Closer (UK)

‘I snorted coke while my baby slept – but didn’t realise I was addicted’

As post-pandemic drug use spirals, Closer speaks to one mum about how she kicked her habit


After mum-of-one Sarah Ibrahim, 40, tucked her one-year-old son into bed at night, she’d creep out of his bedroom, ready to unwind after another busy day. But instead of reaching for a glass of wine, Sarah would rack up a line of cocaine.

Use of the Class A drug has been on the rise over the last decade and, during the pandemic, referrals for addiction treatment rose by

300 per cent. Between 20192020, 873,000 people aged 16 to 59 reported using cocaine, with experts putting the increased use down, in part, to the stress of the pandemic. And with parents often bearing the brunt of childcare while working from home during the pandemic, turning to drugs to relax became more common.

Sarah says, “I started dabbling in drugs as a teenager, but I didn’t take cocaine seriously until I was working in a bar in 2008 and was surrounded by people who took it regularly.

“Soon I was using every day. Even when I enrolled at university as a mature student aged 27 to do an internatio­nal tourism management degree, I was taking coke daily. I blew my entire student loan on it in three weeks.”

Cocaine is the second most widely used drug in the UK, behind cannabis. While it can give an initial high with feelings of invincibil­ity, prolonged use leads to serious mental health problems, including increased anxiety, paranoia and psychosis.


Sarah says, “I believed addicts were down and outs, but I had a job as a personal assistant, a first-class degree and friends and boyfriends – although my mates were also cocaine users.

“But I looked terrible, with pale skin and huge bags under my eyes, and my mood was erratic. I was unreliable, calling in sick to work, and even missing my mum’s 60th birthday because I’d been up all night taking cocaine at a house party and was too ashamed to go home.”

Sally Benton, an executive director of addiction charity

The Forward Trust, says, “Addiction often begins socially or recreation­ally. At other times, people use to self-medicate emotional pain and become dependent. It’s also become easier to access illicit drugs in recent years through social media platforms.”

Soon Sarah was spending all her money on the drug and found herself craving it during the working week. When she fell pregnant in early 2018 after a one-night stand, aged 36, she considered a terminatio­n because the pregnancy was a shock she felt unprepared for. But she realised the baby had been sent to save her and went cold turkey. She says, “I was taking so much coke that there was a risk I could die. Quitting wasn’t hard as I knew taking coke would put my unborn child in danger. My pregnancy was a happy time. I was sure coke was in my past.”

But when Marshall* was about three months’ old, Sarah was offered a line of cocaine at a friend’s house while her son was sleeping, and accepted. She says, “I told myself I had more of a control over my habit, as I would only take coke every couple of months with friends. But then the pandemic struck.

“I had just started my own lifecoachi­ng business, named Sarah Ibrahim – Your True North, and I struggled to work from home with a toddler in lockdown. I turned to cocaine as a release in the evenings, having it delivered to my home and taking a few lines while Marshall slept.

“When the pandemic eased, I’d drop him at nursery before going home to have a line with coffee before work. I was inconsiste­nt at work and

although Marshall didn’t want for anything, I knew I wasn’t being the best mum. I was disgusted with myself.”


It’s believed that the lonely, isolating time of the pandemic caused many to turn to alcohol, drugs or gambling as a coping mechanism, while rising demand and funding cuts have left people struggling to get help for long-term recovery.

Sally from The Forward Trust adds, “Anyone suffering in silence is not alone: addiction is an illness, it can be treated and both you and your family deserve to be supported.”

Finally, in May 2021, Sarah decided that she’d had enough. She said, “I had a constant blocked nose because of snorting so much cocaine, and while I was steaming my nose over a bowl of hot water to try to clear it so I could take more drugs, I just thought, ‘What am I doing?’.”

She started seeing a clinical hypnothera­pist and confessed to her mum that she was an addict. She kept accountabl­e by posting on Facebook, admitting she was in recovery. She says, “I worried


people would judge me, my son would be taken, and my business would fail.” Instead, family and friends supported her.

Now a recovery coach, Sarah says, “The voice of addiction gets louder when I’m low or stressed, or in the mood to celebrate. But life’s better, and I want to help others see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ll never go back to cocaine’s darkness.” By Alexandra Meyer and Eimear O’Hagan

● Visit Forwardtru­ for help on issues including drugs or alcohol. Contact Sarah via email sarah@sarahibrah­

 ?? ?? She loves being a mum
She loves being a mum
 ?? ?? Sarah in her partying days
Sarah in her partying days
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