In 2018, Tele reporter Lindsey Hamilton spoke to two women whose lives had been blighted by drug addiction. Now, exactly two years later, we have caught up with one of those women to find out how her life has changed since. This is a story of hope and a reminder that there is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Sharon Low was 13 years old when she first started smoking cigarettes.
She soon progressed to sniffing petrol and by the time she was 18 she was taking Valium, methadone, Temazepan, nicknamed ruggers, and “anything” she could get her hands on just to get through the day.
“I got my methadone from the doctor because in those days you were able to go to the doctor and tell them that you were taking drugs and you’d get put on a methadone prescription,” she says.
“That’s really when I started on prescription drugs, like Dihydrocodeine and ruggers. From then, I’ve been on it ever since. I also started taking heroin in 2002.
“I’d never, ever detoxed or come off my methadone until four years ago because I kept overdosing and the DPC [Drug Problem Centre] took me off it.”
In her desperation Sharon would even steal from her mother, Betty, in order to buy drugs.
“I would come home from work never knowing what I might find,” Betty said.
“So many times I expected that knock at the door to tell me the worst news ever.”
Now Sharon, 51, is on the path to recovery after being contacted by Fintry man Andy Young, who faced his own battle with drug addiction.
Andy works for a church called Victory Outreach which helps support people with alcohol and drug abuse issues around the world.
He felt that Sharon would benefit from spending time in one of their rehabilitation centres – and she agreed.
She accepted a position at Victory Outreach Liverpool and has been there for five-and-a-half months now.
“The first four months were hard,” Sharon explains.
“I didn’t believe in God when I came in and I would say, ‘this isn’t for me, I don’t want to stay here.’
“There was support for me in Dundee but I was just so lazy. I had the DPC and Addaction [now called We Are With You] but you had to write drug diaries out every day and I couldn’t be bothered doing any of that.
“I was needing something like a rehab and they didn’t have that available in Dundee. But even if they did, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it because I would have come out and become involved in drugs all over again.
“I had no motivation at all but since being here I’ve had structure in my life. We get up at 6am and read our Bible until 7am. We get teachings, we do daily devotions and get taught life skills.
“Coming off the drugs was so hard though. The withdrawal process, the sweats, how sore I was and the realisation that I had to get up to go to church every other day.
“I never thought I would be able to do that. Structure has played a really important part in getting to me where I am now.”
Roy Farrell, pastor at Victory Outreach Liverpool, said that when Sharon first entered the facility she was “dead hard”.
Roy, who was himself a heroin addict before he arrived at the men’s rehab in Liverpool 14 years ago, said: “Sharon came in and she was dead hard. She was really quiet, battered in from years of drugs. She was in a cocoon. She was hard, sad, nothing was getting in and nothing was getting out.
“What I’ve seen with Sharon over time is that she’s begun to get soft. The cocoon has started to open up and she’s beginning to look at what’s safe.
“She’s coming out of her shell and she’s starting to grow into a lovely woman which is brilliant to see.”
Speaking about the original article published by the Tele two years ago, Roy says that he couldn’t believe it was Sharon pictured.
“I was reading the article and it didn’t register with me,” he explains.
“I was so proud of how far she’s come and what she’s done. People should know that it’s never too late to change.”
Sharon has surprised herself with her growing fascination for the church, something she never anticipated.
“I love going to church. I never thought I’d say that. I was brought up thinking church was nice and quiet but it’s not like that at all. It’s like you’re amongst family and you’re having parties but without the drink and drugs,” she says.
“Everybody in the home is on a different journey, but we’re all coming from a similar background.”
The past 33 years have been an undeniable struggle for Sharon and she knows that her addiction has resulted in her missing out on so much of her own life.
“I’ve missed out on bringing my kids up,” the mum-of-three says.
“I’ve missed out on a career. I’ve missed out on the lives of my grandchildren pretty much and I’ve missed going out into the town with my mum and shopping with her.
“Mum is very happy now. She still goes to her groups but I hope her mind is at peace now. I’ve done this for her as well as myself.”
Betty said: “It’s taken 30 years but I’ve finally got my bairn back.
“The past three decades have been absolutely horrible. When your child is addicted to drugs your entire life is ruled by that.
“I feel I lost her for a very long time but now she has truly come back to me and is doing so well.
“I am so proud of Sharon and what she has achieved.
“I tell her every day how proud I am of her and I think she knows how happy she has made me.”
Betty said she hadn’t seen Sharon since she left for Liverpool last December but they talk on Facetime several times a week.
“She is looking so well now and I can hear in her voice how happy she is,” the 76-year-old explains.
“I know Sharon never wanted to put me through what she did but the drugs just took over.”
Betty firmly believes that Sharon will not slip back into her old ways.
“She herself is a granny now and has everything to live for.
“My plan, as soon as lockdown is over, is to travel to Liverpool to see her and give her a cuddle.”
Betty added: “I want other people to take hope from Sharon’s story. It took her a long time but she got there in the end.”
Sharon is almost halfway through a 12-month programme and is optimistic about the future.
“It was hard for me coming down to Liverpool,” she says.
“But there is hope for people like myself. There’s help and there are places like Victory Outreach who treat you like family. God did it for me and I know he could do it for other people.
“I’ve not thought about the future really but I’d like to stay in Liverpool. I’ll hopefully get housing support down here and end up helping the church.”
Victory Outreach Glasgow has recently opened its doors and is run by Mark and Zoe Penman. It is the first bonafide Victory Outreach site in Scotland.