By Luke Voogt
John Wynde says his daughter would never have beaten her heroin addiction without family support.
“Like many people who work in drug and alcohol support I had a family member suffering from addiction,” he told the Indy Tuesday.
“I was so alone – I had just lost my wife to cancer. You feel so powerless and don’t know what to do.”
John spoke to the Indy Tuesday night before running the first session of an “innovative” new program for families of addicts at the Salvos’ Myer Street centre.
“We’re teaching people skills and strategies to cope,” he said.
“The recovery of a substance user is always far more successful if the family is involved.”
John was a teacher in Melbourne when he discovered his daughter’s addiction roughly two decades ago.
His daughter would take “speed for work and heroin to relax”.
“Then the heroin took over and the work began to stop,” he said.
“It’s all you can think about – you feel ashamed and guilty when often it has nothing to do with the family.”
John said the public often labelled people caring for a family member with a drug problem as “soft” or weak”.
“The stigma causes families to feel terribly isolated.”
But when John joined Family Drug Help in 2000 it helped him overcome the isolation and learn how to help his daughter.
“I thought I was the only one but six out of 40 staff (at the school where he taught) had children who were affected by drugs in some way,” he said.
“Ironically, once I told family and friends I felt like a huge weight had lifted.”
His daughter has been off drugs for five years and John now mentors families struggling with addiction.
“She’s OK now – as OK as someone can be who has used drugs for a while,” he said.
“A lot of it was how I’d changed and what I’d learned at Family Drug Help.”
The family support group, which runs the first and third Tuesday of each month, was a first for the centre, said Salvo Connect’s Kate Pearce.
“Unless you are talking to someone who’s been through it, they don’t understand. Let’s be smart about the way we help people.”
She urged families struggling with addiction to phone 9573 1784 for more information.