Addicted Australia - Episode 2
The Addicted Australia documentary series takes cameras into the lives of ten Australians and their families, to show real stories of addiction. Each of the ten participants have enrolled into a unique and bespoke treatment program, developed by Turning Point, to access holistic care and support, recover and get on with their lives.
Last night was the second of four episodes of SBS’ Addicted Australia and this week the focus was on the support network of the ten participants undergoing treatment. Episode two portrayed the impact that dependency issues can have on the broader network of affected individuals with friends and family members opening up about their experience of supporting loved ones through the difficult and misunderstood health condition.
For every person suffering from addiction an average of seven people close to them are affected and in this episode some of the families attended a family peer support group run by Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) to talk about this.
“It’s a really big step that you are taking and one that families are so reluctant to do, yet we know that families getting support can actually change the length and severity of the addiction.”
Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC)
Unfortunately, our current system doesn’t specifically cater to families who are often an important part of the recovery journey. Angela also explained that it’s important for families to recognise the toll that their loved ones’ addiction takes on them, and that they need to take time to look after themselves.
But as some audience members pointed out, not everybody is fortunate enough to have a support network. That’s why helplines, peer groups, clinical sessions can be so important in recovery.
The danger of saying ‘just stop’
Episode two also challenged the prevailing misconception that people with addiction ‘should just stop’. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we heard in episode one, nobody wakes up one day and decides to become addicted. Similarly, treating addiction is not about flipping a switch, it’s about addressing the underlying causes such as trauma and isolation. One of the main problems with the ‘just stop’ mentality is that it can worsen the shame and isolation experienced by the affected individual and prevent them from seeking help.
“We don’t see anyone here who doesn’t want to reduce their drinking or drug use or gambling… they all want to quit. The problem is they haven’t been able to, they’ve struggled. They’ve got lots of advice, everyone’s told them to stop, but it’s not that simple.”
Professor Dan Lubman
Executive Clinical Director
Almost all of the 10 people in the program have sought help before, but for one reason or another it just hasn’t worked for them. This is an all-too-common experience and one of the reasons why we need to Rethink Addiction. Navigating treatment services in a fragmented system can sometimes be too difficult and the series shows just how effective a wraparound support model can be.
Australia’s addictive culture
Regrettably, addictive activities like drinking and gambling can sometimes be seen as ‘just part of Australian culture’. Indeed, Allen Christensen, the former AFL star has said so when he spoke to Rethink Addiction about his past issues with gambling. And last night one of the ten participants, Dawn, had a similar story to tell:
“My parents encouraged me to start drinking when I was 13… and by the time I left home and started work, everybody was drinking.”
Dawn’s experience of drinking with her family and with work colleagues is not uncommon in Australia. Many people see drinking as legal and therefore less harmful, but the problem is much bigger than many people know.
One Australian dies every 90 minutes from an alcohol-related illness and more than 4 million people drink at levels that can cause disease or injury.
We need to have better conversations about the real harms of drinking, other drug use and gambling. Educating ourselves about how addiction works can help us all understand how and why people become addicted, along with the early signs to look for. The earlier people seek help, the easier it is to make a change.
Episode two proved to be every bit as powerful as the series premiere and it further demonstrated the urgent need to Rethink Addiction. You can help out the campaign today by signing our petition, sharing your story of addiction to help end the stigma and calling on your friends and family to follow the campaign and do the same.
If you or anyone you know is affected by addiction or if you want further information there are services available. Please visit our Get Support page.