Today is International Family Drug Support Day - let's talk.
Our Alcohol and Other Drugs team doesn’t just support those battling addiction. We support their families.
Family are the ones who quite often get blindsided by the drug use and have no support or knowledge of how to cope.
Our Family Drug Support Group brings people together to share experiences and support each other.
We talk about the need to care for yourself as well as others.
And we work hard to get rid of the stigma around drug use which is unfair, unjust and does nothing to help those facing traumatic circumstances in their family life.
So, how does drug use impact on a family?
We are so grateful to a Bendigo mother who has allowed us to reproduce extracts from her diary to give you a raw and heartfelt insight into life with sons hooked on ice.
We publish this today to show you not only the impact of drug use on a family but also what can happen when a family reaches out for support and help.
If this story is similar to yours ... please reach out.
Friday, June 12, 2020
Who can I tell my story to?
My biggest wish in life is coming true.
My son is coming off ice.
Where to start?
I have three sons.
Oldest son has used ice, but is now clean for few years now.
I don’t really know his ice story. I was not aware at the time of his using, or his coming off. I know he suffered greatly from depression at the time too, and that his boss helped him overcome the ice addiction but I don’t know much more than that. I’d like to ask him some time to tell me his story.
My youngest son was heavily into ice which led to him getting into a lot of criminal trouble, ending up in gaol for two years, with another parole time of just one year. He has recently just finished the parole and is now a ‘free’ man. I will come back to his story later.
What I really want to tell you about is so wonderful.
I am so happy, proud, excited, pleased, and so - I don’t think there is a word that really suits.
How can I be proud that my drug-addicted son is coming off? Well, I am.
This is my middle son. Leigh* says he has been using ice for 10-15 years. So long ago, that when he started it was a new drug, he did not know anything about it, the tremendous hold it has over people, the incredible immediate addictiveness of it.
There is so much to tell of the past many years of using and the widespread damage it causes to himself and everyone around him, and every aspect of our lives.
But getting back to what I really want to tell you - Leigh* stopped using 25 days ago.
Yes, I am counting and so is he.
I can only tell you my side of the story as I see it and understand it. But understanding anything to do with drug use is, well, impossible. Why Leigh* started, what made him stop when he did, what made him stop at all, will be use again. So many questions, so many mixed emotions.
I started off saying ‘I’m proud’. Is that even a word the mother of an ice addict should use, or has the right to use? Over the past 25 days I have watched the suffering Leigh* has gone through coming off, coming down, whatever you call it. Sleeping for the first few, several, days. The anxiety sets in, his skin flares up, the pain all over, the excema, scratching, itching, restlessness, can’t sleep, nightmares … it’s all mixed together in a vicious circle.
What can I do, try to be there, cop the abuse, listen to the yelling, swearing, I want to help, but I don’t know how. Maybe I can’t help.
At the same time he has a foot injury to deal with, and the prospect of maybe losing a toe, due to infection having damaged the bone.
So with all of the above issues, the toe, and the restrictions imposed because of the Coronavirus, coping with doctor appointments, prescriptions, chemists, phone calls, waiting, more waiting, referrals, life with him becomes emotional chaos.
Actually, life has been emotional chaos for years now.
The skin rash is becoming worse, unbearable, urgent. Needs a specialist, so off to Sunbury last week for a skin specialist. It seems a complicated issue - the skin, anxiety, effects of drugs in his system. I’m sure the drugs are coming out through his skin. But whatever it is, its a vicious circle of anxiety, itching, scratching, bleeding, sweating, burning, pain.
But as I write this today, Leigh* has spent the last two days visiting his sister in Melbourne. Took himself down on the train, played with his nephew, their dog and their new little pup, and has really enjoyed his time away.
I’m sure another step closer to his recovery.
And while at his sister’s house, Leigh’s other two brothers also happened to be working in Melbourne that week, and they all had dinner together. What a great moment considering older brother and Leigh have not had a good relationship for many years due to drug use.
I want to tell you one remarkable thing that happened. After about a week or so of Leigh not using, we were in the car, on way to doctor appointment I think, Leigh was counting the days, when he said to me that he had not used, even though he had been carrying it around in his wallet for several days. He opened his wallet, pulled out the little plastic bag, opened it ... wound down the car window..... and emptied the contents out of the window. WOW. I was speechless, I didn’t know what to say. I think this was truly a remarkable event.
I want to reinforce what a huge step it is to decide one day to stop using ice and to go through the terrible withdrawal effects it has created for him. But he has not used again and is adamant that he will not.
I know that Leigh would have easy access to the drug if he wanted.
He has been around others using, but has resisted.
I am so proud and so happy.
This is my dream come true.
This would be the dream of any mother of a drug addicted son or daughter.
There is so much more to a drug story. The affects drug use has on the individual, on their family, the highs and lows, actually not many highs, there is nothing good about drug use. Nothing good at all. The effect it has on the entire family. The financial burden, the job losses, relationship issues, crime, gaol, Oh dear!!
Friday, June 19, 2020
Another week on, so it’s now day 32.
I’m a bit down tonight. It’s all going really well. He has changed so much. Some great family changes. But I still feel some ups and downs. Like tonight. I helped Leigh* to look at a new bed (advertised on facebook) which he bought and his brother helped him get it home. But he had trouble getting it inside and set up, so the temper flared. I get the phone call, to let off steam. I should be used to this,
Friday, June 20, 2020
I’m okay today.
I’ll always be the sounding board for all the ups and downs.
I’ll deal with it.
Leigh* has changed so much.
The three boys are all seeing each other now. This feels so good to me. I believe as a family we are strong and supportive in our strange way. When it all counts we stick together. That is so important to me. I feel so proud of them all.
Leigh* is so different. A lot happier. Doing different things. His messages are different. I don’t dread his phone calls. Although sometimes I wish he would not call me so often - like several times a day. And the messages with every second word F.
I used to be scared to go to his house. I would never go inside. I never saw in his bedroom. Now he invites me in and wants to show me his room, his bed, and how he has set up the room. His new bed is made, clean, and tidy, and he feels good in it.
It’s all the everyday simple things that were lost when on the drugs, but now can be enjoyed.
How that stuff can change a person’s whole being, the way they behave, the way they live, think, look, walk, dress, and treat their mum.
This is the story from a mum’s perspective. Everyone’s story is different but we can all see the same threads running through our lives with a drug-affected son or daughter.
I’ve been warned that relapse could happen, and not to get my hopes up too high. But I have got my hopes up, I am so excited, this was my biggest dream that Leigh* would give up the drug use, and I have got my hopes up high. I would be devastated if he were to relapse. He won’t. He says he won’t ever use ice again. He used it before to function, to work, to cope, to get a buzz, to feel good. But he says now he has all that without the drugs, he feels good, he does not need it, and will never use again.
He is confident.
I believe him. I have to believe it.
Sometimes I still want to cry and I’m not sure why.
*Leigh is not the son's real name. This has been changed for privacy reasons.
We can happily report both sons are doing well and remain clean to this day.
To learn more about our Family Drug Support Group and all our Alcohol and Other Drugs programs click here
Last updated: February 24, 2021