This family navigated their 25 years old daughter’s drug addiction and have just celebrated her being 11 months clean. This is their story.
We moved to Australia from the UK when our daughter was 2 years old and then moved interstate when she was 7.
Our daughter was a very quiet and sensitive child. She seemed to always struggle to fit in. She was an only child, so it was always just the three of us. She was very active and participated in various sports. She struggled with personal relationships and found it hard to make friends. She was very vulnerable to the people around her and seemed to be easily influenced.
“I feel I didn’t listen to her enough as a child,” Dad says. She told me she felt like she didn’t belong in the family home. As an only child, she often felt lonely. We gave her everything she needed except what she wanted, which was unconditional love, our attention and time. I can see we weren’t present.
We both had very high expectations of our daughter. We always wanted our daughter to have more options than we felt we had growing up. It was important to us she was successful, and she often felt a lot of pressure from us. We can see that our love had conditions and as much as it is hard to admit, it is important to acknowledge it so our family can heal and recover.
In hindsight, we had a lot of denial. We really didn’t see her addiction as more than a phase until last year when we were at an information session at Hader Clinic Queensland with the Family Coordinator. It was explained to us that this is a disease, and she isn’t just going to grow out of this phase. Our daughter was in the grips of a serious and progressive illness. This revelation helped us so much, but the feeling of guilt intensified. How could we have not known this earlier? All the signs were there.
Around the age of 15, we saw a change in our daughter. She started a relationship with a boy around the corner. We were really open to it and met his family and he often came over. At the time, our daughter was struggling a lot with social media and bullying. Her social life was always difficult for her. This boy went to another school, and she found it hard to fit in with his friends. They were together for a while, but when the relationship ended, things went downhill for her. She had a lot of feelings of abandonment and rejection.
Our daughter got a job in hospitality. She was working with people that were older than her. The first time we are aware of her smoking marijuana was after a party she went to with her work friends. Before this, we had caught her smoking cigarettes, but we had done this as teens too. We rationalised it as just a phase.
She was sneaking around and being dishonest with us. We felt something was going on but just rationalised and justified everything. We didn’t have as open communication with Our daughter as we would have liked to. When she was 17, we took her to the doctor and psychologist. She would mostly talk about her relationships with other people.
We thought as she got older, she would make friends easier. We didn’t even consider that she may be taking drugs to cope and fit in.
I feel that our love was very conditional, and I have a lot of guilt and shame. Through our sessions at Hader Clinic Queensland and Nar-Anon meetings, we have learned that we are in recovery as a family. We no longer stand behind our daughter. We stand beside her.
Halfway through year 12, our daughter wanted to quit. We had to drag her through year 12. We gave her everything except what she needed, which was love and affection. The thing she needed the most we couldn’t buy off the shelf. We had spoilt her when what she really needed was for us to be present.
When she finished school, our daughter went to the UK to live with her Mum’s parents. The intention was that she would go over there to work and travel. However, we would have preferred for her to stay in Australia and study.
Our daughter had a lot of trouble in the UK, this is when she transitioned into heavier drugs like ecstasy and party drugs. Her behaviour was erratic, and it didn’t work out with her grandparents. She rented her own place as she wanted to stay in the UK. Some time passed and she started to contact us and saying it was too hard and she just wanted to come home. She had started working in aged care and had started college over there, so we told her to stay.
We did not know that drugs were involved. We were aware she was in a toxic relationship. She was having so many issues and she was crying out for help. We have a lot of guilt. Instead of listening, we just tried to send more money and kept believing she will grow out of this and find her way in life.
The year our daughter was 19 she came home from the UK, and we moved out of our family home to live closer to the city so she could get work. Our daughter just didn’t settle into life, it seemed she just couldn’t get work or life. Her life was so unmanageable.
We both had completely different ways of coping. One would distance themself from her, and the other would try to remain calm and be the mediator, but they would butt heads with each other.
At one stage, she hung around a girl she used to go to school with. This is when everything was so chaotic, she would go out on a Friday and disappear for a week, and she would message occasionally. She would turn up and stay home for a short while and then disappear again. We found out she was working at a strip club. But she told us she was just working behind the bar.
One night she had disappeared which wasn’t unusual, but she called us to pick her up. We got there and she appeared unwell, she told us that she had tried ice, she seemed terrified.
So, we took her to the Hospital. She didn’t want to go to the hospital and felt really embarrassed. We were terrified. We didn’t know what to do; we wanted to find someone to help her because we didn’t know how to help her. It was so frightening, and we felt so inadequate as parents.
She spoke to a drug counsellor, and he came out and talked to us. He told us she said it is just a phase and she would get over it and she didn’t want to be there.
I felt angry, disappointed, hopeless, & frustrated. I felt she was ungrateful. She was difficult to be around, I just didn’t understand or want to understand. I now have learnt it isn’t a simple fact of switching this addiction off, it’s a matter of willpower. I felt she had a choice, and that was using.
For the next four years, our daughter was coming in and out of our lives, there was even a period when she went missing for close to a week. We couldn’t find her or get hold of her. Some people contacted us on Facebook, saying they didn’t know where she was. We reported her missing to the police. We were desperate and so afraid, just waiting for the knock on the door to tell us our little girl was dead.
