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Addiction and the Journey of Healing

Addiction is something that affects so many people in our community. Most families are touched by it, and yet, is it something that is seldom talked about openly.

This personal story of a member of our SPP community so clearly expresses the pain of living with addiction, and the healing that comes once the journey of recovery begins.

Addiction, by Anonymous

Addiction is something we should be talking about! It’s not taboo and it’s not something to sweep under the rug.

Addiction is a disease, a disease that not only affects the person suffering from addiction but their families and friends as well and I’d like to share my story with you.

I grew up in a ‘normal’ family. By normal I mean separated parents living 7 hours apart. This was my normal and this was ok!

I lived with my dad and my sister and my mum had moved away for work. I decided when I was in my first year of high school that I needed my mum, so I decided to leave small town life for life in the big city. I was lucky in that my parents never fought over custody and let my sister and I decide who we wanted to live with.

Unbeknownst to me, my mum had been using heroin for over a year, and when I moved in with her, she was beginning to slide into the depths of this deep secret and my family and I were none the wiser.

My mum was always a joker with a great personality. She was always having fun (like “dancing around doing the washing up in high heels and pyjamas” fun). She was always the bubbliest person in the room.

Living with mum I had no idea anything was wrong, but looking back now I see clearly just where all the cracks were.

Every night my mum would get home and she would go straight into her bedroom with her partner and no-one was allowed in. I thought this was just them re-couping from a hard day’s work and… well, that’s fair enough isn’t it? Everyone needs their down time.

She was constantly becoming more and more tired and was less and less her bubbly self; always exhausted and snappy. I wondered why my mum with a well-paying full time job once turned around and yelled at me to buy my own deodorant and skin care products as they were costing her too much… I was 14 years old at the time.

I’ll be honest, I was not the perfect daughter by any means! My mum having grown up with no boundaries had no idea herself how to impose said boundaries onto me, so I took advantage. I was rebellious and, quite frankly, obnoxious and I thought maybe that was the reason for the breakdown in our relationship.

I found out my mum had been using when she reached out to her sister. This was her cry for help and she had decided to go cold turkey.

When I, at 15 found out about this I was so embarrassed and disgusted at my mum, I became more obnoxious and rebellious, almost living in co-existence but with no actual relationship.

I distanced myself from the situation as much as I could and kind of brushed it off. I wanted nothing to do with her but I needed to live under her roof.

My mum relapsed about 2 or 3 months later, my behaviour probably didn’t help anything either but I was too young to understand what was happening around me.

I was at a friend’s house when my aunty showed up in my mum’s car, I thought “oh no, oh no, I have done something wrong and mum’s told her and she’s here to discipline me” (because at that stage mum couldn’t or wouldn’t dare). I have never braced myself for getting into trouble more than I did that day seeing my aunty out the window. Little did I know my world was about to crash down at my feet and would never be the same again.

I cowered as I walked towards the car, knowing my aunty was what I perceived as a hard lady, one I could not stand up to, so boy was I scared.

“Your mum has gone away, she’s left” was what she said to me when I opened the door and sat in the car. “For how long?” I said, “What do you mean?”

She’s gone away to get help and I don’t know when she’s coming back, no warning, no phone call, nothing…. Suddenly I was a 15-year-old who faced the prospect of living in a house with my mum’s partner (also a user and the one who introduced my mum to the drug) and his son, with no one on my side. Or so I thought.

At that point I blamed my mum’s partner for everything that was happening. I wouldn’t dare tell you what I did to his belongings in a fit of rage as I ran home to pack, in the hope I could run away from it all.

My mum went in and out of rehab four of five times over the next 3-4 years. I’m not exact on the details because I pretty much washed my hands of her. I was young, hurt and so so angry. The cat was out of the bag and I was the one bearing the brunt, we couldn’t hide from this secret anymore. How do you explain someone’s mum just disappearing? Somehow my mum’s addiction became mine, I lost some friends, I pushed people away and I lost myself at that point too.

I spent most of that time living with my aunty. The only reason I didn’t go back to be with my Dad was because no-one wanted to disrupt the stability in my life which was my schooling and friends.

For 4 or so years I watched my aunty trying to support me and also my mum. Picking her up after each relapse, financially assisting her while playing mum to me, a rebellious, angry and confused young girl. She moved mountains to move her whole life around so mine could stay somewhat ‘normal’. This must have been so difficult for her and even more so, she had been in active recovery from her own addiction for almost 10 years. The pressure on her would have been intense to say the least.

Fast forward 15 or so years and as I’m writing this I’m getting a bit emotional, it’s hard not to. My mum was suffering from a disease. That disease then inadvertently cascaded into a tidal wave of flow on affects, taking us down one by one. My mum, me, my aunty and the rest of my family, my mum’s friends, my friends, my mum’s then partner and his son, the family my mum was a nanny for…. the list goes on and on and on.

Addiction is real, it’s happening all around you in many different forms.

Let’s talk about it and let’s let people know it’s OK to ask for help!! If I had known this back then, the situation I’m sure would have played out a whole lot differently.

My mum has now been in recovery for what must be the best part of 12 years and we have come a long way and now have a pretty good relationship, it’s not perfect but it’s our ‘normal’. There will always be a part of that vulnerable teenager in me but gone (hopefully) is the obnoxious side to her because she now knows what addiction actually is. If I hadn’t had the opportunity to become aware, our relationship would still probably be at a standstill.

Don’t let ignorance or a lack of understanding ruin a relationship for you. It may have taken me almost 15 years to come to this conclusion, but that’s better than never isn’t it?

Taking to first step is the hardest. If you or somebody you love is struggling with addiction, then reaching out for support is the best thing you can do.

There are many organisations that provide support including LifeLine, Beyond Blue, Headspace and SANE Australia plus many more. You can also freecall South Pacific private on 1800 063 332.