Earlier in Nick’s life we didn’t realise he had dyslexia and other learning difficulties. He was in a supposedly top school in the state but they weren’t interested in helping him. He was put in the ‘too hard’ basket and was ostracised. And Nick felt that. In hindsight, that’s when all the trouble began …
I didn’t realise for quite a long time that when I dropped Nick at the school gate he’d walk out the back gate and spend the day smoking marijuana with his friends. Then he started arriving home from school a little later and a little later. Four o’clock became five o’clock and then 9 or 10pm. I’d drive around the streets looking for him.
He was using drugs and drinking for three years before I realised what was going on – then our cleaner found marijuana in his room. Now I know the signs – your child gets into trouble at school, they drop out of sport and activities they used to enjoy, they change friends and don’t spend as much time with the family. Nick has a soft spot for his grandparents and he even stopped listening to them. They don’t respect anyone any more because the drug rules their life and in some ways they are not your child any more. You’re dealing with a beast.
I tackled the problem aggressively at first – you think if you are demanding and controlling you can put your child back into place. You try and ground them but they climb out windows. They have no boundaries.
I took away his phone and one day I became so frustrated that I threw his computer out of a window. Nothing I was doing was helping him and I was so frustrated.
I tried to get help through schools but ended up getting some recommendations from our church. I called Youth Support and Advocacy Service, who went through Headspace, and they called Odyssey House.
I took Nick to psychologists but you need to find them a place that helps kids with an alcohol problem, or kids with a drug problem. They need to find a counselor they relate to.
And I now know that love and understanding works. It’s the hardest thing to do to be kind when your kid is off his face and swearing at you. But it’s like talking to a child of three or four who is having a tantrum – you have to stay calm and give them love.
If you become aggressive, they run further away. If you make them feel guilty, they drink more or take more drugs. Drama makes it all worse. Kindness and support draws your child closer to you.
There are always underlying problems. You’ll be surprised what secrets you child hides, before it’s too late. We live in a society where we respect a child’s privacy – I think you need to snoop a little. You need to know what’s going on – in their mobile phone, Facebook, diaries – and what they are hiding in their closets. That could save their future or their lives. If it wasn’t for our cleaner finding Nick’s drugs or alcohol, I would still be in the dark about it.
Don’t think this could never happen to your child and your family. It can. So education about drugs and alcohol and how it may affect your child is important. If it does happen, you need professional help as a parent too. There may be times when your child is off the rails and to cope you might start drinking or taking medication yourself, and that doesn’t help.
After rehab Nick was doing fantastic and although he has relapsed now, it isn’t as bad as before he went to rehab. I can see positive signs and I will support him to get the help he needs.”
Felicity is Nick’s mum. Nick bravely contributed his story too, you can read it here.
* Names have been changed to protect the persons identity.
Felicity*, Nick’s* mum, was originally interviewed by Sarah Marinos