Greg recently celebrated being clean for 100 days following his addiction treatment for cocaine and ice addiction. This is his mother’s story.
When we realised how much trouble our son was in with drugs, we were looking for hope, we were looking for stories from parents and addicts who had been through what we had and had lived to tell the tale.
It was really great to be able to read these on the Hader Clinic Queensland website. If any family can learn, or be comforted by what we’ve experienced, we’re very happy to share what we’ve learned.
It’s been wonderful to see our son clean for the last three or so months – however, we’re not naïve – we know he’s got to work at preventing a relapse. You have to be hopeful, yet remain realistic. There’s no end point to this journey, if we fall, we can get up, dust off and go again.
We’ve made several attempts over the years to get Greg into recovery. We eventually got him to the Hader Clinic Queensland.
However, he relapsed a few days after he entered the transition housing program.
This time around, with the support of the Hader Clinic Queensland staff, we made some hard decisions about how we handled Greg’s addictive behaviours.
Unbeknownst to us, our previous efforts to help him were supporting his addiction. We had to engage some tough love. By doing so, it precipitated Greg’s voluntary decision to return to recovery.
During that last relapse, we could see where he was – most likely doing ice, and we were beside ourselves.
I recall calling the Hader Clinic Queensland four times in an hour, I was that distraught. I remember Hayden, telling me very calmly, “Penny, you need to exercise tough love. If he’s not prepared to enter recovery, please make it very clear to him that your home supports recovery, and that he has twenty minutes to collect his gear and leave the house.”
I will never forget the trauma I felt at that moment of hearing this – that I, as his mother, had to make my child homeless.
It just goes against the grain, and every instinct. Yet the irony of it is, that without that experience for him (as you’ve heard him say), I don’t think we’d be sitting here today three and half months later with Greg having completed a 12 hour cycling challenge with me on the weekend and volunteering for Meals on Wheels.
We’ve got a completely different person here now.
Of course, exercising tough love did not come naturally to us. It was about learning that we could still love him, yet not support his addiction – that love and addiction were two completely separate entities.
When I was at the peak of my trauma around dispensing tough love, Hayden asked me a series of questions, which helped answer my own questions about how to deal with Greg best. He asked, “do you want to support him in this lifestyle?” and “do you wish to continue to support him in his current lifestyle?”, which meant for me, being up all night consumed with fear, worry and panic.
I replied with, “our family cannot sustain this”. To which he stated, “well, you’re just going to have to let him go, then.”
Greg lasted on the streets for eight days.
He came back, went back to the Hader Clinic Queensland. He said to me that once he had accepted that he was back in rehab for four weeks, which took two to three days, he reported getting so much more out of his rehabilitation experience.
He shared with me what he was discovering. He stated, “as I got sober and more detoxed, I began to see the person I really was.”
Whatever they do up in rehab with their counsellors and clinicians, it certainly got through to Greg, and for that, we are so deeply grateful. They have helped him and us, get to this next level of recovery.
When you’re in recovery, it’s like you’re building something.
We all think we’d clearly love to go to rehab and that you’d come home, and you’d be successful forever. It’s not like that at all. It’s about continually building upon something. All of the additional support work that was recommended to us by the clinic that they do is important.
Not to mention the work WE do as parents. Whoever is travelling with the addict also needs to be in recovery as well. I mean, in active recovery, which means educating yourself about how best to support them and love them, without enabling them. Which is the hardest thing.
If we’d tried to go it alone, we would have never understood, nor appreciated these things –Greg’s addiction has a very powerful pull but so too did our collective love and desire to pull through this and recover together as a family – Hader Clinic Queensland lead the way.
Together we continue to work through it with time, education and counselling.
It took five years for us to get to this point.
We sent Greg to a private clinic on the Gold Coast initially.
Greg was very masterful initially at hiding his addiction. I’d ask other parents whose kids did some binge drinking at parties how they ended up graduating and becoming “normal”. He’d sleep in until midday, he’s doing all these things.. I’d think, “Ruth’s son is doing that… they’re all out doing that and they are fine”.
When I think about it, I think I kept second guessing myself. Plus being a bit of a worrier, I wanted to keep myself in check and not be over the top.
These behaviours kept creeping in and kept getting bigger, and bigger and bigger. Looking back, it was quite insidious. We could see him changing, but thought that we’d back off. Then the lying started. He’s changed Uni courses three times. There was a lot of this stop/start behaviour which can be typical for kids his age too.
Then my husband would say to him, “you’ve got to get your teeth stuck into something otherwise we’re not going to support you any more”.
He seemed to have a couple of relationships, but when a breakup or disappointment in the love life happened you’d see a spike in this behaviour, but it wasn’t full on until the last twelve months when he’d started using ice.
Up to that point, it had been party drugs, MDMA, speed etc. Plus, my daughter was saying to be, “don’t be silly Mum, EVERYONE uses that on a weekend. It’s not a big deal, you just stop before Monday.”
Except Greg didn’t.
That was another thing. There are a lot of drugs out there and people use them socially.
Greg’s social group gravitated towards that scene. There’s also a subculture within the gay scene.
A doctor who works in emergency where Greg was admitted told me about it.
When she read the toxicology report telling me what was in his system, I nearly had a heart attack. There was GHB, pot, cocaine, ice.. you name it, it was in there.
