parents

'I was an ice addict. Now I am a happy mum.'

Caught in the vicious cycle of a severe addiction to methamphetamine, the drug stole 10 years of Candice’s life and took her family away.

Incredibly, Candice found a saving grace during rehabilitation, and today, along with her husband and four children, is living a beautiful life.

The Lily fights its way through the mud and mire of the pond before it emerges from the filth and produces a beautiful flower – Lily House.

The Sunshine Coast-based temporary women’s accommodation centre, Lily House, lists this on their homepage. And for Sunshine Coast mother-of-four Candice*, she is proof that under the scar tissue, there is beauty in imperfections.

January 28, 2013 was a regular calendar date for most, but for Candice, that day in early 2013 marked a lifesaving resolution – it was the last day Candice ever used methamphetamine.

overcome ice addiction
Candice and her family. (Image: supplied)

The woman who is raising a young family alongside her husband on the Sunshine Coast is a world away from the shadows of her past. The home echoes with the chatter of her two boys, one daughter watches television while the other shyly shows off red nail-polished fingers, ‘painted by Daddy’, a complete contrast to Candice’s life in the gnarled clutches of a ravaging meth addiction.

Growing up in the Deception Bay/Redcliffe area, Candice’s upbringing was marred by being the child of absent and distracted parents.

By the age of 12, Candice had started experimenting with marijuana, pills and alcohol. At 15-years-old, she had left school and had a methamphetamine addiction.

ADVERTISEMENT

Methamphetamine, also known as meth, crystal, and commonly, ice, is an extremely addictive drug, taken orally, smoked, snorted, or injected. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it delivers immediate, intense ‘euphoria’ through increased dopamine levels, before the user ‘crashes’; and a binge pattern soon follows.

“Because I started using at the age of 15, I was really impressionable. I was a young girl and I would put trust into older men which led me to some really dangerous situations,” says Candice.

overcome ice addiction
Now Candice has young girls of her own. (Image: Supplied)

In her late teens, Candice started a seven-year relationship with the father of her two older children, falling pregnant while abusing meth.

“It was really dysfunctional, there was a lot of abuse and violence and drug use, the kids were being greatly affected by the things they were witnessing. It was pretty traumatic.

“When the kids were toddlers, we eventually left in 2008. From there I was still addicted to drugs so my life didn’t really get much better; there was a lot of psychotic episodes and unhealthy, abusive relationships, and I was homeless during that time too.

“Everything was just hopelessness, helplessness, worthless,” Candice quietly reflects.

ADVERTISEMENT

“It was just so dark, my memories when I look back on it are so dark and scary. It’s an absolute nightmare and there was no joy.

“I’ve had friends die of overdoses, I’ve had friends die of infections. They say meth leads to jail, institutions or death and it’s certainly a matter of time before you reach one or all of them.”

Candice describes the physical effects – of being underweight, malnourished, ragged hair and skin, the constant tiredness. She remembers the sore feet and chill of being homeless; the omnipresent violence in relationships and the exposure to dangerous people that being part of the meth cycle presented, as well as the incredible risk she exposed all four children to as a pregnant drug abuser.

“By the grace of God all my children are healthy and that’s amazing, a blessing because when I think about what I put my body through while I was pregnant…” she says.

Out of that decade, Candice spent two years ‘clean’, but replaced the ravaged void drugs had left with an alcohol addiction, “drinking to oblivion” which eventually led back to using again.

In 2012, Candice was with her now-husband Brent (who is also recovering), when the Department of Child Safety stepped in after police raided Candice’s home where she was manufacturing the drug. Her three children, aged eight-months-old, six, and eight, were removed on the spot.

“I was doing it to feed my habit. I just thought it was okay because it would be while the children were asleep. The lifestyle and the kind of people I was inviting into my home…” she trails off.

Narrowly avoiding a jail sentence, Candice found herself homeless again, the only contact with her children during supervised hourly sessions in a faceless DOCS office.

overcome ice addiction
“By the grace of God all my children are healthy and that’s amazing, a blessing because when I think about what I put my body through while I was pregnant …” (Image: Supplied)
ADVERTISEMENT

“It was devastating, I wanted so badly to stop and I just thought I couldn’t and to be honest after the kids got taken I thought the only way to stop would be to die,” she says.

In 2013, Candice was carrying her fourth baby, a son. She was homeless, using and pregnant and child safety advised her that her baby would be removed from her care at birth. Her exact recollection of contacting Lily House isn’t clear, but Candice remembers pleading for help.

“I moved into Lily House on March 14, 2013 and then my youngest child was born on March 30, two weeks later,” Candice says, sharing that she was seven months pregnant with her son when she ‘got clean’.

“Because of the help that Lily House gave me I was able to bring him home from hospital, so I never lost that baby.”

Candice soaked up what had been lacking her entire childhood and most of her adult life – support, love, nurturing and education, staying at Lily House for six months, until the Department of Child Services advised her she could start applying for houses – and get her children back.

Candice’s youngest daughter came home in November, and her two older children arrived home for good on December 12, 2013, joining Candice, Brent and their baby son to finally be a family of six.

Candice credits finding faith at Lily House for giving her hope again.

“Lily House just nurtured me, loved me, believed in me, I’d never had anyone believe in me, I was a drug addict so society looked down on me.”

This hope has carried on from more than two years after breaking the cycle, and Candice believes she has finally found the strength to stay clean forever, and has found joy in raising her children after some initial difficulties.

“Getting them home was hard because they were hurt, they didn’t understand. To them, I just left them and in their eyes I would just rock up once a week and they would be left broken,” she says softly.

ADVERTISEMENT

“We are working through the repercussions and pain of our past. I just had to keep coming back and reassuring them and that anger and resentment started to fade away because they started to learn I am here now.”

There were also new, happy memories made in the form of Candice’s and Brent’s wedding in October, 2014.

“All of our church friends pitched in and we had a beautiful wedding, it was absolutely amazing and just to go from people who merely existed two years ago and then to fill the church with people who love us on our wedding day was beautiful,” she says warmly.

Now at 28-years-old, Candice is regularly booked to speak about her story at conferences and church events.

“I believe that sharing my story can bring hope to other people that are struggling with whatever battles they are facing,” she says, urging others in similar circumstances to ask for help, as there are people who will listen.

And in the face of an increase in ‘ice’ abuse, Candice says, “If you have never tried it before – don’t. Because it will destroy your life and it will take your family, your possessions, all your hope, self-worth, and any dignity you have. And my heart really goes out to those who are addicted.”

Candice’s own heart is whole now, and her own broken path that led to drug abuse has made her determined to help others – Candice has been studying youth work online.

“I want to get my social degree and work for the Department of Child Safety and work with families and children who’ve gone through experiences much like my own children,” she says.

Candice shares that her family attends regular Bible studies, their lives have a sense of accomplishment and belonging, and revolve around recreational activities and extracurricular activities such as ballet, BMX, musical theatre, she has reconnected with her parents and her husband’s parents. She regularly helps in the community too.

“When I speak about my past I feel like I am speaking about someone else, how could my life possibly be like this today,” she says incredulously.

“We are living out opportunities the children never had and before I didn’t have the ability to provide… These days, they can have a beautiful life.”

*Please note that Candice’s surname has been omitted from this article due to privacy. This article was originally published in Connect Magazine.

00:00 / ???