Nick* presented to TCF as a 17 year old teenage boy.
Nick led a normal childhood until at age 12 his parents separated. His mother struggled emotionally to handle the divorce and Nick became the one she would turn to for support and care. Nick reports “having to have grow up very quickly”. He was responsible for running the house and for taking care of his mother’s emotional wellbeing. Nick became very independent with a serious attitude and little time for being carefree, having fun or feeling happiness.
Eventually, emotionally caring for his mother became too much for Nick and he moved to his father’s house. His father was a strict disciplinarian and Nick struggled to comply with his rules, having received so much independence at his mother’s house. This resulted in conflict between them. Nick reported his father pushed him to be a “perfectionist” as he rarely offered praise and consistently expected more of Nick than Nick felt he could achieve.
As a serious and hardworking young man, Nick gained an apprenticeship as an electrician; he worked very quickly through the TAFE component and excelled in the practical side of his role. However, Nick still felt as though he did not live up to his father’s expectations and still felt guilt and pressure for his mother’s emotional wellbeing. Nick spent many nights contemplating ending his life with plans of driving his car into a tree on his way to work.
At age 16, Nick was introduced to MDMA (also known as ecstasy - a psychoactive drug) and instantly became attached to the ‘free feeling’ it gave him. Nick reported it was the only time in his adolescence when his mind would not be filled with stress and worries. Nick reported it also provided an artificial happiness, a feeling he barely remembered prior to that.
Nick purchased a fake ID and would go to nightclubs on weekends to sell MDMA. Though making money and gaining a sense of release, Nick reported that when he was ‘coming down’ from MDMA he would feel more depressed, have more frequent suicidal thoughts and more frequent arguments with his father. Nick reported feeling stuck and all alone.
Nick came to TCF after being charged with drug trafficking.
At first Nick was sceptical about discussing emotions and being offered support, stating “I don’t talk about myself”. However, he quickly realised that talking about his emotions and being acknowledged for his achievements and hardships could be life changing. In counselling, Nick explored his relationship with his family and developed an open and honest communication style with them. A defining moment for Nick was when his father told him “I’m proud of you”. Nick engaged fully in the music program and became an avid DJ. Being an entrepreneur, Nick even booked DJ gigs for friends’ birthday parties when he was on weekend leave.
Nick reported that ‘DJing’ was a protective factor. It offered enjoyment and a sense of release without using substances. It also motivated him to be sober in order to do the best possible job. Nick graduated TCF with a greater relationship with his family, continued employment and a new hobby.
After he left, the staff found a hidden note, simply saying, “thanks to everyone at TCF you saved my life”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy