Belfast Telegraph

Mother campaigns in memory of son (25) who lost addiction battle

By Rebecca Petticrew

A Dundonald woman whose son died last year after battling drug and alcohol addiction is fundraising in his memory to ensure other addicts and their families can access vital support services.

Philip Dougherty was only 25 when he died in October last year as a direct result of years spent abusing drugs and alcohol.

The father-of-one started using cannabis as a 15-year-old before his habit spiralled out of control and he moved on to harder drugs.

It was while trying to "get clean" that he began abusing alcohol, drinking as a substitute for illegal highs.

Philip's mother Jacqueline Smyth said although her son had been unable to overcome his dependencies, he found counselling helpful.

She is now determined to raise as much money as she can to help fund charities like Addiction NI, which provides support and treatment for people with addictions as well as their families.

"I think people find it hard to come to terms with the idea that any family member or anybody that they know has an addiction illness, especially with the idea that it is an illness not just a choice," Jacqueline explained.

"A lot of people's attitudes to those with addiction illness is, 'Give yourself a shake, get on with it, snap out of it', but Addiction NI helped Philip come to terms with that and to talk about how he felt; the fact that he would get up in the morning feeling like he needed to have a drink."

As well as raising vital funds, Jacqueline also wants to increase awareness of the counselling and support services available for family members.

"Addiction is an illness that affects the whole family and at times it's very hard for everyone," she explained. "You go through tough love and you have to be cruel to be kind, but that's very hard to do when it's your child.

"I didn't really realise the help we could get as a family until Philip had passed away. I thought places like Addiction NI were just for the person concerned who was going through the illness and I wish I had known at the time."

Jacqueline said she has been overwhelmed by the support friends and family have given her since Philip's death and people's generosity has amazed her.

"I asked for donations in lieu of flowers at Philip's funeral and we raised £2,410, which I donated to Addiction NI. Then some friends in Bushmills organised a BBQ at Portballintrae boat club last weekend and another £500 was raised in Philip's memory," she said.

Jacqueline is determined to continue fundraising, saying it has given her a "focus" and helped her cope with life since Philip's death.

"People are reluctant to talk about addiction, but when you do start to talk, you see that so many lives are touched by addiction issues; it's so common. So anything I can do to help raise awareness or to help raise money, I'll do it."

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