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Michelle - Interview 13

Age at interview: 26
Brief Outline: Michelle used drugs and got drunk at weekends when she was a teenager. She stopped using all substances, including alcohol, when she became pregnant. As a single teenage mother she worked and studied, eventually graduating in Psychology and Sociology. She wants to develop a project to help young mothers.
Background: Michelle, a university graduate, lives with her daughter and partner. She is a creche worker. Ethnic background: White British.

More about me...

Michelle grew up in a household with a single mum and an older brother. Her divorced parents never spoke to one another, so she was able to get pocket money from both of them. She started drinking at fourteen, first in the park with a friend, then going to other areas to avoid her mum who was strict. 
 
At fifteen she and a friend would go to pubs, where older men would buy drinks for them. Her older brother would often look after her when she drank too much. She started taking drugs at sixteen, beginning with marijuana (cannabis) and then moved on to ecstasy. She and her friend would take pills four nights a week. They never had to pay for drinks or drugs.

When she became pregnant at sixteen, she stopped drinking and smoking. Her mother kicked her out of the house and she and her boyfriend moved in with a young mother in a council flat. Her boyfriend was sent to prison three days before she gave birth to a baby girl.
 
Becoming a mother at seventeen changed Michelle’s life. A “nonjudgmental” social worker had helped her get benefits. She got her own council flat and continued to reflect on her life, and decided to make plans for the future. Looking back, she thinks that she had been very foolish: “too young and trusting people and using looks and sexuality to get what we wanted”. She thinks that having a child early saved her from getting deeper into drugs.
 
Michelle did a BTEC in Health Studies, an Access to Social Work course and went on to university to study Sociology and Psychology, and got a degree. She wants to set up a project to help young single mothers.

  

 

When Michelle was doing illegal drugs and drinking alcohol she lacked ambition. She thinks it’s particularly important for girls to have plans in life.

When Michelle was doing illegal drugs and drinking alcohol she lacked ambition. She thinks it’s particularly important for girls to have plans in life.

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I mean it’s hard to say because I was, I was so young when I started doing all this but I think maybe if I had had like, not a, a, not a shock, a shock is probably not the right word but if I had had something, some thought about my future, some sort of, if I had even, you know, if I had had a plan when I was a teenager that would have helped me, it’s because I didn’t have no plan and I didn’t have no interest or thought or anything for what the futurewas going to bring, I just didn’t care and, I didn’teven know people could have plans for the future, you know? It was just all about me and, what I was going to do and it, you know, I never really, I think it’s really important for teenagers to have, you know, ambition, especially for girls because there is a, there is a lot of pressure to fall into, ‘oh I’m going to be a bad girl, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that, I’m going to be really, really popular’ and then find out like I did that it doesn’t make you really popular. 

 

Michelle used to go to raves and take lots of ecstasy. Looking back she thinks she took far too much and would look terrible the next day.

Michelle used to go to raves and take lots of ecstasy. Looking back she thinks she took far too much and would look terrible the next day.

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Did you experience any, did you have any bad experience or? An experience which you were scared of?
 
