27,000 Reasons for Nathon

In my own words…

Malcolm McCready talks about his son Nathon and how his family tried to support him through his addictions

“Then the anger would come, blaming myself, feeling useless and thinking what else could I have done – I don’t know, my heart and body aches.”

Malcolm McCready

Tell us a bit about you

Hi, my name is Malcolm McCready and I’m 49 years old. I’m a plasterer by trade and also do any general building work.

I’m married to Sally who I’ve been married to for 4 years, but together for 12 years.

I have two children. Nathon would have been 28 now and Kelsey my daughter who is 24. I have two step children, Sally’s children, Gemma 27 and Tom, 25. We have two grandchildren George 2 and Jaxon 2 in August.

My hobbies are playing the fiddle, I love my music, I like to keep fit by cycling and I used to Kitesurf but haven’t felt confident enough to do this since Nathon died.

What is 27,000 reasons for Nathon?

So let me tell you what 27,000 reasons for Nathon is – Nathon was my son. He died when he was just 27 years old. For every year of his short life I would like to raise £1,000.  Whilst to me Nathon was obviously worth a lot more, I feel £27,000 is a highly achievable figure and is so meaningful to me and all other families with children going to be 27 one day and those who are 27, it is such a young age to die!

This money, the £27,000 I am raising, is to go to EDP a drug and alcohol charity and if I could help just one person and one person’s family so they don’t have to go through what Nathon and my family have gone through, then it will be worth it.

Please give what you can.

Can you give us a flavour of Nathon?

Nathon was born 15thSeptember 1990, his mum and I split up when Nathon was about 3 years old and he lived mainly with his mum who moved to Dorset.  I would have Nathon to stay as often as I could and from the age of 16 would have him for months at a time. This periodically happened up to the end of his life.

Nathon was loved by everyone who met him, he was sociable and clever, polite and generous and children especially had a bond with him. He was good fun to be around and easy to get on with.

“I will never forget her words as they constantly go around in my head. ‘Malcolm, Nathon is dead’.

When did Nathon start drinking and taking drugs?

I can’t give you an exact age when Nathon started to drink and use drugs. He was smoking tobacco and cannabis at 15 because he used to do it with me when he stayed.  The drink and drugs happened over a period of years and eventually took hold of him. 

What happened to him between then and that terrible day a year ago?

When I met Sally I hadn’t seen or heard from Nathon for a while – he was 17 years old then. Unfortunately when he did make contact he could only stay a few weeks as we were going to America with Sally’s children, Kelsey and my family.  Then aged 20 we had a phone call he had been arrested in Dorchester for trying to steal money from someone.  This first time in prison set an unfortunate pattern of coming out clean and healthy and vowing never to go back inside again, to drink and drugs and mixing with the wrong people pulling him back to a life of living on people’s couches, in hovels and on the streets.  

We picked him up from some awful places over the years, we would get him dry, find him work, he even passed his motor bike test with us, but always he would want to go back to Dorchester and then the next we would hear he would be in prison again.

He was about 24 when we found him high on spice at our house. It was awful, he kept saying it was legal, but he looked mad and fitting. We had to call an ambulance, his heart was racing so much. From then the drug taking got worse and in prison he was getting into even more trouble with drugs, owing money, getting beaten up.  He said he had even seen friends die – he knew the consequence of mixing heroin and alcohol. Things were out of control for him, we didn’t know what to do.

What steps did he or you as a family take to get him off the drugs and alcohol?  What help did he seek – either professionally, within the community or with friends and family?

The majority of the time he spent with me and Sally he would stay clean from drugs but would still drink alcohol, and this also became a problem in our house.  So we decided not to have drink in the house.  We would take him to the doctors to help with sleeping and depression. We tried to get him involved with Rise (now called Together, the community drug and alcohol support service in Devon) a meeting place in Torquay for recovering drug and alcohol addicts. He went a few times.  We got him on college courses for brick laying and carpentry. He got a job in factory working nights, had a push bike and also passed his motor bike test and had a moped.  He would also come to work with me over the years.  Nathon was always keen on keeping fit and would come to MMA (Mixed Marshal Arts) with me, cycling, weight training and kayaking. We tried to keep him busy and occupied really; took him camping and holidays up to Scotland to my family.  Once when we could see things were getting difficult for Nathon we had booked him for therapy sessions but he went before he had any sessions.

It was like he couldn’t cope with ‘normal’ for too long, whatever normal is!!!

How did his drug taking effect the family and how did you try to support him?

It wasn’t the drugs so much as the alcohol when he lived with us. When we knew he was coming home we would all be on edge as we knew his behaviour would be unpredictable. He just couldn’t stop drinking once he started.  He would be up all night, cooking food, leaving the fridge door open and oven on, smoking in bed, leaving butt burns.  If we had time booked away we would feel nervous to go, especially leaving my daughter with him – not that he was ever violent or disrespectful to anyone but you just didn’t know what he would get up to!!!

When we tried to talk to him about things he would up and go back to Dorchester. It was like walking on egg shells, and he would go until the next time he needed help or somewhere to stay. 