Her friends told us she was last seen with an older man in a pub, we feared the worst. The police eventually found her. They brought her home, and she was so angry at us for involving the police. Even though we knew she had taken heavy drugs, we still had not acknowledged the seriousness of our daughter’s illness. It made no sense to us why she continued to live this way.
When she would come home, there would be periods where things would be fine, then she would disappear again. She started making regular trips interstate for a weekend or a week and when she came home, we would find bundles of cash and she would tell us that she was working as a model.
One night she was leaving, and we begged her not to go to. She went anyway, at this point we felt like she was lost and that we no longer had any control over her. We were in so much denial and I didn’t ask too many questions because we didn’t want to know the truth.
One night we came home, and she was passed out in her room. There were drugs all over the floor. We wanted to call the police, but we couldn’t stand the thought of her getting arrested. I just bundled all the drugs and paraphernalia up and put them in her room. I didn’t say a word to her the next day, it was too hard to face.
We were the biggest enablers, and we would always give her a safe place to land.
Eventually, a psychologist referred her to a psychiatrist, and our daughter was put on anti-psychotic drugs. Not even this medication could help her.
She again moved interstate, and she told us she was in a relationship and was living with them. The following year, we went to visit her. It was very confronting, she looked awful, very gaunt, and sick.
She would travel between states regularly and was living a haphazard life. She was clearly heavily involved in the drug scene and living with someone who was extremely controlling.
She eventually decided to move back home. No matter what, she always had a place to call home. So, we drove interstate to collect all her belongings. She had attempted to get clean. We completely enabled her drug lifestyle. We were always cleaning up after her and robbing her of her rock bottom.
In August 2020, we came home from work. There was music blaring, and she was home with a guy. She was clearly on drugs. We took the house keys off her and told her to leave. After this incident, she was staying in contact but was not coming home. She had left a bag at our house. When we looked through it there were drugs, credit cards, and paraphernalia. One day there were three detectives standing out our front door and they had a search warrant. They searched her room; we couldn’t believe that we were now in this situation.
We called our daughter and told her we had enough. We can’t help anymore, we cancelled her phone and told her we would plan for her to collect her stuff, but she was no longer welcome in the family home.
All of her belongings were put in storage when we moved, and we didn’t let her know where we lived. Our daughter was homeless and moved interstate again in December 2020, we would hear from her occasionally.
In January 2021 we were contacted and told our daughter had stolen a car and was driving back home. But as we had made it very clear that if drugs were involved, we did not want to be part of her life. She could not return home. We know now she was hotel hopping and living with different men for a while.
A counsellor reached out to us and said if our daughter went into recovery would we have her back in our lives? Of course, we wanted to have our daughter in our lives, but she had made so many failed attempts in the past. We would meet with her in public places. Our daughter looked so sick. We acknowledged she was very unwell, but our denial kept us from the reality that she was unable to change this herself. We met up with her weekly for a while.
Our daughter was facing serious charges because of the people she was hanging around and the decisions she kept making.
In July 2021 our daughter contacted us once more and told us she was going into a 28-day detox at the Hader Clinic Queensland. We immediately said we will come and get her to take her there. She didn’t come home straight away and stayed with her boyfriend, as she was still using, and he was very controlling of what she could and couldn’t do.
Eventually, we went and picked her up, and bought her back to our house, she got her stuff ready and then her boyfriend demanded to come with us to the detox and see where it was. Our daughter had updated us to be the primary contact, and this angered him.
He hassled us continuously and hassled the Hader Clinic during her first 28 days. He was extremely controlling. Every day, he would call us.
We met up with the Family Coordinator before we got to have a family visit, which was the start of our own recovery journey. This is when we learned that this was a disease and that our daughter was very sick. The Family Coordinator said to us “if your daughter had cancer how would you treat her?” It felt like a huge awakening moment. Everything started to make sense. It made us understand we had been in denial for a long time and that she could not stop even with the greatest desire to do so. The entire process was explained to us and it was a relief, finally, our daughter was with people that could help her.
During our first weekend visit, our daughter asked if we would help her financially and support her to stay and complete the full 90-day program.
It then became very clear that we needed to embark on our own journey. We were encouraged to attend family education sessions and we now attend weekly family Nar-Anon meetings.
Hader Clinic Queensland taught us the tools to connect and listen to our daughter. We are now learning how to communicate with our daughter. With all the anger and frustration melting away, we could finally be honest and put the whip down.
We have learned how to live in the present moment. Our daughter has been clean now for over 11 months after successfully completing the 90-day residential rehabilitation program and moving out of the Transitional Housing Program after 6 months. There is a long way to go, but now we as a family are finally on the same path and heading for the same destination.
The Hader program has given our daughter the knowledge and tools she needs to live a healthy and clean lifestyle and if she continues to use these, she can become the beautiful girl we once knew and loved.
We would just like to thank Hader Clinic Queensland and all its beautiful caring and wonderful staff; we have our daughter back in our lives and all three of us have so many tools now to work with living with an addict.
“Remember we are Powerless over our addict, but work the program and keep coming back”.
Names and photographs of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.