Empowering Lives Through Lived Experience

Mary’s son lost his life due to a heroin addiction. She’d been through decades of struggles with her daughter’s drug addiction, which has lasted over 30 years, and her grandson used cocaine while living with her. She provided her daughter with money to pay for drugs, causing significant financial losses and strained relationships within the family. Mary reached a breaking point eventually leading her doctor to refer her to Addiction Family Support (AFS).

“Over 30 years, my daughter’s drug addiction persisted, and despite my misguided love, I enabled her financially, leading to losses, blacklisted credit score, and even becoming a guarantor and settling her unpaid rent. Supporting her and her three children financially cost me over £50k and resulted in losing my house and relationship.

Amidst this harrowing journey, I faced numerous episodes of trauma, panic attacks, sleeplessness, and suicidal thoughts. The continuous pain from an accident, my daughter’s outbursts in a car park and my grandson’s drug use at home brought me to a breaking point. Recognising the severity of the situation, a doctor advised me to contact AFS.”

Mary | AFS Client & Volunteer

Experience with Addiction Family Support (AFS)

Upon discovering AFS, Mary initially felt ashamed and guilty, believing that her daughter’s addiction was somehow her fault. However, AFS’s helpline and support group became her lifeline. AFS helped Mary understand the nature of addiction, the hold drugs have on people, and how to establish healthy boundaries. She learned to recognise that her family’s choices were not her responsibility and that she should not bear the guilt for her family’s actions.

“Initially, I felt ashamed and embarrassed, burdened by guilt, believing it was my fault that my loved ones were trapped in the clutches of addiction. However, seeking help from AFS’s helpline and support group marked a turning point in my life. Through their guidance, I gained profound insights into the effects of drugs and their powerful hold on individuals. I learned the importance of setting boundaries and realised that, out of misguided love, I had been enabling my daughter for years, futilely attempting to fix her struggles while shouldering immense guilt. AFS gave me a crucial understanding: it was their guilt to bear, not mine.”

Mary | AFS Client & Volunteer

Journey of Support and Empowerment

Throughout her journey with AFS, Mary experienced significant breakthroughs. For the first time, she began prioritising self-care without feeling guilty. Engaging in activities like getting a dog and having a memory box for her deceased son became sources of healing and strength. AFS taught her the importance of taking time and recharging her batteries. She learned to accept that she could not change her daughter but could support her own well-being.

“I have embarked on an unprecedented journey of self-care, unburdened by guilt, and finally allowing myself the time I deserve. I even adopted a dog, gibing me newfound companionship and healing. Creating a memory box for my beloved departed son has been a source of solace, connecting me with compassionate individuals who truly understand the pain of loss and providing mutual courage and strength. AFS has been instrumental in guiding me to prioritise self-care, reassuring me that stepping back and recharging my own batteries is acceptable. The fog that once clouded my perspective has lifted, allowing me to see my daughter’s addiction more clearly. Though I continue to love her, I now comprehend that I cannot change her, as she does not seek change.

Each day remains a struggle, but I have evolved into a different person. My nights are no longer tormented by guilt, and I find peace in my heart. The support I received from AFS feels like a warm, comforting, and reassuring embrace. Understanding that it is not my guilt to bear but that of those affected by addiction has been transformative.

My first call with AFS proved more beneficial than six months of counselling, equipping me with knowledge about drugs and their effects, setting boundaries, and addressing the complexities of addiction. In this journey, I found solace in Liz’s book (Mum Will You Lend Me £20?), realising that I am not alone, surrounded by others who share similar experiences and understand our challenges.”

 

Mary | AFS Client & Volunteer

Transition to Volunteering

Inspired by her transformation through AFS’s support, Mary volunteered on the helpline. With three months of training, including IT skills, role-playing, writing exercises, and shadowing other calls, Mary transitioned from a client to a volunteer. Her desire to give others hope and help them understand that recovery is possible motivated her to take up this role.

