I spent up to £400 a DAY on my cocaine habit – and was told I'd taken so much I wouldn't walk again
AGED 15, Zoe Corcoran sniffed her first line of cocaine.
It was the start of a terrifying addiction which saw her spending up to £400-a-day on the class A drug and hallucinating that people in the television were talking to her.
The mum-of-two, now 36, sunk to such lows she stole from her beloved mum and dad – leaving them heartbroken.
Zoe, from Chessington, Surrey, was – at her peak – spending a mammoth £24,000-a-year on cocaine.
At one point she downed mouthful after mouthful of pills and hacked at her hand, but thankfully survived.
Now Zoe, clean and happy, is telling her shocking story:
I was 15 when I did cocaine for the first time in a London club. I tried it once and didn’t like it. The following year, I tried it again.
That’s when the addiction started.
In January 2004, my parents bought me my own sunbed shop. It was supposed to be the new family business.
But by this point, I was a social user.
Before long, I was using morning, day and night, seven days a week. I even started to shut the shop up early to snort a line on the sunbed.
There were occasions my clients would have to ring an ambulance, worried they couldn’t get in the shop.
I was out the back, fitting.
They had no idea how bad things had got, no one did. I’d snort a line in the pub, or go home and do it whilst watching TV. It created an intense feeling and the drug psychosis and paranoia quickly kicked in.
Then one day, I went home and my parents asked, "Zoe, where are the takings from the business?"
I kept fobbing them off, telling them we’d had a bad day at the shop. Being an addict, I’d become quite a good manipulator.
Truth was, I was stealing from my own parents’ business to feed my £100 to £400-a-day drug habit. I spent everything we’d ever earned on cocaine – around £24,000 in total, and we eventually had to sell the sunbed shop.
But as the drug addiction continued, so did the voices in my head. The telly was talking to me and I was convinced there were cameras watching my every move. Soon, I confessed all to my parents and said, "I’ve got these funny voices in my head." They were devastated. I was their little girl.
Mum booked me a doctor’s appointment, where I was referred to see a specialist at a psychiatric unit. At 21 years old, it wasn’t the kind of place I could ever have imagined myself being.
I stayed there for three weeks and was drugged up to the eyeballs on medication to help with my paranoia. But within hours of being released, I went back and used again. While I convinced everyone I was doing great, it couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Then one night, I’d had so much cocaine I fell down the stairs.
I lay there fitting because the cocaine was affecting my nervous system and could have swallowed my own tongue.
Luckily, I was found otherwise I could’ve died.
As the drug addiction continued, so did the voices in my head. The telly was talking to me and I was convinced there were cameras watching my every move.
I was rushed to hospital, where they told me I may never walk again. They said the cocaine had been making me so sick, the lining of my stomach was wearing away.
My parents were beside themselves with worry. Thankfully, a few weeks later, the feeling returned to my legs.
When I was discharged from hospital, I moved into a flat and carried on using again. By now, I’d shrunk to about seven and a half stone.
I thought by making myself sick I’d get the drug out of my body. But nothing was working and the addiction was growing worse.
Then on July 26 2005, I handed over £200 to two drug dealers, went back to my flat and wrote letters for my loved ones.
"I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me," I began. "No matter how much love and support I’m being given, there’s something seriously wrong. I can’t stop."
Cocaine addiction in the UK
According to official figures released last month, there were 432 deaths related to cocaine in England and Wales in 2017, compared with 112 in 2011.
Cocaine can kill people by causing heart attacks, heart failure or strokes – and the risks increase when used in conjunction with alcohol and other drugs.
At 9.7%, more people report having used cocaine in the UK than anywhere else in Europe.
Powdered cocaine is the second most commonly used drug in the UK after cannabis, with 2.6% of 16- to 59-year-olds, or 875,000 people reporting having used it in the last year.
There's no real "cure" for cocaine addiction as yet – it's therapy or withdrawal (and neither is especially pleasant).
However, according to the NHS, 61 per cent of people who received treatment for a powder cocaine addiction did manage to stop using within six months.
I told myself the only way this nightmare would end, is if I was to take my own life. At least that way, my parents wouldn’t have the heartache of their daughter being a drug addict.
Swallowing pills, I took a knife and hacked at my left hand. Then I lay down on the bed, blood pumping out. I was numb with pain. Then I thought of my younger sister and panicked.
Calling 999, I explained what I’d done. The ambulance arrived within seconds and I was rushed to hospital.
There, doctors told me I’d cut through my main artery and that I probably wouldn’t make the night. After an emergency two-hour operation, it was clear someone was looking out for me. I pulled through and started an intense course of physio on my hand.
In August 2005, I checked into rehab. It was tough but after 12 weeks, I went to live with my parents. Then I fell pregnant with my son now 12. Everything was great. I was clean…until nine years later. I had a relapse and went on a two night binge.
I instantly regretted it and went straight to my mum and asked for help. So she ordered an online drugs test for me – and started testing me once a week.
Then in December 2009, I gave birth to my daughter now eight. Gradually, when the feeling in my hand came back, I applied for an online hairdressing course and opened my own salon in my garden. I called it Seven Stars as that was how many years I’d been clean at that point.
Since then, I’ve had counselling and upped my drug testing to twice a week. I’m not embarrassed by it. I’m doing it to keep clean. And to lay my story to rest, I went to the tattoo shop where my sunbed shop used to be. Sitting in the chair where I used to snort cocaine, I had my girl's name tattooed over the scar on my left hand. It was the closure I needed.
Now, I’ve got myself clean and am sharing my story to inspire others. I even sat my boy down a few weeks back and told him about my past. People can be nasty, so I didn’t want him hearing it from someone else. He was so understanding.
I don’t ever want my children on the downward path. All I want is to inspire a younger generation to get the help they need and for the families of addicts to get support.
I’m not getting paid for speaking out and I don’t want to be paid. I just want to help other people.
WHERE TO GET HELP
If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:
- CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
- Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
- Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
- Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
- Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123
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