Legal Regulation: Many expected me to say what most people in my position have said before 'drugs are bad, enforce the laws even harder and lock them up and throw away the key'. I wanted answers and spent about a year searching for everything I could get my hands on. I spoke to key experts, policymakers and campaigners and then formed my decisions based on that. I call it an evidence-based approach (something I dream that the UK Government will adopt one day). I believe that had Martha taken something that was licensed and regulated, labelled with recommended dosage and a list of ingredients - she'd still be alive today. Martha wanted to get high, she didn't want to die. No parent wants either, but there's one of those that's preferable to the other. Everything I'm campaigning for is to stop any other parent knowing how it feels to lose a child, I am not encouraging anyone to take drugs, but I also don't want anyone to die of curiosity or disobedience. Martha's death was preventable and that is why I campaign for Anyone's Child: Families for Safer Drug Control.
Restorative Justice saved me from becoming angry and bitter about the loss of my precious Martha. Many wanted the young guy involved to be sent to prison, which is the conventional response - but I needed another way, I needed answers that only he could provide. We wrote to each other over an 18 month period and through our correspondence I felt as though I had a voice and within that I was able to make peace with what had happened. Had he been sent to prison I would have had no say in anything and all the answers I needed would have been stuck behind bars with him. I now regularly visit prisons with The Forgiveness Project as part of the Restore Programme - it is a privilege to do this work using my own experience, in a way it feels as though it's helped form a positive legacy for Martha and that's an incredible outcome. ITV made a short restorative justice film about my story which gives you a bit more information as to why I feel this was the right thing to do, Martha's Film.
Below are a selection of titles that taught me so much about both these areas:
I couldn't put this book down. It takes you on a journey from the true origins of drugs prohibition, around the world, showing real life stories and highlighting what addiction is really about. Once you read this book, you will want everyone you know to read it - it's both incredibly informative and addictive! I've heard Johann is writing his next book. For more info chasingthescream.com.
The books below are remarkable stories of forgiveness and healing:
Neil Woods spent 14 years infiltrating drug gangs as an undercover policeman. This book was a real eye-opener for me, it's an extraordinary insight into what's really going on in our communities to try to enforce the drug laws. Many of the individuals in the book needed support and care via the health sector, rather than from law enforcement. Neil realised that too and is now Chairman of LEAP UK.
Forgiveness is one of the most difficult things to achieve in our lives, but there's no denying that it can be freeing and revelationary for many. Marina's book is full of extraordinary examples of what's possible against many odds. More information on Marina's work can be found here.
Marian Partington is one of those people who seems to have insights and encyclopedic levels of wisdom. I stopped many times throughout reading this book to take in what I'd just read, the depths of Marian's exploration of life is awe-inspiring. More information on Marian can be found here.