Friday, 18 June 2021

Henley Rotary Club

A MOTHER from Twyford described how she had lost one of her twin sons to drug

A MOTHER from Twyford described how she had lost one of her twin sons to drug and alcohol addiction at this week’s lunch meeting, held at Henley Golf Club.

Members and five visiting Rotarians from Maidenhead listened spellbound to Elizabeth Burton–Phillips.

She recounted how the early family life for her twins and their slightly older sister was idyllically happy. At the age of 13, however, Nick and Simon were introduced to cigarettes, although she was unaware of this at the time.

For the next 14 years, they progressed to smoking cannabis and came into contact with drug dealers who persuaded them to take heroin.

The pictures she showed of the deterioration in both their appearances were extremely disturbing.

Eventually, after the family had become involved in trying to help the twins overcome their addiction, they thought things were improving.

However, the brothers had become petty dealers themselves.

It was on an evening out in February 2004 with Simon and others that Nick â?? fuelled by alcohol and drugs â?? killed himself.

His mother was woken in the middle of the night to be told the devastating news. It was something for which she had been bracing herself for years and was alleviated only slightly by the news that Simon was still alive.

At Nick’s inquest the coroner returned an open verdict, stating that he had not intended to take his own life.

Mrs Burton–Phillips said she was determined to help her family and indeed any other families affected by the same tragic circumstances to recover by doing something positive out of something negative.

Having been a teacher for most of her life, she had made notes of the twins’ progress from happy childhood into addiction and she was persuaded to write a book, which she called Mum, Can You Lend Me Twenty Quid? â?? What Drugs Did To My  Family.

One of her earlier presentations was when she spoke to Henley Literary Festival in 2007 and, later, after the book had been made a paperback (so far it has sold more than 50,000 copies in several different languages), it was made into a play.

There have been 74 performances given to various audiences, including prisoners as well as in Henley last year when it was shown at The Henley College, Gillotts School and the d:two centre.

At the same time, with the assistance of trustees and many other volunteers, she founded the charity DrugFAM, offering support for families with members experiencing drug or alcohol addiction.

The charity, which has its head office in High Wycombe, has several support groups in various towns including Henley, where the group meets on Fridays.

Mrs Burton–Phillips ended her talk on a happier note, with pictures of Simon, now 11 years drug–free, with his young family and the two of them together being invited to No 10 Downing Street by Samantha Cameron.

After two or three questions, she was thanked for her talk by Robin Sherry.

Last week’s twilight meeting, was presided over by president–elect John Grout in the absence of president Barry Prior.

Members listened to a double–headed presentation on wills and trusts by David Screen, a professional will–writer, and Louise Houghton, a financial planner specialising in trusts.

Mr Screen commented that his talk was for what happens after a death, while Ms Houghton’s was about arrangements which could be made during a lifetime.

Lionel Scott proposed the vote of thanks.

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