He’d overdosed that time and I was told this sort of thing was really common. She said that users “layer” the drugs, to keep them up all night, and that it was a sexual thing as well. It sounds terrible, but I want to tell the truth. I didn’t know this was a side effect of ice use.
I think Greg may have been feeling ‘lost’ about his sexuality, but for us it’s never been an issue.
He’s longed for an enduring relationship and he’s not been able to find one.
It’s not uncommon for heterosexual relationships either, but I think it’s particularly tough for a young gay man, when many of those around him are just into hook ups. Plus, some of the dating apps encourage not only hooking up, but drug use with it.
He did this for a bit because at the end of the day, he just wants to find love and a partner. But he also knows now that these apps probably won’t work for what he really wants.
Another big turning point, which happened after the second Hader Clinic Queensland admission, was for us to share with a select group of friends and family what we were experiencing.
We wanted to be honest, because it was traumatic for us and we got tired of not telling the truth. I’m not saying that in a wild way of being indiscriminate about who we told, but we were tired of covering up.
There were a couple of key things for us in dealing with Greg’s addiction.
Firstly, we needed to accept how serious this problem was.
Secondly, I needed to be made aware of how enabling I was. I’ll be honest with you, I was only made to recognise how I was an enabler through the education given to me by the Hader Clinic Queensland during their family nights. I don’t want to say it was just me, I think we were both enabling Greg in our own way.
You know, admitting that you’re an enabler is hard. Facing up to this fact is also one of the reasons that we’re sitting here today. It was more about education here than being inadequate or uncaring. We had to acknowledge that in our own way, we were part of the problem.
We were very willing to address what needed to be changed and the parent evenings that The Hader Clinic Queensland run were pivotal in our education.
Again, we went along not knowing what to expect. Plus, you’re in a room with many parents of addicts. The other thing that struck me on the first few nights, is that we imagined that the parents of drug addicts would be struggling with their own set of issues.
We were sitting in a room of parents that were just like us. Hardworking, normal, loving parents who are beside themselves with the pain that their loved one is in the grip of addiction. Parents who would do ANYTHING to get their kids through. Honestly, it gives me goose bumps just saying it. We are so grateful that we both “got it”.
The first time I went to the parents’ evening, I was broken. It was difficult to talk without crying.
We’d chat to other parents after the group sessions and realise that they were hard working professional business people, who were just like us.
Plus having the lying, cheating and stealing behaviour that was now a regular occurrence. Money was stolen and our credit cards were used. All of that. The graduation to ice was terrible. We saw frenetic behaviour; we saw dangerous behaviour. His risk-taking behaviour went up 200%. We’ve had three attempts at taking his own life.
Thinking about it all, we were run ragged, and emotionally sucked dry. It’s been a tough five years.
However, realising how we were feeding Greg’s addiction and keeping it alive was a game changer.
So too, was realising that the addict needs an army of support around them if you‘re in recovery for the long game. Our whole family is in recovery as a result, day by day. Unconditionally accepting Greg’s recovery meant being truthful with those who are closest to us. We felt like we needed support as well.
We felt that we failed to get through to him. I was questioning everything that wasn’t family based, whether I should have my own interests etc
Part of that process is learning acceptance. We did what we thought was best at the time for our family and ourselves. I was also cognisant of the struggles John was facing and I thought, “I don’t want our family to fracture”. I was trying to keep the lines of communication open and keep our family together.
Addiction really takes you to the brink.
Of course, the turning point was not allowing Greg home until he was genuinely ready to recover.
We didn’t want a yo-yo situation.
We’ve had the “I’m ready to recover!” line where the reality was, he’d be home for a bite to eat, steal some money and nick off again. This was the toughest love we’ve ever experienced. Yes, the term is thrown around but it’s a completely different thing when you have to dispense it yourself.
Thankfully, it drove the message home and got him back to the Hader Clinic Queensland.
Without Hader Clinic Queensland, we wouldn’t be here. We went through the public hospital system, through private hospitals and clinics. We were at our wit’s end. We researched, and found The Hader Clinic Queensland.
“Thank God for Hader Clinic Queensland!” is all we can say.
In recovery, our family has enjoyed a renewed relationship with Greg. We’ve been hitting the gym and recently participated in a 12 hour cycling challenge together – I was immensely proud to ride with him. There’s been a real shift in him and in the whole communication dynamic within our family, we are all so grateful for this.
As for the two of us, our relationship has reached a new depth, though during the last five years there have been times where it’s been very hard for both of us and we’ve both found it immensely challenging on many occasions.
Being united means that you are stronger.
I don’t how that happened in the chaos, but it did. The well-known line from Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Anthem’, pretty well sums this up, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.”
As for advice we would give other parents who are experiencing similar issues is firstly, if you are noticing odd behaviour and your gut feeling is telling you something is wrong, don’t second guess yourself – talk to someone like The Hader Clinic Queensland and seek advice.
Secondly, addiction thrives in the dark. It’s worth bringing it out into the open, even though it will be uncomfortable and confronting.
We hope our story gives hope, especially as we’re not a glossy “success story”. We’re not perfect, but very real in our imperfection.
We are deeply grateful to all at the Hader Clinic Queensland for their unflinching support.