A Mother’s Story – Jayne’s Story of her Daughter’s Addiction
Jayne’s daughter Charlie has recently completed residential addiction treatment for her drug addiction. Jayne shares her story.
My daughter Charlie is 32 years old and struggled with drug addiction for over 15 years. Her stay at Hader Clinic Queensland was her third attempt at rehab, but this time I have real hope she can recover. And our family (myself, my husband, and Charlie’s sister) have the kind of relationship I never thought possible. Our home is a place of laughter and love. It hasn’t been this way since the girls were very young. We have our Charlie back.
For a long time before she was admitted to Hader, interacting with Charlie was exhausting. I couldn’t spend more than half an hour in her presence. Her mood swings and anger came on suddenly. We never heard from Charlie unless she needed money, or there was some sort of crisis. I was hypervigilant all the time. My heart sank whenever I saw an incoming call from her.
Charlie was 16 when she had an overdose from prescription pills. My husband and I were devastated. We didn’t know that Charlie was using hard drugs. We vaguely had an idea that she tried marijuana with her friends. But she was dismissive when we tried to talk to her about it. Charlie was 17 when she and her boyfriend were caught smoking marijuana in her car. The boy’s family didn’t take it seriously. Apparently using pot was normal for young people in our area.
My husband and I never tried drugs and were quite naive. I remember our neighbour found a plastic bottle with a hose in it near our fence. I didn’t know what a homemade bong looked like. Charlie denied leaving it there, and I believed her. There were many things I didn’t understand about her, or about addiction.
Charlie moved out of home in her teens because she wanted to be independent. I missed her of course, but sometimes the distance was necessary. Seeing her always involved some amount of drama. I know it’s not normal to feel relief when your daughter leaves after a short visit… It’s not normal to have constant arguments… But that was my reality.
I saw other women out with their daughters, talking and being affectionate, and felt envious. And a sense of hopeless grief. Why couldn’t I have that kind of relationship with Charlie? Deep down I thought I was a terrible mother.
When Charlie started using drugs as a teenager her personality changed. She was the apple of my eye as a young girl. Our family is British and my daughters grew up in the UK. Charlie was an outgoing and determined child. She was a talented swimmer and ranked number 1 in England for breaststroke. We still have all her trophies. But she didn’t continue swimming once we moved to New Zealand.
Charlie managed to graduate from school early and trained as a hairdresser. But she was often unreliable at her job, and I was helping her out financially. Charlie was in and out of counselling for years. She got into a relationship with a drug dealer, and then with an abusive man who put her in the hospital with a broken nose. She went to one rehab in her early twenties but left before she finished the program. I paid for Charlie to attend a second rehab, but she was discharged after testing positive for cannabis. There was denial and excuses, but no real change.
Charlie was in the habit of blaming me for her troubles. I found out she’d been abused when she was little (by the same relative who abused me as a child). I felt terribly guilty for not knowing it was happening, for not protecting her. I felt guilty for moving her away from the UK when she was 13. Charlie was never afraid to mention my failings as a parent when we had fights. I felt obligated to rescue her or give into her demands – including covering her expenses. It didn’t help either of us.
Before we moved to Brisbane, my husband and I bought a house where our daughters could live together in Dunedin – with room out the back for Charlie to run a hair salon. But none of this seemed to give her any stability. My daughters were close as children, and Charlie has always been protective of her little sister… but by the time of Charlie’s admission to Hader Clinic Queensland, they were not living together anymore. There were things she refused to tell me. And things I knew in my heart which I didn’t want to face.
Both my daughters have struggled with mental health issues and drug use. But with Charlie it was particularly serious and (unknown to me at the time) she was abusing methamphetamine, not just cannabis.
When my daughters visited us in Brisbane we could see Charlie was extremely unwell. I thought she must be using hard drugs. She overreacted much more than usual. Even a shopping trip was too much for her to manage. At Christmas, Charlie refused to come over with her sister because they’d been having arguments. The girls’ relationship with each other had deteriorated so badly. I was sobbing when I sent my youngest daughter home, because I couldn’t convince her to go and visit Charlie to check in on her.
I was afraid that someone would call me one day to say Charlie was dead. I felt I had two choices – get her into rehab or wait for that dreadful phone call.
I found Hader Clinic Queensland on Google and spoke to Jo. She was compassionate and understood my situation. But she was very firm that nobody can force another person into rehabilitation treatment. My daughter had to want this for herself. Jo helped us find the right words to tell Charlie; “I love you, and I will support you in your recovery. But I will not support you in your addiction”.
This advice was life-changing for me and my husband. I believed supporting and loving my daughter meant I had to fund her lifestyle, accept every decision she made… and if I withdrew that support, then I was a bad mother. Hader Clinic Queensland staff educated us on how to be there for Charlie in a healthy way, with boundaries. And to this day we use the tools we learned in Hader’s counselling sessions and workshops.
The conversation with Charlie was surprisingly calm. She cried and agreed she needed help. I rang her GP who said my daughter was in the “pre-contemplation stage”. Charlie had some reservations about Hader Clinic Queensland, but I told this could be her last chance. My husband and I took out a loan for treatment. Olivia helped us to understand the intake process and access some educational resources.
Hader Clinic Queensland is a structured program – her first few days were difficult. She had a stress-induced fit, and became furious when she wasn’t allowed to call us when she had had her fit. Charlie was stood down for a week and came to Brisbane. She agreed to daily check-ins and drug tests with the staff at Head Office, then went back to complete her treatment.
A staff member who saw Charlie’s meltdown said that, underneath her rage, there was a frightened and vulnerable little girl. But since she came home from rehab, my daughter has become a woman. She was really committed to the process. During her stay, we talked on the phone, then went to visit her every week – first-day visits, then progressed to overnight leave – which she really enjoyed.
Hader Clinic Queensland is holistic. Charlie saw a psychiatrist and a counsellor, did exercise, ate nutritious food, and even massages. Physically she looks amazing now – healthy and glowing. Since leaving rehab, I’ve seen Charlie make good decisions for her wellbeing. She has firm boundaries and won’t be around drug-using friends or people who have relapsed. She did the intensive outpatient program, checking in with Hader Clinic Queensland staff for counselling and drug tests. And she still attends 12 Step Meetings. Nobody has to tell my daughter to do these things. Charlie is independently choosing a better life for herself.
It used to be just my husband and I living by ourselves… Our kids were often struggling with their mental health, not talking to us or to each other. Now when I wake up for work in the morning, I see one daughter in the kitchen smiling and making coffee. The other is helping with the housework. Charlie puts her arms around me and asks me how I am. The girls go out shopping together, and we have dinner as a family. Perhaps one day we’ll get to go on a holiday. At the moment I’m just settling into the feeling of emotional peace.
Having a child with addiction is very isolating. I used to be afraid that if I died suddenly, Charlie would be unable to cope with nobody to look after her. But I don’t have those feelings anymore.
Before Charlie went for treatment, we didn’t know any other families who shared our experience. Hader Clinic Queensland made it possible for us to make those connections. There’s still plenty of stigma and judgement out there. But we’re not alone. I want to share my story with other parents who need help. If my daughter can do it, then I feel there is hope for anyone.
In my living room – next to a photo of the girls – is the medal Hader Clinic Queensland gave Charlie when she completed her 90-Day Program. Of all the trophies and awards she’s received in her life; this one is the most dear to my heart. I am so proud of my daughter.
Photographs of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.
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