

Kate believes that Hannah’s problems started when she was very ill as a child with an unusual and debilitating colon disorder. She was in and out of hospital for the first ten years of her life and was bullied at school: “I think it was the major cause of her low self-esteem and she seemed to find it difficult to feel at ease with people… I called her the little girl with the barbed wire fence.”

At the beginning of the documentary, Hannah is sleeping rough less than half a mile from her parents’ home, with her boyfriend Ricky. Kate remains fond of Ricky, despite the fact that he once burgled her house. Although Kate feels reassured that Hannah is not alone on the streets, she also knows that the relationship harms Hannah’s chance of recovery: “The downside of that, of course, is that very seldom do two addicts recover simultaneously and together, so that if one is getting better, very often they will relapse because the other person isn’t.”

After weeks of sleeping rough, Hannah and Ricky get a place in a hostel which allows them to take drugs but where they will also receive weekly counselling. They are taking methadone in an effort to reduce their heroin use but the methadone is giving Hannah nightmares and she has been screaming for her mum in the night.

On Hannah’s 21st birthday Kate is determined that they will enjoy a nice day together: “I want it to be a lovely special day for her, and for me, because I still love her very much and it’s important.” She has carefully chosen presents that Hannah will be unable to sell to buy drugs – taking her for a massage and to have her hair done. But there is no escape from the reality of Hannah’s addiction – she needs a fix before she is able to keep her hairdressing appointment.

Hannah soon moves on again to a squat with Ricky – her sixth home in a year. As Kate helps her to decorate, Hannah is in an optimistic mood: “If you live somewhere like this I think you’ve got more chance of doing things that normal people do. If I was in a hostel there’s nothing to inspire me to get clean. Whereas if I’m here I want to make the flat look nice.” But eight weeks later, charged with shoplifting and assault, she is more downbeat: “I always have the best intentions and things that I want to do but it never happens. Heroin always comes first.”

Hannah is bright and articulate but her addiction has left Kate emotionally drained. Even as she tries to do everything in her power to help her daughter, Kate is realistic about what will happen next: “Even though we sometimes feel optimistic, the reality is that this will go on for a long time. There won’t be any change. This is our life together; this is how it’s going to be.”

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  • Diane Schofield

    I watched the 20/20 program on Mom,Heroin and me.  I must admit it deeply saddened me, because having an addicted son myself for many years, I understood and could relate to their emotional journey. 

    My son was an Heroin addict and entered The Methadone Maintenance program in 1994 in a bid to get clean of drugs.   Methadone didn’t help, it only compounded his addiction, Methadone being more addictive than Heroin and harder to withdraw from.   Hence, the more he tried to withdraw off Methadone the more he abused other substance.  He ended up on this treatment program for 14 years.  It was a heartbreaking 14 years for all concerned, especially for me, his mom.   So I Know how Kate feels as a mom, and I also have empathey for Hannah and Ricky.    Most addicts are good people from good homes, whom have just made some really bad choices in life.   And none ever contemplate loosing control and becoming addicts when they originally start using drugs.

    I have my own blog about my sons drug addiction and his 14 years on The Methadone program.  Blog title is  No2Methadone.A Sons Addiction.   You feel so alone when your dealing with a loved one’s addiction, so I thought it may be of some help if Kate wanted to read my blog sometime.