A Mother’s Perspective: Carol’s Story

It was early in the afternoon on September 4th 2013 when Carol’s* phone rang. Before that moment Carol had been cleaning the house; she wanted to go out for dinner that night, maybe see a movie. That day started off no different than any other day and now Carol remembers every detail, this is the day her daughter died. The phone call was her daughter’s boyfriend; her daughter had overdosed that morning and passed away.

“Sarah* had left home a long time ago.” said Carol, “We tried for a long time to help her, but she didn’t want it.”

Sarah was the youngest child to Carol and Joseph*; she had two older brothers Jackson* and Aiden*. Sarah lived in Hawthorn for most of her life, went to local schools, played Netball and seemed to have a bright future ahead of her when she was accepted to study Nursing. For the most part Carol believed that Sarah was a happy girl, driven and down to earth.

“We knew she enjoyed going out with friends, drinking on the weekend.” said Carol, “I’m not sure when that escalated to taking drugs. She didn’t become someone different overnight, but eventually she stopped going to her classes and stayed away from home more and more until I came home one day and her things were gone.”

In the last few months leading up to Sarah’s departure, her family had tried to reach out to her. Sarah had become irritable, withdrawn and on some occasions violent. Carol remembers having to lock away valuables, towards the end, once things started to go missing from the house.

“We tried talking to her, encouraging her open up to us the way she used to. Her brothers moved back home to offer more support.” Carol reflected, “We even went to a family therapy session, but she didn’t turn up. We were at the point of finding a rehab for her when she left.”

Carol didn’t hear from her daughter for several months after that. She tried to reach her through Sarah’s friends, none of them had seen or heard from her for nearly a year. Sarah had pushed everyone away from herself.

“I keep looking back over it all and I can’t find the moment we lost her.” said Carol. “She turned up after a few months asking for money. We said no, we just had to.”

From then on Sarah would reappear every few months asking for a place to stay, each time looking less and less like herself. The first time Sarah overdosed was in her old childhood bedroom, it was her eldest brother Jackson who found her. That’s when the family finally discovered Sarah was using heroin.

“I knew she was using drugs, something dangerous, is just hoped it wasn’t that one.” Carol said, “When she woke up she was distraught, she wanted to die. That’s when we got her to agree to a detox program.”

Sarah left the detox after three days and the family lost contact with her again. She stopped turning up at the house and only replied to her family here and there assuring them she was fine. Her brothers tried to find her, but never could. Carol and Joseph never gave up, to them Sarah was still their little girl.

“No matter how many times she stole from us or hurt us I never stopped loving her.” said Carol, “She was my baby girl, I was out of my depth and she didn’t want our help.”

Sarah passed away while her boyfriend was out scoring for them. She was 22. Carol spent a long time after Sarah’s death looking for answers to why her daughter went down that path. Today, Carol has put it to rest.

“I don’t know what led her to that place, whether something so awful happened she felt she had no choice or she just got hooked and couldn’t stop”, said Carol, “What I know is that she was my daughter, even to the end.”

Carol and Joseph have since moved to Sydney, they donate a lot of time to working with young people struggling with drug addiction. Sarah’s brothers both work in the field as counsellors. The family, though devastated and throughly changed by the experience, remain close and dedicated to helping addicts and their families any way they can.

“I’ve seen myself in so many mothers and I see Sarah in the addicts I work with today. You see these things on the news, hear these stories that depict addicts as ‘monsters’ or ‘criminals'” said Carol, “My daughter wasn’t either of those. She was lost, she was in pain and she couldn’t stop. There isn’t a day where I don’t think about her, but I know she’s at peace now. And I will continue to do what I can to help the next addict.”

*Names changed to protect the identity.

Written by Bec Edwards, Realdrugtalk