Eve Jeffery interviews a local father who benefited from a program offering him support for his son’s long-term addictions.
Sadness, confusion and self-blame are often the roads most travelled when people are confronted with a loved one who is drug or alcohol dependent.
For many families this challenge is exhausting and life shattering and can create a feelings of both helplessness and hopelessness.
There are no manuals or guidelines in this instance and many deal with much blame and shame and the feeling of being judged by others.
It is a nightmare that no-one can fully understand but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Help and support is available from Family Drug Support (FDS).
FDS have been providing a range of support services specifically designed for family members of alcohol and drug dependants. Stepping Stones to Success is FDS’s award-winning program.
‘We run a twice-monthly support group’, says Margaret, FDS’s Byron Bay representative.
‘This is a safe place for families and carers to tell their story and to pick up strategies from others’.
Theo Chang is the course leader, and says he has 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’, he says. ‘This will in turn help the user towards better outcomes.’
No longer asking the question ‘why’
The course aims to increase people’s confidence and competence in managing drug issues. It provides a reality-based approach that includes self-care and valuing self.
For many previous course participants, the experience has been profound.
Local man James* and his wife recently completed the course in Byron.
James’s child has been drug dependent long-term and his family have been constantly challenged by addictive behaviour. ‘Last year at this time we did the Stepping Stones program’, says James.
‘After having our child involved in drug and alcohol abuse for 20 years and standing by them and trying to show them the way, and doing all those sorts of things, we were looking out for them and doing everything we could to help them and in some ways not thinking about ourselves.’
James says the course is not about the addicted person but those loved ones around that person. ‘You don’t do this course to help you wife or husband or daughter or son give up drugs, because that’s not what it’s about. This is all about the people who stand by their side.’
James, who admits to being a very practical person, says that this is more than a support group. ‘The course had to convince me that it was sensible and had a logic to it and that it wasn’t going to be airy-fairy. This is what was going to to be useful, and it was.
‘What happens is they take you through stepping stones.
‘There is the first one. You are at that. When everyone as a group has reached that point you continue on to the next one and that’s very important.’
‘You learn so much. You learn to give up the question of “why?”
‘There is no answer to why. The big thing for me was that I do it for my child. I can’t be a rescuer. You can look back at what you have done and you can reflect and ask yourself, “Was that helpful?”
‘At the end of it we realised that this is the journey we have been on. This is where we have come to and these are the things we have to let go of.
‘Theo asked me once during the course how I felt. I said “I feel light. I feel like I have just cast stuff off.” The “why” and the “what can I do” were gone.’
James feels the course is also helpful for people who have been through the journey with an addict who is now recovered or those who have lost someone to their addiction.
Theo says that while there are no guarantees, people are very glad they came along.
‘Becoming more resilient and having skills to cope better will allow you to survive the journey intact.’
Stepping Stones to Success will run over two weekends, February 2–3 and 9–19, in Byron Bay.
For more info contact Theo on 0402 604354. For 24-hour-a-day help and support, call toll free 1300 368 186.
*Name changed for confidentiality.