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Finding light in the darkest of days

28 June 2021

Finding light in the darkest of days

Missy (above) continues to check in with the START community for support and friendships.

Words Missy Caddell

I grew up in Melbourne as the eldest of five children and moved to the country when I was 15. I lived with my dad and stepmum, as my parents separated when I was six. I didn’t really have a close relationship with my mother growing up.

Mum was only 16 when she had me. Dad was an alcoholic, and some physical and emotional abuse went on within our home. I thought it was normal until later when I realised it wasn’t. I was scared and anxious as a child. I wanted to protect my siblings. I was also sexually abused. It was all so confusing.

Having a broken family impacted me a lot. I felt that nobody loved me. As I got older, relationships with people became very co-dependent.

I did quite well at school and was a good student. I finished Year 12 and worked in childcare. I am a bit of a perfectionist, which I realise now was a coping mechanism for me and my fear of abandonment. By the age of 20, I had a qualification in Early Childhood studies. I wanted to give other kids what I didn’t have growing up.

I had a real ‘love hate’ relationship with Dad and, when his addictions spiralled and he became homeless, I switched off emotion-ally and went downhill. I was 29 at the time. Before that, I would dabble in alcohol and drugs, mostly on weekends. I didn’t realise it, but I was already an addict then.

I denied my addiction at first. I was too proud to say I needed help. I fell pregnant and was sober for a while because of the baby. I couldn’t do it for myself. I had a miscarriage, and then Dad passed away.

I realised that if I didn’t get clean, I would end up like Dad. So, two months later, I went into detox. I learned a lot about myself and let the walls down that I had built around myself.

I was referred to the START* program at Berwick Salvos in October 2019. I instantly felt safe there and a strong sense of commu-nity. I felt connected, and that kept me coming back every day. 

I began doing the Bible studies and, once I got into them, I felt an internal shift. I
was more at peace with myself. I still have moments where I don’t feel that, of course, but opening up to God and developing a faith helped me build trust. I didn’t feel alone anymore and, for me personally, that’s what has helped the most.

I have become more reflective, gained more self-awareness and am in touch with my emotions. I want to share that now with other people. As a kid, I minimised my emotions.

START has helped me see my coping mecha-nisms as a child and their impact later in life, and I am grateful for that.

Now I am working in childcare. Today, as I write this, I have taken the day off, and I am here at START. It’s the second anniversary of Dad’s passing, and I am here because it’s my safe place. I am safe here with my community.

I still check in with START via Zoom sometimes, and I come when I can. I know I can come back anytime and have the support I need. I am now expecting a baby girl, and I want to be a present and conscious mum to the best of my ability. I also want to give back. I want to work with people who have gone through situations similar to mine and who have strug-gled with alcohol and other drugs (AOD).

I am not sure if I will go back into childcare or study for qualifications in the AOD field. I have an idea that I want to teach people about being a present and conscious parent – and the impact that can have on their kids. I have to be a parent first, though!

I always held on to hope in those difficult times, always believed that there was some-thing more out there. So, if you’re in a position like I was, don’t give up. Keep going, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s out there.

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