Anyone’s Child: The life and death of Jake Coe
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My partner Jake was an artist, a poet, a dancer, a writer, a nursery nurse and soon to be a fully qualified art psychotherapist.
He loved to make people laugh.
He told me when we first met that he had started to abuse alcohol and other drugs at a young age.
He told me that as a teenager he’d been, caught, named and shamed in his local paper. Being labelled a hopeless druggie helped send him further into substance abuse.
Despite being exceptionally bright, Jake’s teenage dabbles culminated in a crack and heroin habit.
The death of his brother Roland from a heroin overdose and his final stint in residential rehab finally gave him the strength to stay away from all drugs and when I met him he was five years clean.
But the cravings never stopped and he would bury them in exercise. He completed long runs and triathlons – often dressed in costume for charities.
When our son was 3 months old, Jake was falsely accused of a crime he didn’t commit. The police investigation which followed re-awoke all his teenage feelings of fear, shame and judgement. And where his teenage feelings came, so followed his teenage habits.
Five months later, Jake relapsed. Though he had no connections where we lived, he was able to obtain heroin and crack in just over an over hour.
While the legal status of Jake’s drugs of choice did not deter his use or his ability to obtain them, they did put us all at even greater risk than simply the use of the drugs alone. Risks from interacting with dealers – who would make repeated sales calls to chase the next purchase. Risks he would use impure substances and wouldn’t know the strength of what he was taking and the risk of a fine or imprisonment if caught.
Jake was a high functioning heroin user, good at disguising his habit from the world.
I thought he’d fully recovered from his first relapse in 2013. But in April 2014, he relapsed again – and this time, it killed him. If his drug of choice had been legally regulated, he could have sought help without fear of punishment.
Jake was a beautiful soul. He was a fantastic father. He was kind and generous. He was a hard worker. But he could never shake the sense of shame about his past .
I believe that if Jake’s drug use could have been treated as the medical issue it was, rather than the criminal issue it wasn’t – he would still be alive today. Father, partner, brother, uncle, son, grandson friend and colleague.
The world is not a better place for the loss of Jake Coe.
If there’s a chance my son will want to experiment with drugs other than alcohol, I want him to be able to do it safely. I don’t want his entire future to be ruined for the sake of a silly mistake or even a series of them. I’d rather he went to a licensed supplier to than to a street dealer who could be selling him literally anything. I’d rather those drugs were properly researched and manufactured. I’d rather he had access to truthful and unbiased information about what exactly he was doing to himself. He has already paid too heavy a price of drug policies that are hinged on ‘just say no’.
I believe – and many experts also believe, our drug policies have failed. They do more harm than good. They protect no one. Please support the Transform Drug Policy Foundation’s campaign for getting drugs under control – and help to protect all of our children. To find out more about the campaign, please see here http://www.tdpf.org.uk