Since 1995 over 700 families have sought and received
information, guidance and support from my group work.
I want to take this moment to thank each member most sincerely, for their
many contributions and insights, which have made this program possible.
Bless you for your courage.
To the other miracle in my life, my daughter Naomi,
thank you for walking hand in hand with me through this minefield.
Your strength, courage, compassion and ongoing love and support, which
you continually give to us, have been an inspiration.
To my very dear friend Greer Smith, your willingness
to look within for your treasures, your uniqueness, and your value, never ceases
to amaze me. Thank you for your
‘off the wall humor’ and friendship. To
Sheleagh White, you have been my rock and sounding board to bounce my theories
off, thank you for listening and sharing your knowledge with me, and to Terry
Dixon, thank you for always believing in me.
So many people have helped me along the way however,
the one person that I am truly grateful to is my son Brett, for without his
illness, I would never have chosen this road of self-discovery.
Nor would I have met so many wonderful people. I have thanked him on many
occasions, (and meant it) and told him what a diligent, patient, and at times
despairing teacher he has been in my life!
He taught me to own my feelings and behaviors, not
his. To be responsible for my own actions and reactions to the numerous
situations which have occurred because of his addiction, and to find peace and
balance in my own life so that I could be the strong, ‘stable bow’ mentioned
in the ‘Prophet’.
Above all, he taught me the true meaning of love,
compassion and acceptance - of myself and others.
God bless you Brett – you most precious soul.
Now that I have taken responsibility for my life and
my life issues, he is able to work through his own issues himself, and focus on
becoming the person he needs to be in his life.
Thank you my son.
Bless you all.
One of the greatest fears we face as parents is the
premature death of our child.
Be it death through illness, suicide, a motor-vehicle
crash or some other trauma, this fear remains often dormant in our subconscious
The fear that we may lose our child to drugs is
particularly prominent in our society. This
fear is enhanced by the media and also by our politicians.
They tell us that there is an ongoing “war against drugs.”
(Sadly, the lines become blurred and at times this war becomes a war
against our own children.)
When we discover our child is using illicit drugs
what can be done? Where can one get
help? To whom can we turn?
When I became medical officer to the Detoxification
unit at the Gold Coast Hospital in the 1980’s I discovered that I needed a lot
of assistance to help my patients. There
were very few medical experts in the field of addiction.
In time I found that a wealth of information and
expertise was present within the community of recovering alcoholics and addicts
and those members of their family who had also suffered.
Sue Koningen is one such expert. Since 1995, Sue has
assisted over 700 families.
Parents and relatives of drug affected children
referred from Fairhaven Salvation Army and Mirakai on the Gold Coast have also
Sue has the understanding and the practical knowledge
gained by walking the long and arduous path of personal suffering.
“Empowering Families” is a map of this pathway.
Sue’s program is designed to give insight into the
destructive behavior that we as parents demonstrate to our children.
It explains and clarifies the paradox “to help another you first must
“Empowering Families” illustrates how to
re-establish and maintain communication. It
describes boundaries and the formulae for setting boundaries so that you are
able to effectively indicate your dislike for certain destructive behaviors
whilst still communicating your love.
By confronting and overcoming her own fear, Sue has
provided a means for others to walk this path with safety, reassurance and
I commend to you “Empowering Families” by Sue
MBBS (hons) Dip. RACOG FRACGP AMSAD (cert)
While support in the chemical dependency field is
improving, help focuses on the addict. Literature
and training on family therapy is still scarce.
Their needs and wants are not being met, and yet I believe the family,
indeed society, must be viewed as an integral part of the recovery process for
any long term solution to be effective.
Alas when families attempt to find ‘outside’
support to help them understand what is happening to their child, they soon
realize that they are caught in a therapeutic void between the drug and alcohol,
and mental health fields. This is
resulting in millions of parents feeling isolated and alienated from society,
and totally powerless to support their child’s recovery.
Add this to the fact that many are no longer able to
draw on the generations of experience previously available through the extended
family, and it’s easy to see why the assumption that the family’s mental
health will just magically happen is proving to be incorrect.
Increased numbers of drug abusers, youth suicide,
child abuse, bullying, sexual abuse, domestic violence, family breakdown and
divorce all have one common thread – an inability to communicate honestly and
effectively about feelings, needs and wants. You’re not listened to nor heard.
This is further compounded by a sense that the individual is not valued as a
member of neither the family unit nor our society.
With the limited number of educational programs
available for parents of children using or abusing drugs, Empowering Families
has been developed to support the recovery of our society’s most precious unit
– The Family. Through validating
their needs and wants, empowering them with new skills and awareness, and
valuing them as an integral part of the recovery process.
I believe that each individual has the power to
change their situation, given sufficient awareness, information and support.
It is my hope that this book will help you to:
blaming yourself for your child’s addiction
the many life experiences, which influence and impact on your child’s life.
about addictions, rehabilitation and the recovery process.
more aware of your actions and reactions to their drug use.
more effectively and honestly with your child.
value on who you are, not what you are or what you have.
yourself for the miracle you are.
child how to value themselves.
other members of the family to take responsibility for their lives.
As you become more aware of the important role you
can play in your child’s recovery from this illness, your relationship will
grow and develop in a very special way, because it will be based on honesty,
respect, humility and love. As you
increase your awareness of the problems associated with drug addiction,
rehabilitation and the family’s role in the recovery process, you will be
strategies that create positive changes in family and addict behaviors.
your life story of who you are, and what you want out of life.
your children to do the same.
the family unit.
‘Minimize’ the lapse/relapse potential of your child in
younger siblings taking up drug use.
yourself and your family more honestly and openly.
Why am I so passionate about empowering families to
support their child’s recovery? Here’s
I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of
someone pounding on my door. Not
the usual tap tap tap of someone trying to gently stir you at that hour of the
night, but a forceful rat tat tat that stated ‘get up – this is
My first thought was who the hell is this?
Then with a rush, the events of the past couple of days came flooding
back to me and my whole body filled with fear.
Another knock, this time more forceful demanding me to get up.
I recognized that impersonal order
to attend, and with a rush I grabbed my dressing gown and bolted for the
The past three weeks had been hell, and all I could
think of was ‘What have they done now! Dear
God, please let everything be OK.’
I opened the door and was faced by two policemen.
I froze. In that split
second a million scenarios flashed through my mind, but none came even close to
the reality of why the boys in blue were calling on me that night.
One of the officers spoke. ‘Do
you have a son called Brett?’ I
answered ‘yes, I did.’ Then,
‘Do you know of an Amy Johnston?’ again I answered ‘yes, she is my son’s
happened?’ I asked, full of dread and concern.
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