Drug support course helps family

Is someone you love taking drugs and alcohol? Supporting a drug-dependent user is often a long and painful journey.

 There are constant emotional, financial and sadly in some cases, physical challenges. You feel as though you are on your own and that no one can truly understand what you are going through.
Support is hard to come by. People are generally fearful of drug use and can become very judgmental.

 Paula*, a mother, speaks about her experience with people she works with.

“I’ve only had negative judgment,” she said. “No support. The inference is that I must be a bad parent and yet they know me well, they worked with me for a long time. They’re highly intelligent, well-qualified people but their level of compassion is non-existent.”

Family and friends, despite their best intentions, can also be judgmental. This leads to increased shame and stigma. The world becomes a helpless and lonely place and doing it on your own seems like the only option.

Despite all this, you and many others choose to remain connected with the drug user. This takes courage and love.

Research shows that drug users have a higher chance of positive outcome where there is a connection with family and friends. Many current and ex-drug users have bluntly stated that if it wasn’t for this connection, they would be dead by now.

The big question is while you are supporting the drug user, who is supporting you? The good news is there is an established support service in Byron Bay specifically tailored for your needs.

 For over two years, Family Drug Support (FDS), a nationwide non-government and non-profit organisation, has been supporting families and carers in the area.

“With support from local council and services, we started our services in Byron Bay in 2007,” said Theo Chang from FDS.

“Every January, we run our flagship course Stepping Stones to Success – this year’s winner of the Excellence in Prevention and Community Education at the National Drug and Alcohol Award.

“The course brings people with similar challenges together to work on ways to cope better, become more resilient and, ultimately, to survive the journey intact.”

Margaret attended the first course in 2007 and has established a twice-monthly support meeting in Byron Bay.

“Stepping Stones to Success has helped me accept that staying connected does not mean I have to remain helpless and lose myself,” she said.

“Like many others, I thought I was all alone. Having a safe and non-judgmental space to be with others and share in the collective experience and wisdom was a life-changing experience. The support meeting I facilitate provides a similar space.

“What I have experienced and have observed in others is the notion of ‘letting go’.

“This means focusing on what can be achieved and becoming less caught up. Taking responsibility for our own lives and letting the drug user take responsibility for theirs is all part of moving towards a healthier balance.

“Letting go does not mean letting go of love and support.”

Stepping Stones to Success aims to provide a roadmap to the journey.

This map can identify where you are, where you are heading and help you find your way when lost.
“What a truly insightful course. I feel my whole attitude towards the drug user has changed and that I can understand and communicate with them on a deeper level,” said Mary*, a previous course participant.

John*, who completed the course, said he had found all of the two weekends useful in providing him with tools/map to help him survive his journey.

“I learned new skills and realised things that were not right in my life, things I couldn’t change but things I can learn to accept. It opened me up to new ways of seeing and dealing with myself,” he said.

Theo Chang, the course group leader, said the course aimed to increase people’s confidence and competence in managing drug issues
“Better ways of communicating, increasing drug knowledge, valuing yourself more and disentangling your lives from theirs are just some of the ways of creating a healthier environment for change for both the family and the user,” he said.

“The regular support group provided by Margaret adds an extra dimension of ongoing support.

Something that is critical when the journey is often long.”

The course is run over two weekends, January 16-17 and 30-31 from 9.30am-4pm at the Guide Hall in Carlyle Street, Byron Bay.

The cost is $70 and this includes an annual membership to FDS and comprehensive resources and workbook.

Bookings are essential due to limited numbers.

For more information, contact FDS on 02 4782 922 or Theo on 0402 604354.
Support Group is run on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month at the same venue. For 24-hour support, please call the FDS support line on 1300368186.

*Names changed for confidentiality

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