I thought I was losing my son

When I realised my 31 yr old son had a drug problem all my worst fears were realised. A pattern started to unfold. He would do the strangest activities in the middle of the night, like bringing home odd hard rubbish, repeatedly sorting out the tool box, sometimes he would be awake for two to three days at a time.

I woke one morning to find David had been up all night putting together the strangest concoction of scrap timber that was lying around the house. It was clumsy and very heavy, different widths and lengths of wood, somehow connected together. There were even a couple of wooden stakes that had been taken from the garden. This was to be a roof to put on top of a screen for our rubbish bins. To my horror, when it did go up it was propped up with extra pieces of wood to give it more height and then balanced on top of nails to hold it up, not actually fixed. If the nails gave way it could fall on your head. At the time I could not say anything because he would think I was against him, he would think it was another attack on him, cause nothing I could say would be right. I had become his worst enemy.

Three months earlier I had moved David back home, he had been struggling for some time with epilepsy and depression. Little did I know but he was self medicating with crystal meths and marijuana, and he was heading for a downward spiral.

David had his first epileptic attack when his step father, who he was very fond of, was diagnosed with terminal cancer, he died a short time after. Over the course of a year David had 6 seizures; two while driving and he wrote off two work Ute’s and one while minding his 3 year old daughter. This had a huge impact on him. His relationship broke up and his ex-partner took custody of his daughter. Eventually he lost his job because he became unreliable.

He was living in his own house and was renting a room out to help towards the mortgage, but as the drug problem became worse he became behind in his bills and started retreating socially. His depression worsened. He was rapidly losing his sense of responsibilities.

I decided to step in and help give him some support, providing food , taking over mortgage payments, paying his bills, along with doing pick-ups, drop-off's and being there when he had his daughter.

This eventually became a burden for me financially and emotionally. We decided to rent out his house and have him move in with me till he could get on top of things. I could look after him. I had figured I had made it nice and easy for him now, and he should be able to start getting himself together. I was still paying the odd bill and also the gap in the mortgage. I was hoping he would start getting Centrelink and then he would be able to make the shortfall on the bills. This was not eventuating. He finally did get Centrelink and even odd days’ work, but no money was coming back to me.

David would spend days in bed depressed and just come down for food then sneak back up to his room to eat or duck out to the shed for a smoke. He would avoid communicating and even tried to hide from my view.. The only time he did communicate was when he had taken meths, and then he was a different person, full on with everything. He would have bizarre conversations with me and do odd things like the roof, and sorting all sorts rubbish and junk. To me it was like having a zombie in the house. My good natured, good looking son had become weird, lost his ability to care and looked like a junkie. As much as I tried, David refused to get help for drug use and to go on medication for depression.

This broke my heart. I couldn’t sleep properly, I was getting panic attacks, and felt embarrassed, ashamed and couldn’t help feeling “Why me?”. I just wanted help for him. I wanted to find what I could do to help him get out of this insane merry go round. After a frantic phone call to enquire about rehab, I was told they have to book themselves in and they have to want to quit otherwise it is useless. I was referred to Family Drug Support. At last I had faces I could talk to, people who were going through similar situations as me. I found this very helpful, especially the advice that was given. I learnt that a lot of what I was doing was actually enabling my son to continue his addiction. I was doing too much. While I was helping him financially, this was helping him fund his addiction instead of having to pay bills, cause mum was doing that. I learnt how important it was to set firm boundaries, I learnt how to communicate.

Over time I was able to set boundaries and stop the financial support. David was still adamant not to seek professional help and was struggling big time with the depression and trying to quit. I was beginning to confide in close relatives about him and his younger brother came over and, bless his heart, gave David what I call a Dad talk , pointing out the impact his actions were having on himself and me (at the time David resented him for it).

Little did I know that David had reached rock bottom and finally came to the realisation that self medicating on meths was not the answer. Then, without telling anyone, he actually phoned a friend who had had a similar experience and asked about admitting himself to a mental health facility. He decided not to take it any further and instead stopped the drugs cold turkey.

I was not aware of this at the time and took the brunt of the negative behaviour as he had bad withdrawal depression, telling me he does not care and saying that he hopes he never wakes up and also barricading himself in his room. I kept thinking it was drugs and the situation was hopeless. I was on the verge of kicking him out, and even called a mental health triage for help. I thought I was losing him but he was just coming down. Once again going to Family Drug Support and hearing other stories, getting more advise, helped me hang in there.

Slowly David started coming good as his system became clean. He began visiting his friend, getting regular Centrelink and becoming more social, even eating at the table with me. He has made moves to sort out issues with his ex. He is taking control. He even has a regular job now and he is paying me back.

As time goes by David's spirit is getting stronger. He has quit crystal meths and marijuana. He tells me he has considered taking them but has resisted. He's been 6 months clean. I am so proud that he could do it.

One of the main points I want to make is do not give up. They may not seem to care, but I am convinced that the drugs take away their ability to care. It’s a matter of consistently being there for them, let them know you care.