After dealing with his daughter’s drug use for over a decade, this father reveals why complete estrangement is now the only option left.
Preview above: What’s it like to be estranged from your family? Insight finds out Tuesday September 17 at 8:30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand.
In the last couple of weeks, David has made a decision many parents would find unimaginable: to cut ties with his 31 year-old daughter, Amy*.
It’s been over a decade since his daughter first began using illicit drugs, mainly the methamphetamine, ice.
“As a father, I’ve had to deal with it for 13 years,” he tells Insight’s Jenny Brockie, as part of the program’s look at what it’s like to be estranged from a family member.
“[It’s] been a roller-coaster ride, a game of snakes and ladders … it’s been a tough road as a parent, and obviously for my daughter, it’s been a tougher road for her.”
For David and his family, Amy’s drug use appears to go against her upbringing and character.
“We’re a close family,” says David. “People who meet her for the first time go, ‘What a beautiful, beautiful girl’, and everyone’s confused, because she’s just a real good kid.”
But over the years, David says her addiction and concurrent mental health conditions have made her behaviour volatile, and often violent. David and his family have supported her through numerous rehabilitation courses, and welcomed her into their homes once she’s completed them.
“It’s like a bit of a three-week cycle: the first couple of weeks she’s fantastic, then you see her just going back to her habits.”
A recent drug-induced incident, in her hometown on the NSW Mid-North Coast, was the line in the sand for David. He asked her to leave his care, and to seek professional help.
“I can’t cope with it anymore myself,” he says.
“The love is always there, I love my daughter, but the respect is gone, the trust is gone, and it’s just been a terrible emotional time for me personally.”
It’s not like a dirty little secret that needs to be swept [away] as a family thing. I think parents have got to get together and get all the support we can.
David is still deeply conflicted by the decision.
“For the first couple of days it was good riddance, and then you start thinking: where is she?”
“Without exaggerating, I go to bed every night thinking, ‘Where is she? I hope she’s alright
“You never let your daughter go."
Amy is just one of 1.3 million Australians over the age of 14 who have used meth/amphetamines at some stage in their lives.
Data provided by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research to this year’s Special Commission of Inquiry into the Drug ‘Ice’ showed a 300 per cent increase over the last decade in amphetamine possession in the area where Amy grew up, and has lived at times since.
Insight spoke with Amy for this piece. She gave permission for her father to speak about her and their family’s experience, but declined to be involved herself.
David is keen to talk about his painful decision in the hope it sheds light on the kind of experience he thinks many families are going through.
“As a society, we need to get strength by communicating,” he says.
“It’s not like a dirty little secret that needs to be swept [away] as a family thing. I think parents have got to get together and get all the support we can.”
*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.