Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – A Parent’s Story
Dianne is Joy’s mother. Joy has undergone treatment at the Hader Clinic Queensland for her addiction to ice and other illicit substances. Dianne has shared her story so that it may help other families whose loved ones are struggling with addiction.
Dianne could have never imagined that the strong family values she grew up with and subsequently instilled into her only child and daughter, Joy, would have ever been challenged by the disease of addiction. A single parent, Dianne had only ever wanted to provide the very best of everything for Joy to ensure her success and future. Dianne felt guilty about the impact of her marriage breakdown upon two year old Joy, and strove to negate the effects of the separation by overcompensating in providing material items, love etc.
She shares: “I provided the best of everything in ensuring my daughter was not disadvantaged by growing up without both parents present. I provided love and support, I knew everything she was feeling. I would often go ‘overboard’, get too involved at times to ensure she was OK. I kept overcompensating, I felt terrible for her, knowing that her cousins and friends had both parents and that she didn’t have this in her life.”
Joy’s father approached parenting in a different manner, preferring a harder line “work for it” approach, whereas Dianne recognises that she had an enabling approach, focusing on “always providing”. Dianne shares that as a result, “there were periods, years at a time we were not communicating and different rules applied in both households. However, we were both united with our anti drug views.”
“To be honest, in some ways I missed the signs of Joy’s drug use. Joy’s best friend passed away and I noticed that she started becoming withdrawn, rebellious and distant. It was extremely out of character. I tried to be there for her, but I think she “pushed back” against my comments and I couldn’t work out what was going on. She refused counselling and I thought, maybe things will improve on their own.”
Dianne became increasingly perplexed about Joy’s behaviour. She realised something was wrong but couldn’t imagine that drug addiction was involved. In the meantime, Dianne had remarried and was facing some trauma of her own – the terminal illnesses of her father and her sister in law.
Dianne began to realise that Joy was involved with drugs and tried to reason with Joy in conjunction with other family members. Nothing seemed to work. After two deaths in the family, Dianne flip flopped between feeling desperate and angry. “I felt upset with my daughter for putting me and everyone else through this,” she explains. “I had no understanding at the time that this was a disease I could not control or that my daughter had no power over her addiction to ice”.
For the next eight years, Dianne watched with frustration as Joy seemed to slip away. Joy overdosed several times, and a concerned Dianne would bring her home from hospital, stage an intervention, get her into short term rehab and then pray that “everything would stick”.
Desperate, she relocated Joy from Brisbane to Sydney to try and isolate her from the toxic dealers and users that would find their way into her life. Dianne sent her money and helped her set up an apartment in the hope that Joy would see that living drug free was more desirable than her current situation. However it was to no avail as Joy would use drugs, disappear for days, then finally come home to sleep it off.
Dianne was beside herself with worry. “Too many times one day would roll into the next and I would call her, and get no answer. If four days went past, I would call the police and report her as a missing person. Imagine my horror when a young woman with the same description was found dead in a river and the police contacted me advising they were trying to identify her.”
Consumed with shame, Dianne hid Joy’s addiction issues from her extended family, trying to maintain a brave persona and concentrate on maintaining a normal life within her husband. However, it was to take a heavy toll. Dianne’s health began to rapidly deteriorate and the next thing she knew, she was having open heart surgery to repair her mitral valve.
However, her thoughts weren’t far away from Joy. “I was concerned for her state of mind, she was living on the street. When I came out of surgery, I had one thing on my mind – a push for the biggest intervention ever to get her off the streets,” shares Dianne.
She continues, “I found her living on the streets with a bag of clothes. I hired a hotel room for a week and Joy began to detox over the next four days. It was frightening and painful to watch – the scratching, the hallucinations, the sweating. It was as if she were possessed by the devil.
We prepared to leave for Brisbane, trying to talk to her and get through to her. Desperate, she overdosed on prescription medication and was rushed to hospital via ambulance. Upon release, it took my whole family to work together to stop her from running. During this time, we were talking to the Hader Clinic Queensland, who were guiding us through the process. When she was finally admitted to the Hader Clinic Queensland I felt like I had run a marathon – every muscle and bone was aching. My mind was aching. We were exhausted.”
While Joy participated in the ninety day Hader Clinic Queensland addiction treatment residential program, Dianne and her husband Chris, became involved with the Hader Clinic Queensland Family Group. Dianne reports that the family sessions helped to piece together how her behaviour had been enabling Joy’s addiction. Knowing that other families had experienced similar problems also gave her comfort.
“I jumped between enabling her and persecuting her,” said Dianne. “I’ve had to learn how to think differently and learn how to support Joy in recovery the right way. The Hader Clinic Queensland have been an invaluable part of this process.” Reshaping her relationship with Joy has brought increased happiness for Dianne – “I’m finally allowing myself to feel happiness”.
Joy continues to work hard at abstinence and her recovery from addiction. In the meantime, Dianne is learning to support Joy without enabling addictive behaviours, stating, “I cannot thank The Hader Clinic Queensland enough. It has certainly saved both our lives.”
Related: Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – Joy’s Story
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