“She was quite rebellious,” Sarah* smiles as she recalls her then, teenage daughter.
“She had a mind of her own, into music, dark clothes, we knew she was going to be different when she got older.”
By the age of 21, Amy had become a full blown ice addict, living with a dealer in Melbourne.
Sarah, who was quietly watching her daughter’s erratic behaviour grow, said she had never heard of crystal methamphetamine.
“I didn’t know that ice and crystal meth and all the other names it had were one drug and there were different ways to smoke it.
“I’d never smoked drugs ever and no one in my family had.
“I was pretty naive.”
When in the grip of the drug, Amy would answer her mother’s calls, telling her she’d been up cleaning all night and working hard, always quick to get off the line.
But one morning, Amy spoke to her mother for two hours and confessed.
“She ended up saying to me, ‘I have to tell you the truth, I’ve been doing drugs’.
“I thought it was just something pretty low-key, then she said, ‘no I’ve been taking ice and I need to come home, tell the rest of the family and I need help.”
Sarah was reasonably positive about Amy’s disclosure, thinking giving up the drug would just be as simple as giving up smoking.
But the day after returning home and telling her family, Amy took off back to Melbourne, leaving many questions still unanswered.
Sarah tried to call her daughter, but on the rare times Amy would pick up, she would struggle to get any sense out of her.
“I was still naive – still not knowing how deep she was into it.
“I knew her partner at the time was using it, but it took a little while for us to realise there was a reason she wasn’t making contact.”
Two months later, Amy came home only to flee back to Melbourne again, her appearance causing increasing awareness with her family that something was seriously wrong with her.
“She looked shocking,” Sarah said bluntly.
“She had scabs all over her face…her arms, she was scratching all the time.
“She was very thin, no fat, no muscle, just skin and bone.
“Her hair was dry and lank and dirty looking, she had big black circles under her eyes.”
Paranoid from her constant drug use, Amy told her family she had hidden her mobile phone because she thought there were people going through her messages.
After her daughter again fled back to Melbourne, Sarah described the following six week period as one of the worst times of her life.
“I felt like I was in the middle of a bad movie… I had no idea whether she was alive or dead.”
Amy no longer answered her phone and her mother had to ask a friend of hers for her daughter’s address.
She rang police and begged them to find her, but they said their hands were tied and they could not help her.
Sarah hoped police would arrest her daughter, as she believed she would be safer in custody.
“I thought it was better that she was arrested and go to jail than die from taking the drugs.”
Sarah spent those six weeks in a depressed state and constantly in tears, feeling the burden on her shoulders.
“I had no idea what to do – I was totally lost.”
Amy had moved in with an ice dealer, abandoning her old flat, leaving her mother to have to travel to Melbourne to clean it out and pick up her daughter’s possessions.
“I cried the whole weekend, the way over, the way home.
“I felt like I was packing up her life and saying good bye…like she had died and I was never going to see her again.”
At this point, she began grieving for her lost daughter.
“Not because she had died but because I expected her to die.
“I’d seen what she was like, her behaviour, she wasn’t healthy, she was aggressive.
“I didn’t think she’d get back to being the person she was before.”
“We were hiding all sorts of things.”
“It was September when we got her out for the last time,” recalls Sarah.
Travelling to Melbourne to pick up her daughter, Sarah searched high and low for a detox centre that would take her, or that the family could afford.
“We found one place in Melbourne that could get her in straight away but wanted a deposit of $6,000. We just couldn’t afford that.”
Amy had seen two counsellors in the South East but could not get further treatment locally.
Eventually finding a place at Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital that would take her in a week’s time, Sarah said her daughter was at this point determined to give up her toxic lifestyle.
But the family watched her closely, hiding anything that could enable a return to Melbourne.
Sarah slept with Amy’s phone under her pillow, so she couldn’t get it to ring her former partner.
“We were hiding all sorts of things – money and the car keys so she couldn’t take off.”
Amy was supposed to remain at the detox facility for weeks, but counsellors said she was ready to go after just a few days of intensive group and one-on-one therapy.
Returning home to Mount Gambier, Amy made plans to move to a small town in country Victoria.
“She wanted to start again, get clean, get work and build a life with new friends who weren’t going to get her into trouble.”
Years passed and Sarah said she saw a huge change in her daughter, particularly when she fell pregnant to her new partner.
“She just started to glow, she was happier than I’d seen her for a long time.
Amy was doing all the right things while pregnant, said Sarah, eating well and stopping smoking.
“She was very clucky – it was beautiful.”
When Amy’s daughter was born, Amy devoted her life to her baby girl, and seemed content with her new life.
Each year, Sarah sent a text message to Amy – on the anniversary of the day she got clean.
“I always remembered the anniversary when she got out of Melbourne.
“It was a big deal to me that she had come clean and I always wanted to remind her because it was about her birthday.”
Sarah didn’t know one year after sending her message of support, that Amy had smoked ice two days before. Sarah didn’t learn the truth for another year.
Amy’s behaviour began to become erratic again, her visits home rare.
When she did come home to Mount Gambier, her parents saw that Amy was losing weight.
Sarah said she didn’t want to believe the obvious.
“Probably the first six months afterwards, we were double checking everything that she told us.
“It just seemed too easy that she’d come clean cold turkey.”
Sarah had made up her mind to question her daughter about her strange behaviour when she went to visit her one day.
Amy confessed to her mother that she was smoking crystal methamphetamine again on a regular basis.
“I was sad… betrayed that she was doing that, lying again.
“This time I didn’t think she was in it as deep as before.
“I thought it was just an occasional smoke.”
“Disappointed, disgusted, angry.”
One day Amy called her mother saying said she had to leave town because the police had raided her house looking for stolen goods and her partner was involved in criminal activity.
Sarah took Amy home and found out the true extent of Amy’s drug use, including the news that her partner had been dealing.
“When I found out I was really disappointed, disgusted and angry that she would do that when she had a little girl in the house.
“That she would go back to taking drugs when she knew how it affected her life before.”
Sarah threatened to take her granddaughter away.
“I said to her, ‘if you don’t get clean, I will go to the courts and take her off you, because you don’t deserve her’.”
“We’re starting to trust each other again.”
Amy has now been clean for six months but Sarah said she is aware her daughter will forever be in danger of returning to her previous life.
“She’s a drug addict and she knows she’s a drug addict.
“She just has to take it day-by-day.”
As time continues, their relationship is healing and growing.
“We’re starting to trust each other again.
“I think she knows now that she can come to me with anything, she really can’t shock me anymore.
“I want her to be happy and healthy and I want her little girl to have a happy life.
“I try not to preach to her, but to see her blossoming now is the best thing in my life.”
Sarah hopes the counselling course Amy has been accepted into will teach her how to deal with the stresses of daily life, something that her daughter had struggled with before.
Sarah says she now understands the motivators behind her daughter’s addiction.
“Sometimes she has things going on in her life which just get the better of her and she goes back to the drugs.
“That’s how she handles stress and tension.
“We’ll be watching, we’ll be aware of it this time, if it ever happens again.
“There’s nothing she could do to make me push her away.
“I love her too much, I would hate to see it happen but I would stand by.
*Names have been changed to protect identities.