Rachel’s Story: How SMART Recovery Family & Friends Groups are making a difference
Rachel’s* eldest son Tom* was a sporty, happy go lucky teenager with aspirations to go into the armed forces. By 19 years of age he had started frequenting the local rugby club and was going out to local pubs and clubs. It was then his behaviour started changing and Rachel suspected he might be using drugs. Tom had recreationally used cannabis but then started using Meow Meow (Mephedrone – also known as M-Cat, drone), a popular party drug with the younger crowd.
By 20 years of age Tom was using a wider range of drugs including, MDMA, cocaine, ketamine and amphetamine. Rachel witnessed her son’s behaviour deteriorate with his increased drug use and he lost his job. Tom stole his mum’s car and wrote it off, this led to him being sent to live with his father for 6 months. However his drug use became more extensive and began to include spice. Tom returned home to live with his mum after burning his bridges with his father and grandparents. At this time Tom’s girlfriend was pregnant.
Rachel went on holiday with her husband and younger son. Unfortunately Tom invited his friends around and Rachel’s home became party central. When she returned home the house was ransacked, dirty and damaged. All of Rachel’s jewellery had been stolen and a few other things were missing. Every bit of alcohol in the house had been drunk and Tom and his friends had accessed Wonga loans to pay for their alcohol and drugs. Tom’s girlfriend couldn’t cope with this behaviour and their relationship ended. All of this impacted on Rachel and her family to the point she had a mental breakdown.
Rachel had no option but to put Tom out of the family home again. Tom has since had a number of episodes of living on the streets, being homeless, dealing drugs and living a chaotic life. It was at this stage that Rachel started looking for help for herself and was advised that GDAS provided family support. Rachel accessed 1-2-1 support for a number of months and was encouraged to attend the SMART Recovery for Family and Friends Group.
Rachel pointed out that she wasn’t very keen on the idea of group sessions and she didn’t like it very much to begin with. Rachel highlighted that it made her feel uncomfortable hearing the levels of honesty and other people’s sad stories related to their loved one’s alcohol / drug use.
Rachel decided to persevere with the group because everyone made her feel welcome and she realised that there was no stigma or judgement within the group sessions – just understanding and compassion form the other group members. Rachel identified that she had been attending her local Smart recovery Family and Friends Group for the last 3 ½ years and with reflection made the following observations:
- Year 1 – Rachel thought she absorbed small parts of the theory and began putting a few things into place such as recognising her enabling behaviour and the need for healthy boundaries with Tom.
- Year 2 – Made more sense and Rachel began to put a lot of the sessions into practice and to concentrate on her own needs and the value of self-care, recognising that Tom had to take ownership of his own life and drug use.
- Year 3 – Rachel wanted to give a little back and started helping out by supporting newer members and volunteering to support the group by being trained as a Smart Recovery Family and Friends Facilitator with a view to run her own groups in the future.
Rachel believes the success of SMART Recovery for Family and Friends in helping herself was based in the compassion and empathy of her fellow group members and that the group provides:
- A safe environment to talk about the trauma of watching someone you care about descend into the behaviours of addiction and sabotaging their own lives
- Being able to discuss with each other the difficult times without judgement, as everyone there is dealing with something similar
- Coming to terms with your own mistakes and enabling behaviours and being able to challenge the unfounded guilt associated with your loved one’s substance use
- Listening to other member’s experiences helps you learn from each other
- Building genuine friendships and knowing you are not alone dealing with the ongoing impact of another person’s alcohol or drug dependence.
Rachel stated that the SMART Recovery Family and Friends Group had been instrumental in helping her come to terms with her own son’s poor life choices and continued to be of great value in her life. Rachel ended the interview by stating “I would like you to add that through my journey it has had its peaks and dips and never mind how good life is to always go to group because there’s always the dips and the support you get from the group in these difficult times can be your saving grace. In my experience it can be as drastic as being in such a bad place going and coming out of the group smiling – there’s always hope”.
*All names have been changed for confidentiality
For more information on GDAS, please go to: http://www.gdas.wales/