Our Son Is An Addict, What Do We Do?
Drug addiction profoundly affects families. For those closest to the addict the effects of addiction are especially traumatic. Relationships and family dynamics quickly change and it’s important to know this is a normal situation and that through the correct addiction treatment, families can heal together.
Last year DJ completed our residential addiction treatment program for ice addiction. We asked his parents Carol and Wayne to share their experience of his addiction so that they can help other families suffering from the knock-on effects of addiction. This is their story.
DJ became addicted to ice after years dabbling with recreational drugs. His ice addiction completely debilitated him and stole his life. DJ is currently 30 years of age and was in the grip of ice addiction for nearly five years.
Carol says that DJ experimented with recreational drugs like ecstasy and cocaine at parties. Because he limited himself to weekend usage, DJ thought he had a “handle” on it. DJ was working full time and appeared to be managing well. Carol and Wayne remained oblivious to the beginnings of his addictive behaviors.
DJ eventually moved onto ice, and like the drug usage before it, DJ believed that he could control his use of it.
However Carol and Wayne became increasingly worried during the first twelve months of his ice use. Concerned, they questioned DJ, who angrily denied any addiction to drugs, screaming that his parents didn’t know what they were talking about.
Scared to confront DJ further, Carol and Wayne began to see further effects of his drug use. “He was starting to slip at work, he was avoiding his friends, and he was avoiding us,” Carol says.
By the second year of his ice addiction, DJ had left his job and had moved to crime to fund his habit. His home started to deteriorate. He further isolated himself from family events and the mounting concern of his parents.
Carol and Wayne started to feel desperate about the situation, and decided to come down hard on DJ, confronting him and telling him that he needed to “fix” the situation, not realising at the time, that an effective intervention would likely require professional help.
“We were hoping that DJ would understand his situation was dire, and that he needed help. We didn’t want him to lose his home, so we helped him with his mortgage in the hope it would propel him to go to rehab,” Wayne says. However, they didn’t realise that they were inadvertently enabling his addictive behaviour.
The family also had mounting concerns about the psychotic episodes DJ was experiencing.
“Things got so bad that he’d built a surveillance room in his home with cameras inside and outside the house. He had thought that people were out to get him – and chasing him because he had started dealing drugs. I went to visit him one day and he was passed out. I attempted to wake him but couldn’t rouse him. That was the day I contacted the Hader Clinic,” Wayne says.
However, it took over six months for Carol and Wayne to actually get DJ into rehab.
Over those months there was plenty of family conflict about how best to handle the situation. Carol and Wayne were frightened of the consequences of an intervention and feared it would push their son away.
Then one day, everything changed.
While on a business trip to Townsville, Carol and Wayne received an unexpected phone call from a solicitor telling them that DJ was in lock up, charged with significant criminal offences and a variety of drug related charges.
DJ’s immediate choice was to go to jail or be bailed and agree to attend rehabilitation. Immediately, Carol and Wayne contacted the Hader Clinic QLD where
Hayden (client liaison) assisted them with the bail process and getting DJ to consider rehabilitation.
To Carol and Wayne’s surprise, DJ agreed to go to rehab whilst visiting the Hader Clinic QLD. However, once he left, excuses began. “There were lots of “I will go to rehab, BUT…” type statements,” Carol says, and “I’ll start on Monday”. However, they remained resolute and decided they weren’t backing down.
When it was time to attend the clinic, DJ didn’t show up until the last minute, keeping Carol and Wayne nervously waiting not knowing if he was actually going to come.
For the first time in two years, Carol and Wayne were able to relax knowing that DJ was safe in the rehabilitation centre.
Wayne says that DJ’s rehabilitation was the beginning of a process of reflection about themselves, their relief, and the realisation that they had been carrying the burden of DJ’s addictive behaviors.
“Everything the Hader Clinic had told us to expect in regard to DJ’s behavior was text book – and it helped us understand the rehab process and the role we were playing in enabling DJ’s addiction,” says Wayne. “DJ was in denial during the first week, “cured” at thirty, forty-five and sixty days and it wasn’t until Day 85 that he actually agreed he was an addict! He had thought that because he did not inject, that he was not an addict!”
When DJ came home for his first weekend away out of rehabilitation, Carol and Wayne were terrified. “We had to relearn our approach and understand that we needed to come from a place of tough love and not enable any addictive behavior at home,” Carol says.
However, the path wasn’t always smooth sailing. Twelve days after completing the residential program, DJ acknowledged he was struggling outside of the rehab environment and knew he needed to engage in a supportive program.
DJ then undertook Hader Clinic QLD’s Intensive Outpatient Program. To further support and help DJ in his recovery, Carol and Wayne contacted acquaintances who were also in recovery, sharing their stories and support with DJ.
Carol and Wayne have learned that rehabilitation is about communication, sharing of feelings and appropriate boundary setting. “We had to learn to let go – we had to learn that we have a right to live our lives and we have a right not to let DJ’s addiction control us”, Wayne says.
Undergoing counselling at the Hader Clinic QLD helped them realise that they were living the addict lifestyle and were being consumed by the drama active addiction brings. “We have now learned to ‘detach with love’” says Wayne, which has brought many positive changes to their family unit.
Their tips for other parents? “Respect for each other and open communication are key. And don’t be afraid to seek professional help immediately!”
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