Addiction is currently devastating the lives of a vast number of people around the UK. Every day, individuals who are suffering from heroin, gambling, alcohol or marijuana addiction are seeking help for their illnesses. Sadly, many never get the help they need.
Shame and embarrassment often prevent addicts from reaching out; sometimes, addiction takes the life of the person affected before he or she is ready to make the changes necessary to get better.
Highlighting the Effects of Addiction
TV and theatre composer James McConnel has joined forces with a number of other high-profile figures to highlight the devastating effects of addiction. He has agreed to have his photograph taken and hung as part of an exhibition along with other well-known figures such as Paul Weller, Noel Gallagher, Helen Lederer and Denise Welch.
James, who struggled with alcohol addiction himself, lost his son to addiction. James said that his son Freddy was just 13-years-old when he started drinking. He soon began to experiment with drugs, before succumbing to his addiction at the age of eighteen, just over five years ago.
The exhibition is being held by addiction and homeless charity Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT) and aims to help those struggling with addiction.
Taking part in the exhibition is something that James was keen to do, but he admitted that it did bring back memories of the struggles he had with Freddy’s addiction. He said, “Addiction is just such a f***ing w***,’ James says. “It takes over. You lose touch with reality. Whether you’re living with your own addiction or another addict.”
He said he remembered the time when he was desperately trying to get a seventeen-year-old Freddy to go to a drug rehab unit in South Africa. He stated that he knew Freddy would not agree to go while he was sober so he had the idea of allowing him to get some heroin just so that he would get on the plane. He said he gave him money to buy the drug, and added, “So we were at Heathrow, and I just have this image now of me driving from car park to car park trying to not get noticed as Freddy smoked the heroin inside.”
He added, “Looking back I can’t believe I did it – it seems so surreal – that just seems like such a different world I can’t understand. But that is the thing with addiction – not only does it destroy you, it destroys those around you – let’s not ignore that. It ruins others’ lives and eventually it becomes so exhausting.”
James has also spoken of his son’s relationship with Peaches Geldof, who also died from a heroin overdose. He has previously spoken of how she phoned him the day after Freddy died to plead with him not to tell her father Bob Geldof about her drug habit.
It was also revealed that Freddy had written about a planned meeting with Peaches in his diary weeks before his death. The entry spoke about how she was going to visit him and how he would be injecting heroin for the first time. James said, “I know he knew Peaches, but I have no evidence they ever took drugs together. But now the poor girl – she’s gone the same way.”
James spoke of his struggles with alcoholism and how he overcame it before he got married or had children. He believes that he was born with an addictive gene; he also believes that son Freddy was too, adding, “He grew up in the same household as my daughter, and she isn’t addictive at all.”
James said that he felt Freddy could have been saved if they had had more time, and went on to say, “He was starting to show signs of desperation. I think if we had just a little more time he could’ve started to beat it. The person with the addiction always has to be the one to say ‘please help me, I can’t do this on my own’.”
SCT’s exhibition will feature portraits of a number of former high profile addicts and those who want to help highlight this destructive illness, including filmmaker Ken Loach. He said, “I think anyone can fall victim to one addiction or another. Certainly anyone can become homeless.”
Graham Marshall, who is the chief executive of SCT, said, “Rather than show more pictures of people destitute on the streets, these photos show people who are coming through to the other side. Their bravery in taking part in this is inspiring.”
He pointed out that illnesses such as alcohol, heroin, cocaine and marijuana addiction are not something that can be overcome in a matter of months, but rather something that requires maintenance for a lifetime.