How the Salvos helped one family touched by ice addiction
28 August 2015
"We would lie in bed of a night, not being able to sleep, wondering where Paul was and if he was safe. I would hate nights when it was raining, hoping Paul had found a dry place." – Paul Snr
The depth of pain and confusion that Paul and his wife Rose experienced when they realised that their fun, sports-loving son could possibly be addicted to the drug “ice” was, they say, almost indescribable.
Their son (also named Paul) was from a happy, loving, suburban family. Rose was the stay-at-home-mum and her husband the hard-working, sporting-team coach. This type of tragedy didn’t happen to families like theirs, they thought. It was unimaginable.
“We know now that not long after Paul turned 16 he meet a bloke on the train who introduced him to marijuana, which he was lacing with the drug ice,” Paul (snr) says.
“I don't know why Paul got involved in drugs, whether it was a moment of weakness, immaturity, or the cleverness of the pushers to get him hooked. But nothing could have prepared us for what happened over the (next) five years. Paul started drug counselling and anger management with The Salvation Army Oasis (Hamilton) and Rose and I also spoke to the counsellors. We were told that it may take two to five years for Paul to come through this. They were 100 per cent right.
“(Sadly) this addictive drug ice was changing Paul quicker than we could help him. He was becoming paranoid, angry and aggressive. Rose started to feel afraid of her own son. I can’t describe the pressure the whole family was under as Paul became a stranger to us. Again we turned to The Salvation Army Oasis for help to organise hostel-type accommodation for Paul (who had become a danger to his brother and mother). Paul spent some time in the hostels, but also lived on and off the streets.”
At least once a week, Paul (snr) would desperately search the hostels and streets to find his son, “so he knew that we loved him and if he wanted help to change his life we would do anything to help him do that”.
The family lived in constant fear of a call to tell them Paul had died.
Then, around two years into his addiction, Paul agreed to get help. A Salvation Army team from Oasis prepared a detailed case history for Paul and, because of that, he was accepted into a local rehab service that usually had a long waiting list.
Things went well for three months, but then Paul fell back into addiction.
“Christmas Day 2012 ended with Paul charged with assault on me and he was back on the streets again,” Paul (snr) says.
“Now our once rock-solid family was starting to crumble. Paul was living on the streets as an addict, Liam (his brother) was clearly affected by everything that had gone on over the past two years and my marriage of 26 years was under enormous pressure. We again looked for support from The Salvation Army Oasis and joined a support group for families.”
Paul continued his downward spiral and was eventually arrested in November 2013.
“We attended Paul's Newcastle court appearances and met The Salvation Army court chaplain (Graham Gosling) who helped us get through this next stage,” says Paul (snr).
Paul was imprisoned, then released just before his 21st birthday, and the family noticed a change.
Over the past six months Paul has “turned a corner”, says his father, clean from drugs and living back at home with his family. Paul (snr) says his son has “gone from being an addict who barely recognised me, to our son who hugs me each night when he goes to bed.”
“Even though our extended family wanted to help and were there for us, they couldn’t really help, because they just didn’t understand. But the Salvos knew the feelings we were feeling – the let-down, the disappointment, the despair, the shame and fear.
“From Christine Martin, The Salvation Army counsellor who came to our home in the beginning, through to Graham Gosling, the Newcastle Salvation Army court chaplain, and everyone in between, we will be forever grateful.”