We had gone to a rave in the town centre with him, and we had got in no problems, nobody asked us for ID because we were like done up to the nines and, I actually took some Ecstasy pills, and I had actually taken too many and, that night when I had taken too many I had really bad reaction to one I like I took, obviously to the amount that I had taken, and I just remember standing there in the middle of this place which, like was, it’s like the Guildhall where now I walk through to pay my bills, so you know, I see this place all the time that they had a rave there back in the day. And I remember just standing there and being really violently sick like, like proper like throwing up green stuff and everything and it was horrible, it was horrible. And like I would look round like and everyone else was the same, everyone was on Ecstasy and it was like kind of the culture of these events, I don’t think they do them anymore, but it was kind of the culture of, everyone done it there and you know, because it was so easily available to me, I mean I perhaps should have stuck with just the one or something and I might have been alright, but it was because my, like my friend’s boyfriend he sold them and so we were, again we didn’t have to pay for anything, I think when you don’t have to pay for stuff it makes it easier to take more of it and, you know, and, I mean he, in terms of like safety in these raves we was always okay because we knew that he would get us home safe and that but, looking back on it now the things we were, like the amount of pills we were putting down our throat it wasn’t a safe amount, in any shape or form, and it, it sort of showed in our health as well, like the being sick and the dizziness and the odd, and one time I was at a flat in the town, after one of these raves and I carried on taking some more pills when I got back to this flat. And I got really compulsive and started like pulling my hair out, like kind of just, like I couldn’t control it, it was like I just kept going like that, like to my hair, I kept fidgeting with it, and the next thing I know I had like clumps of like hair in-between my fingers where I had just been going like that for so long, like a compulsive thing, like we, a shaking of the lip and I will always remember like the next morning your mouth would be so dry and your lips would be in a terrible state because you had just bitten, you know, bit them or, been shaking and the stuff like, from obviously from the effects of Ecstasy and you did, and you obviously you don’t notice all these sort of thing at the time when you’re doing it, and it’s only the next morning and you think ‘gosh’ like ‘what have I done?’ you know and, I didn’t realise I was that bad last night.
 
 

Michelle lost her virginity when she’d had too much to drink. She was disappointed that it happened in the way it did.

Michelle lost her virginity when she’d had too much to drink. She was disappointed that it happened in the way it did.

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Yeah I actually lost my virginity when I was under the influence of alcohol, it wasn’t very classy, I was outside [slight laugh] in a field , you know, it wasn’t very, it was a, it was something spontaneous, it wasn’t like I had really planned to do it, the amount of alcohol I had drunk it just worked with that and, things ended up not going the way I had planned.
 
And how old were you then?
 
I must have been about fourteen and a half.
 
Okay, and this wasn’t with a boyfriend or?
 
Well he was, he was kind of like my first boyfriend, well no I had had a boyfriend before that but I had never done anything with him and so this had been the first boyfriend that I had had where I had been sexually active.
 
And how you felt afterwards?
 

Disappointed, I remember it at the time I thought‘oh this was not, not how it should be’ and, it actually made me feel quite sad and like I say like I started to get a bit of a reputation and then if I would go to school people would know about it like through different boys or different people they know, because I went to a girls school, we obviously used to break out of the girls school to go and see the boys at like the schools nearby and stuff and, it’s, it just, it’s all turned quite sour in, like after I lost my virginity because, you know, before then everyone’s really nice to you, everyone’s like sort of kind of got a bit of respect for you, although they haven’t because they are help, you know they are helping you drink and they are helping you take drugs and you are, you are a lot younger than them, they haven’t in a responsible kind of way, but it did it got a lot, my sort of relationships got a lot worse after I lost my virginity because it was like these people that was hanging around they didn’t have, you know, the boyfriend had turned, all of a sudden, you know, he was out the next night with another girl doing it, the same, and, whereas he had not been like that before and, just, yeah just general sort of, depression at school for everyone knowing about it and having a reputation that early and being called names that early it’s quite adifficult thing to get to move on from. 

 

Michelle advises young people, especially young mothers, to have aspirations and not let anyone...

Michelle advises young people, especially young mothers, to have aspirations and not let anyone...

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Although you think you are grown up if you just gave it that little bit longer you might realise that certain things aren’t a good idea and, you know, the main thing, just to have aspirations, you know, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, your whole future and no-one gives you a future and says, “You are going to be a doctor and here you go now you are one.” You know, it is, it is very much about you, people work to get to where they get to and people’s lives go the way that their, they go from the situation you are in and the situation you want to choose to put yourself in, or if you haven’t chose to put yourself in the situation somebody else has put you in, you know? And always sort of fight for what is right as well, by that I mean, like don’t let anyone put you down, especially men because, young mums can do extremely well, very well in fact and it doesn’t, it is not a stereotype, it doesn’t have to go a certain way. I think as long as you hold on to that and have aspirations for the future.

