“I NEVER thought that it could happen to me,” outlined Bernie Hurst. She never saw herself as the mother of a drug addict.
“There are a lot of mothers out there, I’d say, feeling the same. Only a lot of them won’t come out and say how they’re feeling or what’s going on. And it would be great if mothers would come out and speak up, and let people know what they’re going through.”
She’s one of the lucky ones. Her son Ger has almost completed a methadone programme and was home this year for Christmas, the first time in many years he wasn’t in prison.
“He looks absolutely great. I never look back now. There’s no more of this pacing up and down, no name-calling. He’s absolutely brilliant. I’ve no fears with him at all now, he’s a changed lad,” she says proudly.
A frank and open interview she did on Midlands 103 last year led to her receiving phone-calls from mothers as far away as Cork. She gave them the same advice, to speak out and stand up for their children.
“A lot of them hide things from everyone, including the guards. I tell the whole lot. It’s the only way of doing it. You have to get up and talk.”
It worked for her. She would follow Ger at night and if she couldn’t find him, would wait up until he did come home or until she got a call from the guards and she’s grateful for their support.
“Niall O’Leary was great, and so were the rest of them, they were all good.”
She regrets that attitudes to her son haven’t changed, even though he has transformed.
“Ger has done his time. He can’t even go up the street. Even the publicans won’t let him in. He went to go to a christening with his girlfriend and he was refused and he never did anything on that publican. He doesn’t drink. That’s what’s really pisses me off with this town,” she says. But she’s proud of her son now. “He put me through hell and back and now he’s grand.”
Bernie added, “The first day he came out of prison he walked into that wood over there and he had a bag…. He put the line on it. He said it was like someone was after tipping him on the shoulder and said ‘sorry boys, I’m going. ’He held his head up high and walked out and never looked back since. He left the heroin there and just walked out. “It’s great to see. If he can do it, the rest can do it. I hope that the boys are all listening out there and that they’ll do the same.”
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