Loved ones unite in Family Drug Support group

Family Project Officers Angela Tolley and Kendall Roberts facilitate support groups once a month at the Institute Meeting Room.
Family Project Officers Angela Tolley and Kendall Roberts facilitate support groups once a month at the Institute Meeting Room.

Alcoholism and drug addiction have obvious and well-documented effects on chronic substance abusers.

But the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on the individual's friends and family can also be devastating.

A monthly support group in Port Augusta is proving to be an invaluable asset.

The support group, run by Family Drug Support, offers a chance for family members - parents, partners, grandparents, siblings and significant others - to gather together to share their stories and collective wisdom.

Family Project Officer Angela Tolley runs the monthly meetings with an open mind and lived experience.

"I know what it feels like to go through the trauma that can often come with someone else's drug use," Ms Tolley said.

"My first connection with Family Drug Support was through support groups when I was struggling with a family member who has problematic drug use.

"I found that coming to a support group and being able to talk about my experiences, and what's going on for me in a non threatening environment, was very helpful and it kept me strong because often people don't feel comfortable talking to other family members or friends because there's that stigma attached to drug use.

"If they come to a support group they are there in a safe environment and it's confidential."

Since 1997 Family Drug Support (FDS) has built and developed a model for supporting families impacted by a family member's alcohol or other drug issues by listening and talking to thousands of families and undertaking focus testing of their programs.

FDS Project Officers are trained facilitators and meetings are held in a safe place.

For some people this is the first time they've been able to offload their experiences and anxieties in a non-threatening situation.

"We advocate for harm minimisation as a oppose to zero tolerance, we believe that families do the best they can and if they are supported they can build resilience and survive their journey intact," Ms Tolley said.

"That really helps the outcome for the people using the drugs - if the families keep strong and are supported by people who understand then they can be there for the person when they need them.

"Really it's up to the person using the drugs to take those hard steps to get well."

The Family Drug Support Group is held on the third Thursday of every month from 12-2pm in the Institute Meeting Room on Commercial Road.

Transportation to the meetings can be arranged by calling the Port Augusta City Council.

Support is also available online at fds.org.au and through a 24/7 phone line, 1300 368 186.

"We are there just to facilitate, not to offer advice. It's very informal but there is information available so people go away feeling more informed," Ms Tolley said.

"There's a lot of trauma and a lot of chaos that goes with supporting someone through drug use.

"If people feel more informed about drugs and drug use then they feel more equipped to handle whatever is happening in their midst."