Support group a positive for addict's family

STEVE is not particularly religious but until he started living by that creed the successful Launceston businessman's life was a wreck.

Steve's daughter has been an ice addict for four years.

"Family and friends are the collateral damage in drug addiction," he says.

"The tortured rollercoaster ride of being a parent with a drug addicted child is full of pitfalls that hurt each in their own way.

"You inwardly beat yourself up," he said. "Was it us as parents, did we do something wrong?

"The relentless heart to hearts pointing out the dangers of drug use, the dire consequences all fail.

"You think to yourself, do others know?

"What do you say in the street when you meet a friend who asks after the family?" Steve said.

"`Do you they know?' You think, what will I say?"

Then you listen to the success stories of other children at university, or starting a career or having their own kids.

All things your child doesn't have because they're trapped in a cycle of addiction.

Then as parents you become "enablers - allowing your childs addiction to continue when that's the last thing in the world you want.

"Family and friends are the collateral damage in drug addiction,"

Steve, whose daughter is an addict

"We pay their rent, their bills and buy them food thinking `this will come right, as long as we love them and support'," Steve said.

"We lie for them, cover up at their work, school or college."

The cycle drove Steve to hit rock bottom.

His daughter's addiction became his addiction, taking over every aspect of his life.

"You withdraw, gripped by shame and embarrassment," he said.

"You watch in helpless despair as someone you love gradually destroys themselves.

"Your hopes get up when things improve. Then it all comes crashing down again. Each time, lower and lower, dragging it with you."

Chatting over a coffee, Steve is a different person to the one who would burst into tears out of nowhere or fantasised about punching the daylights out of his daughter's drug dealer. He came to realise the three Cs.

"You learn to understand - I didn't cause it, I can't cure it and I can't control it," he said.

He came to this understanding only after talking to people in the same situation.

When he went to seek help, he found there wasn't much in the way of support for families or partners of drug addicts.

So he started his own support group based in Launceston and the only one in Tasmania as far as he's aware.

The group sessions are a great unburdening of guilt, hopelessness, confusion and "enormous pressure".

"Nobody is judgemental everybody is going through the same thing," he said.

Steve said it helped get back his confidence and his health which was deteriorating. It also helps the addict.

"You can't be of long term help to them if you're buggered," he said.

"And when you change yourself, the addict is dealing with a changed person and that can force them to change."

Nar-Anon Family Drug Assistance is a free, confidential service for the family and friends of drug users.

It meets the second and fourth Tuesday of each month at Maggies Cafe Pilgrim Centre 35 Paterson Street between 7pm-8.30pm.

Call 0419879696 or go to

Identities have been changed.


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