Mary has watched her 26-year-old son fall into the depths of drug addiction over the past nine years. She's tried to get him help, but she believes the system is broken.
She's been told the average time for people to recover from drug addiction is 20 years, but she's not willing to wait it out.
"We don't believe our son has the luxury of time. At this rate, he'll be lucky to reach 40," she said.
"If there's nothing that can be done, clearly the system doesn't work."
A letter to my son
I have been thinking back when you were a baby, how sweet and innocent you were. When you were born, how so very connected we were.
How I took the greatest care of you. I made sure to keep you safe and healthy. You were such a joy! How you used to have that baby belly laugh was so beautiful.
You were always such an empath. You were also a fiery little redhead with a temper to boot! When things didn't go your way you would scream the house down and the whole neighbourhood knew you weren't happy.
I remember when you turned three and [step-dad] Ross took you fishing. You ran and tripped and fell headfirst into the lake off the edge of the jetty. You could have drowned if he wasn't as quick as he was to grab your foot and lift you out of the water, you most certainly would not be with us today. I remember coming home from work that afternoon and Ross had given you a bath and told me what had occurred! I felt sick as the thought of anything happening to you was unbearable!
Another close call was when you snuck out of McDonalds play area and got outside and walked across the drive through. Ross and I were talking with some friends when a man walked you back inside and looked like a ghost. He said he nearly ran over you! We felt sick with the thought of what could have happened.
You always had an artistic flare. You loved to draw and colour in. You used to organise my fruit bowl when I brought the grocery shopping home. You used to make me lovely cards for mother's day. It was such a beautiful time. I loved your imagination. You used to love dressing up and I thought one day you would grow up to be a comedian or an entertainer.
It was when you were mid-way through high school things started to change. You snuck around. You started stealing our possessions and then money, and then the path of drugs. You were 17 years old when these things started to happen.
I keep asking myself, why didn't you come to me? We were a loving and supportive family. We taught you all how bad drugs were and to stay away from them!
The first thing I did was question whether I was a good parent. Did I give you as much attention as your brothers? I just could not understand why! When the real concerns started taking place, your behaviour changed, you had violent mood swings, and this was not you, it was the drugs. You'd swear at me, walls would be smashed, doors torn off the hinges. You then admitted you had been on ice, along with a whole cocktail of drugs.
For a period of nine years we have ridden this rollercoaster ride.
Ross and I have had absolutely no power to help you. The law says we cannot unless you try to self-harm or harm someone else. So we now plead with you, please let us help you. Nine years is enough! The time has come to put an end to this nightmare.
Our home has always been open to you, but we are not a halfway house. We are also not drug and alcohol specialists. We are not doctors. We are your family that loves you but we do not have the skills to deal with addiction. Please let us take you to get the help you need.
Truth is, we cannot take this anymore of watching the light within you slowly die out. We are watching you slowly die.
We, your family, will be with you to get the help you need and be with you every step of the way. I will take you myself if you would come. We, however, cannot take the stress of watching you deteriorate and unable to do anything. If you decide to continue this path, we have to step back. You have some serious choices to make. It's really quite simple, do you want to live (and I mean really live) or do you want to die? The choice inevitably is yours.
We love you with all our hearts. Always remember that.
With all my love,
- Mary has been trying to get her son help for his drug addiction for nine years
- In the void: New policing model to help struggling families in the ACT
- This is part of a series by the Sunday Canberra Times exploring illicit drug addiction, the impact it has on families and the community, and what's being done to help. Email: email@example.com