My daughter is a drug addict
AS JASMINE* shares her story of "being in the war zone and battling addictions on the frontline", the emotions are raw yet there is an undercurrent of determination and courage.
Jasmine is in her 60s and rearing her grandchildren. Her 35-year-old daughter Teri* is homeless, addicted to drugs and surviving day to day on the Coffs Coast streets, unable to care for her children.
"Teri met up with a young boy when she was 17 and they started experimenting. It quickly went from there - drug use and then domestic violence," Jasmine said.
"We were unaware of what was going on. I noticed some changes - her behaviour, the secrecy and lies. I just didn't have all the pieces to the puzzle at that stage. That's the problem, you don't get all the pieces in the beginning.
"She had her first baby at 18 and after a while she wasn't game to leave him, she started using harder drugs. Her self-worth was down to nothing, she was lost, she really had no life."
Teri found the strength to leave that relationship and entered a drug rehabilitation program.
"She worked so hard for 12 months, then she met another guy and it all went downhill. After that abusive relationship ended she met a third guy and he turned out worse than the other two."
A succession of false hope, broken promises, lies, failed rehabilitation attempts and appearances at Family Court has been a heartbreaking journey for this family.
"As you go along you lose your daughter bit by bit as the drugs take over. She was such a beautiful person, but she is lost to drugs.
"Having a drug- or alcohol-dependant daughter, son, husband, wife, mum or dad is as hard as it gets. The emotions run deep, are so raw, it shatters your life and throws you into places that you have never been before.
"You rack your mind to find answers, you keep it quiet, you don't tell too many people around you because they all have an opinion about what you should do. They all ask why you still support your child, but you can't give up. You just can't."
"One night I was in dire straits and rang Lifeline. They put me in touch with the Family Drug Support services in Coffs Harbour. That phone call saved me."
Family Drug Support (FDS) provides support services specifically designed for the family members of alcohol and drug dependents. A local support group and the annual Stepping Stones program operate in Coffs Harbour.
Aimed at increasing people's confidence and competence in managing drug issues, this reality-based approach gives practical tools to help families cope.
Theo Chang is the national manager for Stepping Stones and course leader.
"We have run the course every year since 2005 in Coffs Harbour, bringing help and support to over 140 family members," Mr Chang said.
"I have seen the enormous difference from when people enter the course and when they leave. They are stronger, better supported and have taken on skills to better manage their relationship with the user.
"This will in turn help the user towards better outcomes."
Stepping Stones made a huge impact on Jasmine's life.
"You fear that knock on the door. I learnt at Stepping Stones that you can't live like that," she said.
"It has given me the tools to cope and move forward, not to look at my daughter as a drug user but to see her as someone with a sickness who needs help.
"It was immensely rewarding to be able to share experiences and empathise with those attending the course without ever feeling judged or criticised, as they were like me, just trying to find answers.
"We are so lucky to have Theo and this program, he has saved many lives.
"It makes you look at what is important, gives you a way of taking a breath and backing off, but still be there for your loved ones, in this case my daughter."
* Names changed
For 24-hour help and support, phone FDS toll free on 1300 368 186.
- Four-day course: August 18-19 and 25-26.
- Funded and supported by C.ex Group.
- Bookings essential to Theo 0402 604 354.