Theo Chang family drug support co-ordinator.
Theo Chang family drug support co-ordinator. Jacklyn Wagner

Dealing with an addict

CHRISTMAS is supposed to be a time when we bond joyously with our families, but for those with loved ones with a drug or alcohol prob- lem it often means no respite from the conflict, as well as acute feelings of shame, guilt and anger.

Drug counsellor Theo Chang, who will be leading the Stepping Stones to Success course for people with a loved one with a drug or alcohol problem next month at Byron Bay, said Christmas and other times of celebration were often especially fraught for families of addicts.

The volunteer organisation Mr Chang works for, Family Drug Support, gets more calls on its 24-hour hotline over the festive period than any other time of year.

Besides the challenging behaviour of the affected family member, often the immediate family of the person with the problem feels upset that their extended family doesn't want the addicted member around due to past embarrassing incidences.

"It's understandable but it still does hurt the immediate family, but also it could be a relief," said Mr Chang. FDS has been running the award-winning course annually in Byron Bay since 2007.

Topics covered over two weekends include setting boundaries, effective communication and coping with shame and stigma.

Jane, a past participant and the mother of a drug dependent son, said undertaking the course had helped her accept that staying connected with her child did not have to mean remaining helpless and losing herself.

"Like many others, I thought I was all alone. Having a safe and non-judgmental space to be with others and share in the collective wisdom and experience was a powerful and life-changing experience," she said.

FDS also runs a support group twice a month in Byron Bay.



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