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Just 12 months ago, Gemma was drinking more than a bottle of vodka a night.
Her drinking had escalated when her children were taken into the care of a guardian. At the time Gemma was in denial about the impact her drinking was having on her children. She struggled to understand why social services were so concerned.
The turning point came a few months after Gemma was assessed by the FDAC (Family Drug and Alcohol Court) team, which is composed of substance misuse specialists and social workers.
A support plan was put in place with a key worker directly working with her and coordinating all the services identified in the plan.
This plan eventually helped Gemma realise the impact of her drinking.
“I always had this picture in my head that a neglected child was bruised and battered. My children were never without toys or clothes, I found it hard to accept that word ‘neglect’ applied to our family.
“But when the FDAC team turned around to me and said if I never wanted to have custody of my children again I was heading in the right direction. The penny dropped, the thought of that scared the life out of me.
“Because of my drinking, I wasn’t there for them emotionally. The FDAC team helped me realise what was happening and my children are now my priority over everything.
“Before FDAC’s involvement, my drinking felt like the solution to all the stress and anxiety I was facing in my life. It was hard to accept it had become a problem; that I’d stopped coping and stopped being the mother my children needed me to be.
“I think back to my daughter saying to me ‘mummy please don’t drink tonight’. It’s heart-breaking. I’m so grateful to the team for helping me see the reality of the situation.
“It was important for me to not feel I was being blamed or judged in any way. I felt that the FDAC team wanted what was best for the whole family and that allowed me to drop my defensiveness and look at myself.”
Now Gemma is looking forward to being an honest but non-judgemental figure who can help parents who were in the position she accepted help by becoming a CLI mentor.
“If I can play a part in another parent’s recovery and help them to take control of their life again that would mean the world to me. I am living proof that things get better, I hope that helps more parents accept help. I hope to show them they need to be honest because the team want to help if you let them in.”