Losing custody of her children prompted Melanie to seek treatment.
Preferred Name: Melanie
Melanie has five children and lives with her partner and two youngest children but was in residential rehabilitation treatment at the time of the interview. She describes her ethnic background as ‘Samoan Australian’: she and her father were born in Australia and her mother was born in Samoa.
In her teens Melanie began smoking cannabis daily and taking speed and ecstasy with friends. She soon started taking speed regularly, stopping during each of her pregnancies. In her early twenties she was arrested for shoplifting and court ordered to attend alcohol and other drug counselling. At this point she stopped taking all drugs, but after a year she resumed smoking cannabis and began taking ice. Melanie’s children were later removed from her care and she was again arrested and ordered to attend residential rehabilitation treatment. Since being in rehab she’s stopped smoking cannabis and ice, and has no plans to start taking them again.
In her late teens she met her current partner and over the next few years they had three children together. During her pregnancies she stopped taking speed and cannabis but resumed after each child was born. When she was in her early twenties she was arrested for shoplifting and was court ordered to attend alcohol and other drug counselling and to provide drug-free urine samples for one year to avoid being given a custodial sentence. During this time she stopped taking speed and smoking cannabis but when the order ended she began smoking cannabis again and later resumed taking speed. Not long after a friend offered her ice and she began taking it instead of speed. At the time Melanie was working as a cleaner and she says she found that taking ice gave her energy to complete her work. She and her partner also smoked ice after work, which she says helped them with their housekeeping and caregiving responsibilities.
In the year before the interview Melanie began to feel like her ice consumption had become ‘problematic’ as she was spending all her money on it and shoplifting in order to feed her children. After one of their children had an accident and was taken to hospital, her drug use and that of her partner was reported to the government and the children were placed in the care of Melanie’s mother. She says that when the children were removed from her care she felt empty, broken and depressed. She started taking ice every day and stopped going to work. Around this time she was caught shoplifting and was court ordered to undertake residential rehabilitation.
While Melanie felt nervous at first about taking part in a residential rehabilitation program, she says she’s found it helpful to talk openly about her drug consumption with people with similar experiences. She says she now feels excited about her future and plans to put her drug consumption ‘behind’ her, resume her work and regain custody of her children.
When Melanie (F, 26, primary carer for her children, ice) lost custody of her children, she began to think her consumption was no longer manageable and had become ‘problematic’. (Played by an actor)
I thought I had [my ice use] all under control. And the majority of the time I’d just stay awake until I had to do what needed to be done. Like, take the kids to school and stuff like that, and then rest while they were at school […] But yeah, it wasn’t manageable […I realised that] when my kids were taken off me.
[…So yeah, I’d been taking ice on and off] since I was 22 […] but I guess it became problematic within the last year […] After my kids were taken, I […] pretty much lost it. And that’s when I started using pretty much every day for about two weeks. Me and my partner were fighting a lot because we were blaming each other. And then yeah, after, like, two weeks of just abusing the drugs […] we realised that we did have to do something about it.
To help her stop taking ice Melanie changed social circles and spent more time with her family. (Played by an actor)
I got in trouble with the law, and I was placed on an intensive corrections order, so I had to give […] urine [samples] a couple of times a week [and I had to] go to, like, after-care meetings, and do community service and stuff. And that was for 12 months. So I had to stop, otherwise I was going to go to jail [… so] I just hung around people who didn’t use and [I just spent] a lot of time with my family.
And once I’d removed myself from the people that used I think it was pretty easy to stop because it wasn’t in my face, sort of thing. But when I’d run into people who did use or were under the [influence] of drugs, that was a bit triggering […] But then yeah, I’d just try and move past it.
Losing custody of her children prompted Melanie to seek treatment.
After my kids were taken, I sort of pretty much lost it […] I was just empty, you know. I didn’t know what to do […Child protection said] I should look into going into rehab in order to help me to get my kids back […] Everywhere I rang was full so I was just waiting […feeling] pretty broken and depressed.
At the time of the interview Melanie was in residential treatment and said she values the opportunity to learn from others with similar experiences. (Played by an actor)
I think it’s pretty good here, like, I enjoy it. Like, we go to a meeting pretty much every day. Like, we have like relapse prevention […] which is […] how to avoid having a relapse and stuff like that […] It’s good to be able to talk about stuff that you wouldn’t normally talk […] about without getting shunned for it
So, yeah, you know, we have good days and we have bad days, but mostly good […I mean] a good day is where, like, everyone gets along and everyone’s open, and let’s you know how they’re feeling, and you can seek support [from] them if you’re having a bad time […] It’s good to be able to relate to other people’s stories when you thought that you were the only one that was going through it.
For Melanie, recovery involves seeking support and learning to ‘connect with people without the use of drugs’. (Played by an actor)
I think recovery involves a lot of hard work […and] you need to have support […] Yeah, I think you need a good support network, people to call when you’re struggling.
So yeah, I think I’m recovering. I wouldn’t say I’m like fixed or anything […] I’ve still got a lot to learn, like, I’ve got a lot of behaviours that I need to change and it’s just baby steps I guess […I mean, for me, recovery means being] healthy […] and just being able to connect with people without the use of drugs, you know.
Melanie encourages people experiencing issues with alcohol and other drugs to seek help and not give up if they initially struggle to access support. (Played by an actor)
If people are suffering with addiction, [they shouldn’t] be scared to ask for help because there is help out there. You need to find it and it will be worth it. It’ll be hard but it’ll be worth it […] I think [people] need to know that it’s not a walk in the park, you know. You’ve got to fight for it, and you’ve got to really want it […And yeah] I guess persistence pays off [so] don’t give up. Like, [if you] just ring one place and they’re full, well, you’ve just got to keep trying.