Cheryle, LEAP member

"If I can make a bit of a change, and make things better, then that’s what I want to do."

My son is 48 and has been in and out of prison since he was 20. He has a severe drug problem – mainly marijuana. He’s also on the sex offender list for interacting with teenage girls. It’s been a long journey and very harrowing.

I was on my own [raising him] for 18 years. My husband walked out when I was pregnant, and I think this was a lot of the problem. I think my son deep down, blames himself. He used to say, ‘what is it about me that my father didn’t want? I’ve tried to explain and soften it, that he just didn’t want the responsibility, but my ex-husband was a very mean and selfish man.  

My son says when he tried marijuana, he liked it and felt he finally fitted in with people. Before that he says he felt weird because he didn’t have a father and always did things with me, like going to the footy or cricket. He was bullied at school and called names because of it. But I had no idea. 

 It was a shock to me to find out that my son, who I thought was doing okay, was falling apart at the seams. He went through a period of depression. I remember him at 18 just lying on his bed crying and crying and saying, I don’t want to live. And I had no idea that his sexual problems were coming out as well. He was fighting these urges and the help wasn’t there. It was just so distressing for me.

I’d never interacted or known anyone who’d gone to jail. But when I’d visit my son the prison staff would look down on me, and I’d come away in tears because of the way I was spoken to and treated. I made a complaint once and got an apology. 

My experience has made me a lot more tolerant and caring and understanding. Before I was one of those mothers that was very cocky thinking, ‘my son will never do this or do that, we have a good relationship’. But I never talked to him about drugs because it wasn’t an issue in my life. I have done talks in schools over recent years for Year 10 students, and I try and tell them what it’s like for a mother. I say, ‘we all go through times where your Mum is your enemy, but your Mum is always there to love you and she will be broken hearted if you go down that track and just think carefully about what you are doing.’

 I got involved with LEAP about eight years ago and I feel I can provide a parent’s point of view. I stress there are parents and families that do care and love their kids and who want to help. If I can make a bit of a change, and make things better, then that’s what I want to do.