You Are Not Alone

How a mother’s fight to save her son launched a pioneering substance addiction support group

by Dorothea Bickerton

About the Book

You Are Not Alone is the story of a mother and son. It recounts the devastating emotional impact of a teenager’s descent into the ravages of addiction, and the resulting agonies of his family. Drawing from firsthand memories, diaries, letters, and writings, it tells how an ordinary family struggled to cope, without help or support, as the crisis unfolded and enveloped them. Ultimately however, it is a story of hope and courage; of how an individual turned helplessness into action, and overcame adversity to help others battling one of society’s biggest and least understood crises: drug and alcohol addiction. This revised and updated edition lists agencies and resources specialised in supporting those with issues around alcohol, drugs and mental health.

"Dorothea was one in a million. She helped so many families during their bad times, even while she was coping with her own."

- A grateful parent of an addict.

About the Author

Dorothea Bickerton was born in Calcutta, India, in 1929. On her family’s return to the UK, she was educated in Birmingham where she studied drama. A talented actress and singer, she gave up her theatrical career in 1957 when she married, and devoted herself to raising a family of three boys. After briefly emigrating to Australia, she earned a degree in English literature and drama from Sydney University, in 1970. Her daughter was born in England in 1972, after the family’s return. 

Dorothea’s life changed dramatically when her eldest son, David, turned to drug use as a teenager in the late 1970s. As a direct result, in 1985 she founded and led one of the UK’s first support groups for the relatives of drug users. For several years David worked alongside his mother as a counsellor, helping her to broaden the support available to users and families. She received several awards for her work, before retiring as director of the charity in 2000, at the age of 70. 

CDARS (Community Drug and Alcohol Recovery Services) – as the group she founded is now known - has grown to become one of the UK’s leading resources for those suffering drug and alcohol addiction. 

Dorothea passed away peacefully in 2019, aged 89.

The David Bickerton Memorial Fund

All profits from this book will be donated to The David Bickerton Memorial Fund, established in 1995 to provide emergency relief for families facing desperate times. The fund is managed by CDARS. During David's time working alongside Dorothea at Community Drug Helpline, now CDARS, he frequently used his own money to support families in crisis. The fund set up in his name continues to operate today with the same benevolent mission.  Every copy of this book that is bought means that another family will not go without. Direct donations can be made via the links on this page.

About us

We are Ian, Cheryl and Michael Bickerton, younger siblings to David. Our mother wrote this book in 2003 and self-published it at a time when self-publishing and the internet were in their infancy, under the original title A Life Remembered. We are publishing this new edition, 20 years later, because her work is far from finished. 

Depressingly, the story this book tells is as commonplace today as it was back then. Today there are support services (see our Useful Contacts page), something that did not exist in the last century. That development is, and continues to be, largely thanks to the efforts of mum and others like her: Ordinary, unremarkable people doing work that is wholly extraordinary.

We hope Mum’s story shines some light in the darkness for anyone seemingly trapped amid the devastation of addiction – users, their families, and those who care for them. For it is the story of a mother and her son, testament to the abiding and enduring power of love. 

Further Help

Dorothea Bickerton published two leaflets to help clients and others facing the challenges of drug and alcohol addiction. We include them here and they are free for you to download and share. Dorothea wrote these in the late 1990s, so some references have been updated. We believe the key messages they convey are timeless. 

For family members of those who are struggling with drug abuse or alcoholism. 

"This pamphlet is to give you a reassuring message – that you are not alone in this difficult time. The situations and emotions I shall be expanding upon are based on my personal experiences and those of others who have faced and dealt with the agony of addiction by someone they care deeply about... It is my hope that this pamphlet will leave you feeling more able to cope, and that the advice and support offered in these pages will sustain and comfort you with better understanding." 

For family members who are dealing with the loss a loved one through drug abuse or alcoholism.

"Dealing with the loss of a loved one, through addiction, is one of the most difficult situations for anyone to empathise with, unless they have experienced such a loss personally. I understand all too well the emotions I describe in this pamphlet. Through sharing them with you I hope you will find comfort and courage at this dark time in your life."

This website is not part of an organisation that can offer you direct addiction support. If you are seeking support or help with drug or alcohol addiction please see our Useful Contacts page.