My name is Suzanne, and I am a mother.
I’d like to share with you a difficult time in my family’s life and for that, I need to start in the middle.
My teenage daughter who I have always had a close and loving relationship with had become distant and withdrawn. As she was sleeping one night, I went to her cellphone and saw conversations with her and another young person. They were talking about doing cocaine that very night.
As a mother, it was the lowest point in my life.
People think that kids who develop substance abuse issues come from families where they’re not cared for or that they are not disciplined. I think that was one of the biggest shocks for us. As parents we had always cared for our children and had always taught them the difference between right and wrong.
Let me tell you a bit more about our family…
I’d like to describe our family as a normal, loving Canadian family. Both my husband and I came from close families of parents, brothers and sisters. We spent a lot of time with each other so we tended to model that same parenting style. Our girls were always our priority. When they were growing up we went on family vacations frequently. We ate dinner together every night. As they got a little older, both of our girls got involved in basketball. Our youngest daughter, Laura, loved the outdoors, loved playing sports, and was very good in school. Life was normal for us. Until she was about fifteen years old.
Then everything changed.
She was sixteen years old and I had started noticing her eating habits change. She would miss meals and say she had eaten earlier. She admitted to feeling overweight even though she was 5’ 9” and only 110 pounds. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with an eating disorder and then, with generalized anxiety disorder.
I remember feeling like this wasn’t happening. How could this be?
At the same time, she told us that she desperately wanted to change high schools. So we switched high schools to help her out. But within the first few months, she wasn’t coming home after school. We didn’t know her friends anymore. A short while later, she began skipping classes and her behaviour changed again. My husband and I knew there was something going on but we didn’t exactly know what it was.
Until one day…
She had left her cellphone unattended. She never put her phone down. I went over and picked it up and looked at the screen. It was a series of texts she had been having about doing cocaine with someone else that night.
I woke her up and said to her, “We have to talk”.
When we told her what we had discovered on her phone, she didn’t get that upset. It was almost a relief to her that we found out. We knew we needed to do something. I called the police and we went to the hospital but we didn’t find the help we needed.
It was when I spoke to the student advisor at Laura’s high school that we finally found our answer. She told us to contact the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre. It was a place I had never heard of before. But I reached out because I didn’t know where else to turn. I was desperate to help my daughter. After that call, everything started falling into place. Knowing that there was someone there to help our family was just incredible.
The Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre started with the basics. They fed her extremely well. They made sure she got her rest, got her exercise and that she was being educated on what drug use could do to her in the short term and long term. Suddenly my daughter was getting therapy and learning how to communicate in positive ways. They were teaching her what a healthy lifestyle was. It was life changing.
Then her graduation ceremony arrived.
The staff at the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre prepared her and us for what to expect after her residential treatment. Even when we brought her home, we were prepared for a potential relapse and how to deal with it, if and when it should happen. But it didn’t happen and we got through it together.
Now my daughter is a different person. She expresses her feelings a lot more. She’ll even tell us when we say or do something she doesn’t like. I know that may be hard for some parents to hear but I welcome it because to us, it’s a sign of her feeling good about herself, her being in a good place.
She’s now in university.
It is one thing to start university but it is another to pass courses. She’s now in second year and that’s a huge step forward. And she loves school. And life with our daughter is now filled with joy. We laugh a lot. We can talk about things that are bothering us without feeling that we’re walking on eggshells. I must admit that even to this day, I still have apprehension. Maybe it will be with me until the day I die. At the same time I try to focus on all the great things she’s done.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. Let me take this opportunity to wish you the happiest of holidays – however you celebrate. It is a time full of joy and love and yes, family.
Before I sign off, I would like to ask you to donate to the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre because you’re not only saving a youth – just like my daughter – but you’re also saving the future. Your support helps to keep a child off of drugs, off the street or possibly worse, dying from an overdose. Please donate today.
P.S. There are some wonderful videos that have been done and that will tell you more about youth facing substance abuse and mental health issues. When you have time, please have a listen.