 

If drunk or under the influence of drugs, Michelle would sleep at older friends’ houses to avoid going home and getting into trouble with her mum. She thinks this led to her becoming pregnant in her teens.

If drunk or under the influence of drugs, Michelle would sleep at older friends’ houses to avoid going home and getting into trouble with her mum. She thinks this led to her becoming pregnant in her teens.

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I think I ended up, you know, doing some things I shouldn’t have done, and it was really quite sad at the, looking back at it now because our parents like, like I say we came from a nice area where this wasn’t really the normal thing to do. And we started to notice it because all the other people around the area, like they would tell our parents what they had seen us doing and, like I, I, that’s when me and my mum really went to conflict and we never really made up again after that, it was, that was like kind of the breaking point like of her being ashamed of me and me going out and saying, “I don’t care.” I just like, “I’m going to do this, I’m going to do what I want to do.” And it was, it was very difficult,
 
You said that you went on collision course with your mum at that stage. Can you tell me more about it?
 

Well of course I would be like any young girl, “It wasn’t my fault and people made me and, my brother made me.” And, I actually got him [laughs] into a lot of trouble as well, just told her everything one day, yeah it was just, it was, I mean we never had a friendship relation anyway she was always very strict, very, you know, you, you, I used to go back to my friend’s house because I knew if I go back to my house at past twelve o’clock at night, drunk, I knew my mum would just, reach seven bells out of it, I knew that she would be that strict and I knew that there would be that much repercussion, I just I couldn’t, you know, I couldn’t. I, so I used togo to my friend’s house and it was more of an avoidance thing, and I think this whole thing with like avoiding my mum and avoiding the home because I was going to be in so much trouble and things like that, I think that’s actually what kind of led on to the whole teenage pregnancy issue because where I would be avoiding her and avoiding going home because I knew that I was in so much trouble I would, you know I would stay with people, and I, so the people I would stay with right? They would be a couple of years older and they would have a baby and I would stay at their flat and, you know, and I, because I had to stay with different people because I didn’t want to go home that’s how I ended up sort of getting very independent, although I thought I was independent and that was when I started going around taking drugs with my friend and that, because it was kind of like I was very, I thought I was independent, I knew I wasn’t going to go home because I was going to get in trouble and there would be too much conflict with my mum there but also it led me to have too much freedom because I was doing, like I say, I was just doing pills all weekend, Thursday to Sunday, you know. 

 

Michelle's father would babysit when she went out, but brought the baby back early the next day. Knowing she had to look after her baby in the morning stopped her from getting ‘smashed’.

Michelle's father would babysit when she went out, but brought the baby back early the next day. Knowing she had to look after her baby in the morning stopped her from getting ‘smashed’.

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I actually stopped drinking, obviously I stopped when I had my little girl and, but I just drank more responsibly after I had her like, I would only drink if she was safely at a babysitter’s and it was a night out, like a night out in the town, like with a friend for a birthday or with a group of friends because you just work somewhere and you got new work friends, and it wouldn’t be very often it would be about, you know, once every three months or so you know? So it would be like, you know, really, stagnated sort of time, like and it would just literally be for then and my [slight laugh], what my heaven, my dad used to do he said he was, he said he [slight laugh] was helping me, he used to, after I had been out on one of my nights out and he had been babysitting, he used to bring my little girl back at like something ridiculous like half past nine in the morning, and I, I never understood that for ages I was like, ‘oh why is he bringing her back so early like? Oh I’ve got a hangover, like I drunk too much, like why is he bringing her back so early?’ but it did it taught me to be responsible, drink less and then I, because I knew I would have my little girl to look after the next day and I knew my parents were going to bring her back early because they knew [laughs], they, they, in some weird way that was their lesson you know? And I knew I had to look after her so I knew I had to, I couldn’t get as trashed as I might have wanted to because I had a responsibility.

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