Karen* admits she was at the end of her tether when she has referred to The Buttery’s Family Counselling Program two years ago.

The program, funded wholly by donations, has been a vital part of The Buttery’s services, since 2009.

Karen, her partner and ex-husband are among the staggering number of 250 program participants seen by Family Counselling Program Manager Lily Schmelzle.

This is Karen’s story:

“For many years I have been concerned about my son’s use and probable abuse of substances. It was only when he re-partnered and I developed a relationship with his new partner that I had confirmation of my long-held fears. I also had a lot to do with his daughter who was ‘difficult’ — struggling, and found herself not living with either parent and doing distance education and living in various places from the age of 14. I felt a huge sense of responsibility for her but was actually unable to provide the support I could because she was an unwilling participant.

So, as my feelings were finally validated, shattered and desperate, I contacted The Buttery who referred me to their Family Counselling Service.

Initially, I wrote a long background letter to Lily which was an emotionally cathartic experience and which provided a springboard for our sessions together.

My new partner accompanied me to the first session. We were both at the end of our tethers!

Consequently, we have seen Lily both together and separately as our needs differed. My ex-husband and current partner have also accompanied me to some sessions.

Since that first meeting, an enormous cloud has lifted from my shoulders as Lily gently led us through an explanation of substance abuse and the multiple issues involved. The ripple effects of addiction are palpable.

Through our sessions, I have been able to shed the notion that I was to blame. Certainly, I have engaged in enabling the behaviour which thankfully I now resist. I am now able to accept that I have done my best as a mum and grandmother and that if and when a decision may be made to address his addiction issues I will be in a stronger position to provide non-judgemental support, empathy, compassion and understanding needed to support … if a healing journey is to be embarked upon.

I have my experience with Lily with the other members of my family of friends and feel because of this we are all able to be on the same page.

Where previously I felt impotent despair, I now feel guilt free and I have developed a solid bank of knowledge and understanding that I can use to facilitate my own acceptance, healing and the ability to live with a situation that I know I have no power to change. There is a long way to go as we are still in denial but nothing is permanent and I feel confident moving forwards with Lily to guide me through whatever the future brings.

I am so very very grateful for this wonderful service that has provided such immense support to myself, my family, and many others.

Finally, I especially want to thank Lily for her wisdom, her compassion, her honesty and her ongoing support.

Thank you so much to those who have made this service possible.”

*Name changed, library photo used.

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The Buttery’s Family  Counselling Program is wholly funded by donations.