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Stigma and lack of resources associated with addiction can lead to dark and lonely place for families, says Highland support group

By Val Sweeney

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A new group has started in Inverness to help families affected by addiction.
A new group has started in Inverness to help families affected by addiction.

A mother who has experienced “the living hell” of a family member using drugs has started a support group for families and friends affected by addiction.

She says the stigma associated with addiction and lack of resources means it can be a dark and lonely place for family members.

But Diane – who does not wish to give her full name – says getting together with others who are facing similar challenges can help.

She has started a peer-led group which meets at Merkinch Community Centre every Tuesday from 10.30am to noon when people can get together for a chat and share their experiences.

It comes as the Scottish Government recently launched a campaign calling for drug and alcohol problems to be treated as a health condition and encouraging people to see the personal story behind the stereotype.

It aims to highlight the damage caused by the stigma of problem drug and alcohol use and how it can stop those affected from being able to get help.

Audit Scotland, meanwhile, this month called for greater transparency on how money is spent to improve drug and alcohol services.

Diane, whose son has served time in prison, is also part of a new Scotland-wide Families Campaign For Change, comprising mainly mothers, who are making their voices heard.

She said: “There are no right or wrong ways to deal with someone’s addiction but changed attitudes can aid recovery.

“No one in their right mind would wish to live the life of an addict. This is why addiction should be treated as a mental illness.

“One of the biggest problems with alcohol and drugs is the stigma.

“People tend to think it is self-inflicted. No one thinks when they pick up the first drink or take the first drug, that they will become addicted.

“There are many families dealing on their own with the madness of addiction.”

Diane became involved in support groups in the Inverness area about 12 years ago after discovering her son had an addiction problem and said there was very little support available at that time.

“Addiction to substances is very difficult to deal with,” she said.

“People need support.

“I have lived experience of a family member using drugs, and it is a living hell.”

She highlighted the value of support groups.

“If you don’t seek help for yourself you are not able to help anyone else,” she said.

“Once a family member gets help and understands that addiction is a health issue, attitudes can change.”

In many cases, families have been trying to deal with the impact of addiction over many years.

Another mum in the group said: “It is said for every addict, it affects 10-12 other family members. It is a family illness.”

Another mum from Inverness but now living in Caithness has been living with her 40-year-old son’s addiction for about 25 years and has had dealings with different agencies including the police and social work.

“You don’t know where to turn when you look for help,” she said, adding it was often the case for families with a member with an addiction.

“They are stuck with no help and no idea of where to get help.”

Another mum with a daughter with addiction spanning more than 30 years wished she had sought help a long time ago.

“I was embarrassed and felt ashamed,” she said.

“I wish I had known these groups had been there.

“What is wonderful is when you hear someone else sitting next to you and that someone else’s journey is also your journey.”

Anyone wanting to join the group should call 07983 001962.

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