A Family Christmas- what a difference a year makes!
The fairy wings that Jasmine got for Christmas this week are shimmering in the afternoon light as she poked up over the summit of the plastic slide. At the top she stands up and waves to me. She loves to play on the slide. This is the first time she has insisted on climbing the small plastic steps herself. I am hovering, I know, but I cannot suppress the crippling fear and worry that springs up in me. I was just so used to it from the time she was born.
Life was very different then, as just six weeks after she was born, I was back into the drug scene and trying to score drugs on a daily basis. Todd was not helping. He did not have a job and had not been off the gear the whole time I was pregnant. I was struggling to care for Jasmine and was scared of Todd. He was always so angry. I felt trapped and helpless and chased the high to get away from it all. But Jasmine was crying all the time. One day I came home and she was still in her nappy from the night before and I realised I had not changed it. She was so tired of crying that she was just lying there in the second-hand cot, with dried tear streaks down her cheeks, looking at me with her big eyes. I could not look at myself in the mirror.
My mum and dad threatened to call Family and Community Services if I did not get off the drugs. But I knew I could not just get help for me. Todd needed it as well. He was not interested. He threw his cereal bowl at me and threatened to walk out and not come back the day I brought it up. But Jasmine was more important. If I did not go to Odyssey House, she would be taken away from me. We could enter the program as a family, and live together in one of the family houses. My mum and dad cut off the money and we got another visit from the FACS caseworker. That was enough to convince Todd to give Odyssey a go.
Those first few weeks were hard. Todd was so angry and resentful of being told what to do. The program rules were a bit strange, but the others in treatment helped us through and I began to realise the need for the certainty of a daily routine. Just seeing Jasmine splash in the bath and begin to snuggle into me as I put her down to sleep at the same time each evening soothed my anxiety. Todd took longer to settle down. But over time he grew less angry, although the rules continued to bother him.
Slowly, and with a great deal of encouragement from staff and peers, some of the doubt Todd and I had about our ability to give up drugs subsided. Todd learned he had a talent as a carpenter. He had always fooled around with wood in his dad’s shed but had never pursued this interest. By the end of winter, he was Head of the Woodworking Department, being helped by a staff member. He made Jasmine a rocking horse for Christmas this year. It was incredible to see her face light up when she sat on it and rocked. I never thought we would have a Christmas like this. We are in a safe place with friends and support.
We had a big Christmas lunch with all the residents. The kids from the other families at the Parents and Children’s Program were running around in the summer sun, dashing through the sprinklers and playing in the facility gardens. Our families came for a picnic on Boxing Day. It was the first time I think that my mum and dad were proud of me. The fairy wings were from them. My dad just hugged me when they left. I can’t remember the last time he did that.
I don’t know what would have happened if we had not come to Odyssey. I realised that I can make mistakes and learn from them. I think that Todd and I can now start to talk about why were are together and how we want to be as a family. I am still a bit scared, but I know that if I accept responsibility for my decisions, have the courage to ask for help when I need it, the fear is manageable and I can stay clean. I now think about what Christmas will bring next year. I hope that it is as wonderful as this years.
Shelley’s 2017 Christmas*
*Names have been changed for privacy.