It's been a few weeks since I last blogged, life has been really hectic for Teen Challenge Tasmania and I have experienced so much, I'm still trying to process it all. The progress on our first Women and Children's centre, Home of Hope, is really beginning to gain some exciting momentum.
The day that we can offer a place for women young and old, pregnant women and mums with kids a safe place to face their addictions and rebuild their lives, to a new life of freedom, success and significance is coming closer here in Northern Tasmania.
However, despite our excitement of these developments, I have been struck by two things I have heard repeatedly in separate instances recently, that people are being told by agencies somewhere out there and I'm struggling to understand the rationale.
1. The ICE problem is nowhere near as bad as the media make it out to be... 2. ICE is not as addictive as people think.....
Hmmm.....recent experience is painting me quite a different picture and so I thought I'd explore it a little more with you.
Last week we visited Teen Challenge Western Australia's, Grace Academy, with local Tasmanian MP, Mr Brett Whitely. We had the privilege of meeting with many young and not so young students in the centre choosing to fight through their addictions and to the deep issues the drugs are masking, to break free and confront the consequences of their choices.
We heard from two graduate students Nathalie & Ben, about their own personal struggles with drug addiction. Their journey from cigarettes to cannabis to more deadly drugs including ICE. The utter destruction of their worlds and that of their families. How they had reached their lowest of low points, where they reached out for help and by the grace of God where directed to and entered Teen Challenge.
There weren't too many dry eyes in the room as they spoke from the heart, of their battle to freedom and how they have reclaimed their lives and are now successful members of society. They're making a significant impact on other peoples lives as they give back through Teen Challenge WA as staff members now, helping others with addictions, fight their own battles.
Mr Whitely held a question and answer time with the students and the questions were fundamentally to a point - with the ICE epidemic, that they have personally experienced out there, with ICE so available and given free to young kids to get them hooked, what is the government planning to do about it?
A complex question that Mr Whitely shared, is exactly what the government is deliberating and consulting right now with the findings from the recent ICE Taskforce and it's going to need a united front from Federal Government, State Governments, Communities, Services and agencies to combat and try and find a pathway through.
Just before leaving WA, Pete and I had a meal with family members, a catch up and breather from all we'd been doing in relation to Teen Challenge and visiting other rehabilitation centres and meetings towards this end. A little meal in Leederville, WA, would be just the ticket before the flight home early next morning, a break from it all.
Then we met "Elvis", well not the real Elvis but a pretty good likeness and he was entertaining some of the diners with Elvis songs. My husbands sister is quite fond of Elvis and so it was with delight that Elvis came and crooned at our table. During our talk with him after the singing we invited him to sit with us for a little while and talked to him and then our hearts broke as we learnt his story.
You see he had a son, who took his own life at 30 years of age almost a year to the day. He was a very handsome, strong young man by the photos he showed us, a really loving boy by his recollections - until he hit relationship troubles and he found ICE to deal with his hurt.
ICE took away all his pain and made him feel better. He was addicted as soon as he tried it. He lost his job, his possessions to fund his habit, he stole from his parents, their loving boy became violent and extremely unpredictable towards them. He stepped into crime to fund his addiction and then he faced prison as a consequence of his choices.
Elvis told us his son had a choice before he went to prison - he was offered a place at Teen Challenge, WA, a path to freedom, albeit a very hard, tough path or go to prison, an easier choice, he didn't have to face his real problems there, an easier path for some. When he came out of prison he was completely lost to them, a very different man, they couldn't reach him.
He returned straight back into ICE and spiralled so deeply into his addiction they didn't recognise him. The lows from ICE had him so depressed and desperate that he decided to escape it all and took his own life last year.
As Elvis relayed this with tears rolling down his face, a broken man, lost his only son and if he didn't have his faith which he clearly did, then he too may be completely lost, as it is he's grieving heavily.
As Elvis left us, amongst heavy hearts and hugs, he also left us with a statement that is true, "He made his choices and he had his consequences, I didn't make those choices for him." Elvis will be ok in the end, he's not losing himself in guilt, he truly did his best for his son. However he did not make his son's choices, that was his son's responsibility.
As Elvis left the building, Pete's son looked at us both and said "Well if you were looking for confirmation, if what you guys are doing is the right thing, then you just got it loud and clear". I was thinking exactly the same thing, his story is not new to us, we hear it every day, the names and faces may be different, but the story is the same. This problem is everywhere and it effects most people.
Everyone I speak to has in some way been touched by this ICE spectre. Then it struck me perhaps a lot of the agencies can only work on actual statistics as hard evidence. This young man wouldn't have been an ICE statistic in the scheme of things, even his crime was driving without a license, not actually a drug offence. His suicide would probably not be accredited to his addiction but more his depression, a result of his addiction.
This is not an isolated case. As more and more people become desperate to help their loved ones, more and more stories come to the surface, which of course the media will publish it makes good ratings. There's clearly going to be a divide between the reality and the recorded, time will catch it up, but do we really have time for that?
No questions at a government level, as to the severity of the situation, the ICE Taskforce enquiry tells you that, nor from the users themselves - the ICE situation is serious and it is everywhere. The users themselves tell you how addictive it is, they are hooked first time and its cheap - actually even free for some, to get you hooked by the dealers then they own you from there in your desperation you'll do anything for your next hit.
So is there hope from all this doom and gloom?
The simple yet difficult answer is YES, there is hope. If someone reaches the point they realise they are in trouble and they seek help there is hope. People can be educated in ways of "raising the bottom" for addicted loved ones and bring that stage much sooner than absolute rock bottom. Our kids can be educated to the real effects of drugs, real consequences and in harm prevention rather than harm minimisation.
They can be bolstered to understand the desire to try drugs with peers is really a cry from the heart, due to other issues, for example, low self-esteem, low confidence, distorted self-images, low sense of worth, generational issues and so much more, they just want to find their place in life and often its easier taking the easy path, drugs and alcohol is easy.
They can learn to recognise this for what it really is and how to take steps to resilience, empowerment to help themselves and their fellow peers and even become positive change agents in their homes and communities. Truly have an enormous impact on the future of our society.
I have enormous passion for young people's futures. Futures free of addiction in all its forms, successfull futures of significance to themselves and our society.
Teen Challenge Tasmania is creating a new approach to our young people in this regard and will be working through "Not even once" Drug Prevention Forums soon in Northern Tasmania initially, to High School Students and parents, teachers and community members alike, in the first step to try and combat this. However we believe this should be a National approach.
Followed by in school programs to develop students resilience in these areas, to build the strength and character to say NO and be cool with that choice. To work alongside kids as they develop and roll out community initiatives to change our culture and turn the tide on the need for drugs and masks. This will be a generational change of our future to one filled with hope.
So you're probably thinking that's very idealistic of you, not realistic at all!
Well, you walk by putting one foot in front of the other and to reach your destination you continue with this purposefully until you get there. I believe our kids are worth it - don't you?
If you need to talk with someone about a situation you're facing with a loved one or even if you would like to learn how you could help in this movement then contact us at Teen Challenge Tasmania.