The 21st of February 2021 marks International Family Drug Support Day with the theme “Support the family – improve the outcome”.
The Substance Misuse Limestone Coast (SMLC) team would like to highlight the important work Family Drug Support does in communities across Australia, to reduce the stigma around drug use, promoting harm reduction strategies and supporting families.
The round the clock support FDS provides through their hotline and website is crucial for regional families working through crisis situations who may not be able to access support and services as easily as those living in metropolitan areas. In 2019, our collaboration with FDS through the Stepping Forward workshops and workforce training has given numerous Limestone Coast families both help and hope and a brighter future.
In recognition of this important day, we are sharing a personal story from a Limestone Coast family with lived experience, which we hope will resonate with and inspire other families going through similar situations to seek the help they need and deserve. If this story resonates with your circumstances, contact the Family Drug Support line 24/7 on 1300 368 186.
It was an early morning call from a friend that alerted Mount Gambier mother Rachel* her daughter Sam* had a problem with alcohol dependency. “She had collapsed at the front door of her flat and was taken to hospital,” she said. “She was completely unresponsive and her blood alcohol content was 0.45 - close to death.”
“I was gutted. It came as a real shock, that phone call and I thought, ‘what if she’s done this before’?” Rachel said there had been no inkling her daughter’s social drinking behaviour was cause for concern. “As a parent you think “it’s just a phase” and everyone’s doing it. There were no alarm bells at all.” “I remember we went on an overseas holiday together and afterwards, she said to me “Mum, I was drunk the whole time I was there. I had no idea.”
Reaching out to Sophie Bourchier from Substance Misuse Limestone Coast, Rachel registered for the Family Drug Support program Stepping Stones, run for the first time in the region in late 2019. The award-winning course is designed to equip attendees with support and coping mechanisms to deal with family members going through substance and alcohol dependency.
Walking into the room for the first time was like “seeing into a mirror”, Rachel recalled. “I felt complete confidence there was no judgement as we were all in the same boat,” she said.
“Nobody wants to be in this situation. It’s an incredibly isolating feeling.” An important lesson Rachel learned from the course was to realise the importance of self-care and renewing relationships. “It took us the first day to grasp that we weren’t there for the people with the problem, we’re there for ourselves,” she said. “We worked a lot on self-esteem and reconnecting with your life and the people around you. “It hit me more than anything realising how my other children have taken a back seat to Sam’s problems and were missing out. Rachel said she also learned how powerful language could be, when it came to defining her daughter’s alcohol dependency to others. “I admit I went in there using negative language and hearing words like ‘junkie’ and ‘addict’. They’re just so judgmental and harmful and don’t take into account the person as a whole,” she said. “That’s someone’s mother or daughter you’re talking about.” If her words were resonating with any readers out there, Rachel’s advice was ‘seek help, sooner rather than later’. “The program made me realise there is just so much support out there. I cannot recommend Family Drug Support and Stepping Stones more highly,” she said. Stepping Stones had completely changed her view of her daughter, Rachel said. “I have more respect for her now and I feel our relationship is changing for the better. There will be ups and downs but I can cope with those now.” Although her daughter is accepting of support and treatment, Rachel knows there may still be tough times ahead. “You’re always on alert and looking for signs of ‘is it going to happen again’?” she said. “There may be another situation and it will be confronting but now I feel strong enough to deal with it. I won’t feel guilt or shame or have anxiety about it. “I won’t let it consume me.” *Names have been changed to protect identities.