Judy (not her real name) describes herself as an average Aussie.
Wife, worker, friend, sometime confident to a very select few, and mother, and some days she battles to keep it all together.
Over the past few years addiction has caused the kind of stresses that "only happens to other families", and it's now descended upon her suburban home.
My discussion with Judy had it's genesis in the lead up to Melbourne Cup Day 2017 when I posted on my Triple M show page that the amount of, especially, TV advertising for online betting was becoming overpowering.
There were several comments to agree with my point, however Judy sent me a private message saying online gambling was taking a heartbreaking toll on her family.
After a few more details I asked if she would like to talk further and to my surprise Judy agreed, saying if her story and that of her addicted son could help one more family she was willing to open up.
This is intensely personal to Judy and her family, not many people know of the past few year's struggles, so I am grateful she chose me for a sit down.
So this week I took a long drive to have a coffee and a chat.
Judy tells me she was not blind nor ignorant to the issue of addiction but as she'd had no previous direct experience, she and her family had to find out for themselves about the lying and manipulation that comes with some in the grips of an addiction and sadly her son has fallen into not only gambling but all kinds of drugs.
"When did the alarm bells start going off?"
Judy tells me her son had "been a difficult child, though he has the intelligence to do anything, and all the doctors or psyches we took him to concluded it was just naughty boy syndrome."
A mother knows differently.
Her son moved to the east and seemed to be doing OK, after a certain age your kids don't call as much as we'd like so Mum and Dad figured things were going OK.
They were not.
One day Judy did hear from her son who told her he'd seen a doctor as he felt he needed some help.
Judy believes that's where the spiral really picked up speed in a pretty drastic way.
This started a seemingly disastrous cycle of meds, more meds, more doctors, different diagnoses and ultimately a nightmare of Dante proportions.
To add to the frustration, not one of the doctors or psyches rang Judy to discuss any history. One of the psyches told Judy he knew her son better than she did, the treatment was ongoing but the patient had his addiction fully under control and despite Judy having power of attorney over her son's affairs, there would be no more discussions.
"When did you know things were really desperate?"
"The day we heard from his flatmate that he'd tried to take his life, and as of now we know of at least 5 attempts in the last 4 years."
I asked how the gambling addiction came to light and Judy believes it was a progression from the meds prescribed by the psyches.
In some people one can beget the other, you need more drugs to keep going but if you can't get them, then dealing is the next step.
Money runs out and if there is a love of gambling and the casino is close by it's a recipe for disaster.
Don't even talk to Judy about the ease of online gambling and the apps anybody can have on their phone!
"And while they're in denial there's not a Goddam thing you can do"
Eventually, despite more lies and manipulation and ultimately an ugly confrontation "I really thought if I was sitting closer he'd have killed me" Judy got her son to agree to rehab, both in Australia and overseas.
Despite a cost of over $100,000 which means the family is no longer mortgage free, it didn't work.
He was asked to leave the clinic overseas for intimidating other patients, so it was back to his Australian jungle with the same crowd and environment.
I ask if there came a point where Judy screamed at the sky, "why?"
"Thank God my husband and I have such a strong marriage because anybody else would have been ripped apart. I couldn't tell you the amount of times we sit here and cry. Every plane trip back, we cry, because there is absolutely nothing you can do, and we get told by the clinics he's got to hit rock bottom. Well what is that?"
At this point Judy points to a plaque sitting prominently on a shelf with a creed known the world over.
It starts, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change......
"Does your son know what he has done to himself and his family?"
"Yes, he does, he learned that through rehab. But remember, Cliff, when you're dealing with an addict you're dealing with a different person, your loved one has gone. One part of me wants to bring him home and make it all better, the other part wants to kill him for what he's done to himself and his family.
“When you're dealing with an addict you are dealing with 2 people, your son & the addict. The addict is the manipulator, your son, feeling the shame, and the one that has high expectations of himself, so they too are continually fighting with themselves. When the son is "there with you" they tell you all the things you want to hear and ultimately what they want to believe, then they often go into very bad depression.”
This is where they are heading for "rock bottom" but of course with the addiction who knows which one they turn to again? They believe it's an easier road to fix everything,so ultimately "rock bottom" was not hit. As I said how bad is "rock bottom?".
"Do you feel any guilt"
Through tears Judy tells me the obvious, "every day."
"Every day I wonder if I did anything when I was pregnant, did we treat him differently?
I protest that she is being too hard on herself but Judy counters, "because there is nobody to blame, you take it onto yourself."
How about his Dad?
"He's the same"
Judy has no idea of what has happened to her son in the past to begin this awful cycle, he won't say and the doctors and rehab didn't unearth an issue.
I ask Judy how she feels every time her phone rings or a message buzzes through.
More tears at the implication of what might be, so I leave it there.
"I honestly don't know what I would do if I saw a police car pull up in my drive way."
Judy offers these parting words;
"If you have a gut feeling that something is going on with your child, investigate the situation because there probably is, and good luck because it's not an easy road. Let them know we're here for you but not financially again and again and again. We want you well."
Judy does not attend Alanon meetings anymore, there is a very small group of people they lean on in tough times, and of course there is the strength of her husband, her best mate, and her other child.
I have not met Judy's son, wouldn't know him if I sat next to him on the bus. The photos that adorn the walls show an obviously loving family which I hope will one day find some peace, together.
If you need help at anytime contact Lifeline on 131114 and the Gambling Helpline is 1800 858 858