“I am well-acquainted with the challenges of bereavement and addiction, and now, I aspire to inspire others by showing them that there is hope beyond these struggles. My ultimate goal is to give people hope and let them know they can overcome adversity.

As a volunteer, I continue to support individuals in their recovery journey. Through this work, I gain a deeper appreciation of how far I have come on my journey. Although some days may be challenging, being part of the helpline reinforces my progress and reminds me of the positive impact I am making in the lives of others.”

Mary | AFS Client & Volunteer

Personal Growth and Resilience

As a volunteer, Mary dedicates two to three hours twice a week to the helpline, supporting families affected by their loved one’s addiction. Her personal experiences and understanding make a significant impact on those she speaks with.

“Devoting two to three hours twice a week to the helpline, I connect with individuals seeking support. My conversations with these people make a profound difference in their lives. One of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering is knowing that my lived experience enables me to understand their struggles truly.

In one particularly heart-warming instance, a woman in a desperate state expressed that without the support she received, she wasn’t sure she would still be here today. Such testimonies remind me of the immense value and impact of the helpline, reinforcing my commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of others.”

Mary | AFS Client & Volunteer

Personal Reflections

Looking back at her journey, Mary sees a remarkable transformation. She is no longer lost in the challenges of her loved one’s addiction. Through volunteering, she finds reassurance that she is not alone and that the charity’s work changes lives positively. Establishing boundaries has empowered her, providing more control over her life.

“Before seeking support from AFS, I was engulfed in the chaos of my loved one’s addiction, feeling like I was drowning in their struggles. However, through the guidance and care I received, I am gradually reclaiming my sense of self and starting to feel like my old self again. AFS’s transformative impact is evident in the lives of countless individuals, including myself. The support and understanding they provide change people’s lives for the better. Establishing boundaries has been empowering, giving me back a sense of control over my life. It allowed me to step away from the horrendous lifestyle that wasn’t my choice and focus on my well-being.

Participating in the AFS support groups has reassured me that I am not alone. Knowing that many others are in the same boat, facing similar challenges, offers a sense of camaraderie and community. While I have transitioned into a volunteer role, I am grateful that I can still seek help and be reassured that I am considered both a volunteer and a client if I ever need the services again. AFS’s unwavering support remains available whenever I require it.”

Mary | AFS Client & Volunteer

Impact and Recommendations

Mary perceives her volunteer work as profoundly impactful. Her recommendation to others seeking support from the charity is to reach out and talk to someone. Connecting with others and understanding the nature of addiction can be highly beneficial. She emphasises that individuals cannot fix their loved ones and should focus on self-care and supporting their loved ones in their recovery journey.

“Whether it’s picking up the phone, speaking to someone, or sending an email, the more you talk, the more you understand, and that’s what truly helps you heal. AFS’s support is available 365 days a year, assuring you that you are not alone in your struggles. One of the most profound realisations I’ve gained is that you cannot fix your loved ones; they must embark on their path to healing and recovery. While it may be challenging to accept, focusing on your well-being and letting them take responsibility for their lives is essential.

No matter your age or circumstances, it’s never too late to change your life. Even at 75, I have experienced transformation and newfound hope through AFS’s support. Their compassionate guidance has shown me that it’s never too late to seek help and begin a journey of healing and personal growth.”

 

Mary | AFS Client & Volunteer

Conclusion

In conclusion, Mary’s story showcases the transformative power of AFS’s support in the life of a client who eventually became a volunteer. Through AFS’s services, Mary learned to navigate the challenges of addiction and its impact on families. By empowering herself, she now dedicates her time to empowering others, offering hope and understanding to people in similar situations. AFS’s dedication to supporting families affected by harmful use of alcohol, drugs or gambling has positively changed countless lives, including that of this client turned volunteer.

“AFS has been a beacon of hope, providing transformative support and understanding that has changed my life forever.”

Mary | AFS Client & Volunteer

Insights