It's sad to know that many young people have lost their way and will spend Christmas alone on the streets this year, away from their families and trying to numb the pain of their loneliness.
Damon* is one of these young people. Last Christmas he was wandering the streets of Sydney, getting high and trying to forget about his problems. He had become increasingly disconnected from his family due to a marijuana addiction that had started a few years ago, when he was in year 11.
"I always felt really lonely and depressed growing up. Nobody in my family understood me. Smoking pot was a shield...something to hide behind," says Damon.
Increasingly withdrawn and irrational, he barely finished his HSC. He had been living at home, but his mum, who was pregnant at the time, had become so frustrated she couldn't tolerate him anymore.
"I went to live with my uncle to get a fresh perspective, but after my HSC, I had more time on my hands and my addiction just got worse. I just couldn't function without weed, but then again, I couldn't function with it either—I was always in a cloud."
It wasn't until Damon ended up in a psychiatric hospital with a drug-induced psychosis that he realised how bad he needed help.
"It got to a point that I couldn't watch TV or listen to the radio because when I did, voices would speak to me. Even though the voices had been there for months, they started getting louder."
Damon had hit rock bottom. A counsellor suggested he look into Triple Care Farm, a safe place for change, where young people can get individualised care and support to tackle their addiction and mental health issues.
"I was sceptical at first, but Mum convinced me that this was a good opportunity and that I should at least give it a go; so I did," he says proudly.
Thanks to your generous support, Damon was given the opportunity of a lifetime—the opportunity to find himself again and reconnect to his passions. Damon spent the next three months learning skills to help him cope with his cravings.
Over time, Damon began to rediscover a sense of purpose and achievement. Without your support though, Damon's life would have had a very different outcome. He wouldn't have returned home to mend his relationships. His mental health would have deteriorated and his suicidal thoughts may have taken over.
Instead, Damon's life was spared. It's now been six months since Damon left the Farm. He is still clean and pursuing his dreams—he's making music and has recorded an EP. He's working in his local community on the South Coast, enjoying having a clear mind, and seizing opportunities that arise.
Christmas will be very different for Damon this year. Not only will he be reunited with his family, but he also hopes to repair the damage of previous years.
"I'm really looking forward to a massive family Christmas this year. We're all getting together and having a big BBQ—aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents... I'm thrilled that I'll be a part of it this time. I feel bad for what I put my family through."
It's so rewarding to see our young people overcome obstacles and succeed. Stories like Damon's are heart-warming and show us just what's possible when you give a lifeline to a young person who's ready for change.
Each day in the office, we field calls from desperate parents unsure of where to turn for help. Or from young people admitting they've gone off the rails and need to find a way back before it's too late.
Just last week a young man named Lucas inquired about residential rehabilitation at Triple Care Farm. Lucas mentioned he got caught up with the wrong crowd while trying to fit in at university. Before he knew it, he had developed a life-threatening ice addiction. Lucas is desperate to stop using and get back to his university studies, but admits that he just can't do it on his own.
Lucas, too, needs your help.
If you can, please make a tax-deductible donation this Christmas to help save even more young lives. Your gift will ensure that we can offer more young people the care and support they need to make the required changes and regain control of their lives.
*Damon's name has not been changed. He's so proud of his achievements; he wants the world to know!