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In this first-person account, a Timaru grandmother tells her harrowing story in response to The Courier reporter Chris Tobin’s article “Our meth problem”, in our October 17 issue, in which Salvation Army addictions caseworker Glenn Smith revealed the prevalence of meth in South Canterbury.

Methampetamine is a very scary, very real problem in Timaru and as a grandmother now raising her 4-year-old granddaughter, I totally agree with Glenn Smith’s statement – a drug that separates a mother from her children has got to be at the extreme level.

I have watched my daughter lose her (rented) home, her car, two children I know she loves dearly, good friends and her very supportive family, go to jail, and get convicted for crimes I never thought her capable of doing. All in 24 months and after she started using meth.

She wasn’t perfect before using meth, but she was living happy, coaching and managing her son’s rugby, was on the school PTA and was raising two happy children.

Once on meth, life spiralled towards gangs, guns, drugs, selling, stealing – and I know she has been through, and seen, some very scary stuff and it is definitely underground.

We, as a family sat on the sidelines, mostly at a loss as to what to do.

Two years ago it wasn’t as openly discussed and we knew nothing about it.

We had no idea how different it was from marijuana or how evil.

Plenty of advice like “she will just have to hit rock bottom,” and “she loves her kids so she will fight for them,” was given at the time; but now I know that what we think is rock bottom isn’t anywhere near enough to stop their craving and that rock bottom gets a lot worse.

My once beautiful, healthy daughter now looks like a skeleton, with “pick” marks, where she’s trying to get the imaginary itchy things in her skin out, bruising where the needles go.

Her eyes are vacant and we don’t hear from her for weeks.

Hearing from her, while painful, is better than not hearing from her at all.

Her two children are now living in separate houses being raised by external family.

Anya Ferris, Glenn Smith and the Salvation Army team are great; their courses are very good for families to begin to understand addiction.

Mandy and the team at Mental Health are very supportive and have a great group for families and friends of addicts.

Tim at the Salvation Army is a huge support for anti-meth and should be applauded for his work fighting it. His story is truly inspiring.

But I agree, we need more help, more education and more assistance and affordable counselling for family members to help with the guilt, the anger, the pain and the loss because we are grieving a lost child ourselves.

People forget that. All they see is the dirty drug.

It’s very intimidating for parents to have to visit a prison for the first time. They need support and there has to be free play-therapy for the children who are facing abandonment or attachment issues. There has to be support also from experts who can help us know what to say when we are holding a sobbing 3-year-old who wants her mummy or who, now at 4, says “my mummy is looking for a house for us and when she finds it she will come get me,” and I don’t know how to answer these questions without doing more damage.

On the goldcard . . . Grandparents are having to raise and support their grandchildren due to the impact of meth addiction on their own children. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

 

There are a lot of families affected by this drug. I know a lot more than the 10 families raising grandkids mentioned in the article.

While there is a support group, it’s either during the day when we have to work to pay these extra bills, or at night when we have no babysitter for the grandchild now living with us.

While some, like myself, are lucky enough to have a lot of family support, others only have themselves. The unsupported child benefit is available, but I never even knew this existed until very recently because there’s no-one to tell you this.

Anya Ferris has to come from Dunedin every few weeks to teach her courses.

Why hasn’t Timaru got people with her skills based here, daily, educating the teens before they pick up that bong or smoke that cigarette laced with meth?

I remember my daughter looking at me in jail saying, “I wish I had never picked up that needle. That is what ruined me.”

Meth is here and it is destroying a lot of people. It’s in Timaru. It’s in your neighbour’s home, and your child’s friend at preschool .. their parents are using it.

I know these people now because for the last two years I have lived in this world and have learned a lot of ugly and very sad things.

At the start I never fully understood what meth was and how destructive it is. Hindsight is a great thing and I really hope your articles open people’s eyes. Thank you for bringing it to people’s attention.