There are certain conversations we don’t just have with anyone, and the one I’m about to share with you now took a lot of guts to tell. I beg you not to judge until you have read the full article.
This particular conversation was had over a cup of coffee a few weeks ago. The topic on the table was abortion, an extremely sensitive issue at the moment in Ireland and even more sensitive for my friend who shall remain nameless.
We had lost contact for many years while I lived in New York, actually before that even. Our lives took different paths. I went to college, got a job and I suppose did what was acceptable in society.
She, however, left school before completing any exams, fell in with the wrong crowd and turned to drugs and alcohol for a “better feeling.” They helped her cope. They still do.
She has managed to get off the drugs, she told me, but her big battle is still with alcohol.
Her childhood is mired with sadness. Her parents put alcohol first. She is an only child.
She was sometimes the victim of sexual abuse when her parents’ drinking friends came to stay over. She blocked it out for many years.
She ran away from home twice before she turned 12 but returned both times because she had no choice. She spent a short amount of time in foster care, but her parents took the state to court and she was allowed back to live with them again.
That, she feels, could have been a turning point in her life, if she had been allowed to stay with the foster parents. She liked them a lot.
A few months prior to our coffee we got back in contact through a social media site. It was nice to catch up.
I knew about the hard life she had and was curious if it had gotten any better. It hadn’t. She is of similar age to me.
She fell pregnant at 16 for the first time. The father never took responsibility. He was a kid himself.
I remember at the time she was very excited but her family didn’t approve. She was a few months into the pregnancy when she lost the baby. She was broken.
She dropped out of school shortly after and got stuck in with a local drug dealer. It was around this time our lives drifted apart.
It was my mother’s doing really. She didn’t want me hanging around with the wrong crowd, but now there is a feeling of guilt on my part for abandoning her as a friend at such a young age.
Anyway, she moved away from home and I only ever heard rumors of what happened to her after that. There were no social media sites or even texts on our phones back then.
So a few weeks ago when we met for coffee she caught me up on her life. I asked her permission to tell her story and she agreed.
She spent more than a year with her first long-term boyfriend (the drug dealer) who made her sell drugs on street corners and bars. He would beat her and often force himself on her when she wasn’t bringing in the money she should have been.
She finally saw sense and left him and moved counties. She had a lucky escape, from him anyway. Not long after he was jailed for something or other and died from a drug overdose a few years ago.
Trying to make ends meet, my friend did what it took to make money. She turned to prostitution for a short time until she met a much older guy who promised her he would take her away from her horrible life.
He was nearly twice her age and she felt safe with him. He had a steady-ish job and seemed to genuinely care for her -- at least that’s what she felt at the time.
She was only dating (and living) with him a short time when she got pregnant again. After losing the first baby she was delighted.
He wasn’t. She told him she was keeping the baby. He told her it was either him or the baby, and in her vulnerable state she chose him.
Because she couldn’t have an abortion in Ireland, he gave her £1,000 at the time, and she flew to England for a few days and had it done there.
She was alone. Her family didn’t know and her boyfriend didn’t want to have any part in it.
She told me it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. She is tough, she tells me. She has developed a thick skin down through the years.
The relationship with the older guy lasted a month or two more and then he kicked her out.
She couldn’t stay off drugs, although she promises when she found out she was pregnant she stopped everything except cigarettes.
She spent some time on the streets after that again, going from hostel to an acquaintance’s couch to sometimes sleeping rough. It was madness.
There were a lot of blurry one night stands and she fell pregnant again about two years after her first abortion. This time she tells me she knew she was in no fit state to bring a baby into the world, so she borrowed money from three different people and went back to England again to have her second abortion.
Her life for the following few years was up and down. She finally got a council house. She held down jobs for a few weeks at a time.