IT IS well documented that ice, or methamphetamine, is the illicit drug of choice on our streets.
The Wimmera is caught up in the frightening escalation of this highly addictive stimulant.
The Mail-Times has teamed up with a wide variety of organisations across the Wimmera to raise awareness of this whole-of-community issue it is something we cannot ignore.
A MOTHER'S love is unconditional, but a devastating ice addiction can test its boundaries.
Crystal methamphetamine - the purest form of amphetamine available - is sweeping the Wimmera and leaving devastation in its wake.
It has killed users and torn families apart.
Ice, as it is commonly known, forced one Horsham mother to turn her back on her 23-year-old son.
She kicked him out of the house and changed the locks, willing to cut ties for the sake of her own health and that of her daughter.
The woman realised her son was using ice about 18 months ago.
"It escalated very quickly within six months of noticing something wasn't right I believe it was a full-blown ice addiction," she said.
"His full-time job for 12 months was drugs getting drugs, taking drugs.
"I couldn't believe this child who would sit on the couch watching the Disney movies, who I took to basketball and was a champion cross-country runner, had been reduced to that level.
"You still think there is a glimmer of hope and that they will change."
At the height of his personal ice age the man went 21 days without sleep or food.
He was unpredictable, volatile and mixing with dangerous people.
He kept a baseball bat next to the front door.
"He went to the petrol station once and came back with a black eye - he was only gone 10 minutes," the mother said.
"People would come to the house looking for him and that was pretty scary."
The woman was used as a verbal punching bag, but she said it was the small things that would knock her off her feet.
"Some champagne glasses I got for my 21st birthday went missing one day - they had hollow stems so they could become a pipe to smoke the ice," she said.
"He knew he was hurting me and his sister and would say sorry, but in the next breath would take your ATM card.
"I had to sleep with my ATM card under my pillow and take my wallet to the toilet and shower."
The family reached breaking point in July.
After being kicked out of home, the man spent a week sleeping in a car near the Wimmera River.
The family's 'cruel to be kind' approach was the catalyst for change.
The man sought help from Grampians Community Health and completed a nine-day intensive rehabilition program in Geelong.
He has been drug-free for 10 weeks, but his mother said getting that way wasn't easy.
"You have to accept that even when they are withdrawing they are still going to have a certain amount of drugs," she said.
"The health risk of going off ice cold turkey is a heart attack.
"It was a dilemma because you want to help them get off it but do you enable them to use it while they are withdrawing?"
The woman said her biggest regret was covering up her son's ice addiction.
"As a parent, I tended to cover for him and lie to my family to protect him," she said.
"I had well-meaning people say that I should have been tougher on him but until they are in that situation they can't really comment.
"You have to come to a point where you are strong enough to say no and it is not that easy.
"You love them and hate them at the same time that is really hard to understand."
The woman urged other parents whose children were using ice to reach out for help.
"I would like the community to be more supportive don't judge the families, the parents, the siblings and in some cases, don't judge the addict, because they are an addict," she said.
"I am not making excuses because even when they come out of rehab, they have to face the consequences of what they have done.
"Living in a small town has its benefits because you know a lot of people who would be willing to help, but the other side is that people know and they talk.
"For a long time you feel embarrassed but then you get to a point where you couldn't care less.
"He was doing ice not me and it could happen to anyone's kid."
While the man is clean, ice addiction has left its mark on his family.
The total financial cost of the addiction has hit $47,000 and some lost friendships will never be recovered.
But the woman is getting her life back on track with the help of Grampians Community Health's counselling service.
She has filmed a video interview that will be shown at Wimmera Drug Action Taskforce's community forum on December 2.
"I can't change what happened but I can control what happens to me in the future," she said.
"I am one of the lucky parents whose child has got through at the moment an ice addiction.
"I am lucky to be able to hug and kiss him.
"If I can help one parent it would be great because for a long time I felt there was no support and that I was on my own."
If you or someone you know needs help or advice, phone Grampians Community Health on 5362 1200 or visit the team at 25 David Street, Horsham.
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