And then that fateful day came.  Can you tell us about what you were doing, how you found out and what you know about the circumstances?

Sally, our grandson Jaxon and I were down having a picnic at the beach in Paignton.  I had a phone call about midday from Nathon’s sister Kirsty. I will never forget her words as they constantly go around in my head. ‘Malcolm, Nathon is dead’.

My whole world just stood still. I couldn’t believe it. It is all a bit of a blur after, we literally bundled everything back to the car.

What we eventually found out about what happened to Nathon was 6 months later at the inquest. He had been drinking all day in Weymouth. Later that evening he seemed to meet a random stranger on the street, who then went and got heroin for himself and Nathon.  This was all on CCTV.  The man and Nathon then walked out of view of cameras to the Public Toilets at the Barracks in Weymouth where Nathon overdosed.  The paramedics were called but could not save him. So Nathon died on the streets from alcohol and heroin misuse.

How did you feel in the immediate aftermath of his death?

It was such a shock and felt like I was in a dream – still does some days. I was just in total shock and on automatic pilot. I don’t really know how this year has gone by.  If I’m honest I would often think that this day would come but I never believed it would, I always thought that things would change for him and he would find happiness away from drugs and alcohol and that way of life.

I just keep thinking how could this happen to me, that I will never see my son again or hold him and cuddle him!!!

Then the anger would come, blaming myself, feeling useless and thinking what else could I have done – I don’t know, my heart and body aches.

What steps have you taken to overcome your grief?

Well to start with I am still grieving. It has only been just over a year and every day is a blur.  Things have got a bit easier, I am learning to live with the pain of the loss of my son. There is always something that reminds me of my son each day, which is a very hard thing to live with.  I have had to go to the doctors for problems with sleeping and depression which have helped but also Sally and I have joined a group called Compassionate Friends – everyone has lost a child, they have helped, and I’m raising money to hopefully help other children like Nathon. I’m growing my beard and doing a cycle ride in Burma for EDP Drug and Alcohol Services.

Life is a struggle but I have a loving family around me.

How did the idea of this cycle challenge come about?

Last October I came up with a simple idea to grow a beard for a year, which so far I have raised just over £2,000.

My brother–in-law Colin asked me if I would like to do a cycle ride challenge which is something he has done for charity before.  Obviously I said yes and we decided on Burma.  This is going to be a tough challenge both physically and emotionally but I am doing this for my son and to help others.

What are you hoping this challenge will do or achieve?

I’m hoping this challenge will raise awareness of drugs and alcohol problems we have in every city, town and village and in every walk of life in this country.

Also if the money raised can get help for just one person or family then I can feel I have achieved my aim, so that hopefully no father, mother, sister, brother will go through what myself and my family have been through.

Why are you working with EDP Drug & Alcohol Services and raising money for them?

EDP tried to reach out and help Nathon whilst he was in prison and he always said the people were very nice.  Since Nathon’s death we have found out a lot more about EDP and the work they do. I am keen to be involved in the one way I can and that is to raise money for this good cause.

You will know how society views people with drug and alcohol problems – there is a stigma.  Having seen your son go through what he went through, what message would you like people to take away from your experience?

This can simply happen to anyone’s child or family, please don’t think that it can’t.  Nathon was an intelligent, hardworking, kind person, loved by his family and who he loved dearly and he had that love and support around him but the alcohol and eventually the drugs got the better of him. The soul destroying addiction took hold during his very low moments and then it was too late.  You think some miracle will happen and how this ever happened to him or you, but it did and it does.  Addiction has no class distinction and destroys not just the person but the loved ones around them.

What would you say to other fathers, parents, brothers, sisters who might be faced with similar situation to you?

I would say please don’t give up on your loved one who is suffering mental problems and drug and alcohol addictions.  I know we helped my son 100% in the first few years when we knew he had a problem. It took a while for him to admit that he had a problem but we then had times of him being clean.  The tears and heartache that we all went through including my son, is very destroying mentally and emotionally.  The last year or two of my son’s life we did back off a bit as we thought he could only help himself if he wanted to.  So I would like to say please don’t give up, there is a lot of help out there like EDP Drug & Alcohol Services and other services.

What preparations have you and your brother-in-law Colin been making for the bike ride?

Basically we are getting as many miles in on our bikes, somedays up to 60 miles at a time to prepare ourselves for the 10 days of cycling, which will be between 50-80 miles every day – our bums need to toughen up!!!!  I have been doing solo rides but also going out with a friend Dickie to keep the incentive going.

I have been trying out different energy bars and drinks to keep up the salt and sugar levels and reading various blogs about cycling in hot climates.  Colin and I live quite far away from each other but we have constant chats and have met up a few times to train together.

What would it mean to you to meet your target of £27,000?

27 is just a number to most people, for me it is how old my son was when he died.  To reach this target first time round would be absolutely amazing but if not I will keep going till I have reached £27,000 by doing another challenge. I don’t know what yet but would rather achieve it this time round as psychologically it would help me and means I can then focus on the rest of my family and grandchildren and keep Nathon’s memory alive. 

Please give if you are able to help Malcolm:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/malcolm-mccready

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