Watching Claire-Marie Paton and her father together, it’s clear they have an enormous amount of respect, pride and, most of all, love for each other. They show their affection with hugs and kind words – probably more so than in most father-daughter relationships.
They were always close, but now that bond is even stronger because they’ve weathered many storms together.
For more than 20 years Claire-Marie was in the grip of serious drug addiction.
It saw her imprisoned on a number of occasions. She experienced separation and distance from her children, family and friends and crushing low self-esteem.
But through all of this her father Angus Paton, a 70-year-old truck driver, stood by her.
She is now recovered and helping others to grab life by both hands and live it to the full.
I’m over the moon about getting my daughter back. She’s back to the way she was before – bubbly, lively and a complete workaholicAngus Paton
Angus, of Southampton Road, Paulsgrove, says: ‘Claire-Marie was about 14 when her personality started to change. She had been a lovely girl up until then.
‘She started getting bolshy and staying out late. It was basically her not being able to cope with puberty.’
He adds: ‘Unfortunately she was in with a crowd I didn’t like very much.
‘My wife and I knew things were getting really bad when she disappeared overnight. That started happening quite a lot.
‘The problem with girls when they’re like that is you can tell them to stay in, but unless you lock the doors and bar the windows they will just do what they want.
‘We’d say “you’re not going out” and she’d just say “I’m going”.
Angus says Claire-Marie started running away from home.
‘It was horrendous for a few years. She then got together with her partner and they had two children, Wesley and Molly, but that didn’t work out.
‘We had the kids for a little while and then their father took them on. But very unfortunately he died aged 29 after suffering heart problems .
‘Wesley came to us eventually and he still lives with us. Molly stayed with her stepmother.’
Angus says he found it hard to see his daughter in the grip of addiction.
‘It was horrendous, as a parent, to see what Claire-Marie was going through. I supported her as much as I could.
‘I stood by her because that’s what you do with your kids. They’re yours whatever happens.’
He adds: ‘Her relationship with her children is gradually improving. It’s going to take a lot to get back their trust, but she will get there.
‘Did I think Claire-Marie would get clean? She was either going to get better or much, much worse – with the obvious conclusion to that.
‘We would get telephone calls from the police. It was so frustrating to see what she was doing to herself.
‘It takes some sort of epiphany for addicts to get clean or they will carry on doing it. I’m about as proud as I could be of the struggle Claire-Marie went through to get off drugs.
‘I’m over the moon about getting my daughter back. She’s back to the way she was before – bubbly, lively and a complete workaholic.
‘She is now helping people and that is her reason in life at the moment.
‘I don’t think she’ll go back to the way she was. She’s enjoying life too much.’
Claire-Marie is also from Paulsgrove and works as a peer recovery support worker for Push, an addiction recovery support group.
She says: ‘Things started going wrong at the age of 14. It was only drink and some weed (cannabis), but that progressed to hard drugs.
‘Three years ago I was in prison for four months after a string of short prison sentences. It was then I decided to get treatment.
‘I went to Southampton for a year and did six months’ treatment in residential rehabilitation, from August 2012 to March 2013
‘From there I started volunteering and I heard about Push in Portsmouth. At the time people were saying to me “don’t go back to your own city” But I felt quite strongly about going back, after a year away, knowing I had Push to go to.’
She adds: ‘I had never been clean before. This was my first attempt. It’s been three years and six months now.
‘I felt it was my duty to come back to Portsmouth and make my recovery visible to other people.
‘I knew the best way to do that was through Push. My family were quite worried about me coming back, but I knew there was somewhere for me to go every day.
‘I feel so lucky for the relationship I have back with my family. At one time my sister wouldn’t have let me into her house. But now I even look after my niece.
‘My dad tells everyone I’m his hero, but he’s actually my hero. I know it was hard while I was out there in all the madness. I was always outside the family but he never, ever cut me off.If I hadn’t come back to Portsmouth I wouldn’t have this relationship with my family.
‘I’m a totally different person now. I have a beautiful life, with beautiful friends and beautiful family.’
Claire-Marie Paton credits her recovery from drug addiction to the organisation Push, which she now works for.
Portsmouth User Self Help Group is based on the third floor of the city’s central library. Since it was set up in 2006 thousands of people have been supported through training and education and been given back their lives.
There is an open forum every Tuesday which generally has about 50 people
attending. A women-only support group meets on Wednesday morning.
Integrated Offender Management (IMO) is part of the Moving Forward project that Push is working on in partnership with the Probation Service.
Previously, people in prison did
not get addiction support if their
sentence was less than a year.
Repeat offenders committing minor crimes and serving short sentences were not being given help to break the habit of
addiction, which would often play a
part in them reoffending.
Push also visits Job Centres and homeless shelters. Advocacy is provided and a wide range of services offered in the community.
Earlier this month there was a march through Portsmouth by members of Push and their families, highlighting the huge positive contribution former addicts make to the community.
It was followed by a family day on Southsea Common.
For more information about Push go to pushrecoverycommunity.org.