Rose Humphries, 70, a retired school governor from Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, lost two of her three sons to heroin overdoses – yet amazingly she’s fighting for the drug to be legalised.
She says it’s hard to put the anxiety, shame and grief of watching her sons perish into words.
“I still struggle to understand how the family I once thought to be perfect has ended up broken by something so far from all that we knew before,” she said.
And she warned: “It took two deaths, two funerals, two broken hearts for us to realise that no amount of respectability or love can protect your children from a drug so powerful it will strip them of everything – even their lives.”
You might think that she and husband Jeremy would be calling for tougher rules on illegal drugs – but the opposite is true.
She said: “Bitter experience has taught us that the current drugs policy doesn’t work. It didn’t protect my children and it won’t protect yours.”
Rose was a divorced mum of two young sons, Jonathan and Jake, when she fell in love with Jeremy.
“He was brilliant with my boys, and a year later we married and had another son together, Roland.”
When Roland was two, they moved from Luton to a beautiful house in a suburb of Bromsgrove, in search of a quiet spot to bring up our family.
“Schools were less crowded there and crime rates were lower,” she recalled, “so they would have a better start.”
Jeremy worked hard in printing jobs while IRose worked as a medical secretary and also took up a seat on the board of governors at the boys’ school.
“We did everything we could for our sons – family meals, country walks and holidays at the seaside. The boys were all very different but all very bright and extremely close. I felt blessed.
”Jonathan thrived at school and won a place at Cambridge University.”
But this happy life was not to last.
“Unexpectedly, when they hit their teens Roland and Jake started truanting,” said Rose. “I wish I could pinpoint the trigger and go back to un-flick that switch.
“I should have wondered whether they were bored at school because they were so bright or whether we’d been too lenient with them.
“But instead, as a governor, I focused on the mortification of getting calls from the school saying my sons were repeatedly misbehaving.
“We had arguments and tried punishing them but, sadly, nothing Jeremy or I said made any difference.”
Things got worse when she opened the local paper one day and read that Jake, then 18, had been convicted and fined for possessing cannabis .
“I was more upset that he’d kept it from us than anything else,” she said, “but shock and shame kicked in too.
“When I confronted him, he was unrepentant. ‘Everyone I know smokes it,’ he insisted. ‘It’s not a big deal.’”
Rose admitted: “Part of me agreed.
“It was never my scene but as a college student in the 1960s I’d known lots of people who’d used cannabis without anything dreadful happening to them.”
Sadly, there was more horrific news to come when Roland turned 18, and confided in her that he’d been smoking heroin.
“He told me I didn’t have to worry, insisting it wasn’t even addictive if you didn’t inject it.”
Rose then had to decide how to deal with the situation.
“Jeremy and I had long realised that shouting and screaming at our kids was counterproductive,” she said.