Here Kelly Neilson, 44, from Victoria, tells the story in her own words:
Rearranging the magnets and photographs, I just about managed to squeeze the latest certificate on the fridge.
Between my three boys, Jakk, then 11, Ky, nine, and Travis, five, it was full with pictures from footy tournaments and awards for best manners.
To me, being a mum was the greatest job in the world and I was lucky enough to be able to work from home.
My husband Jeff was a successful plasterer, so I took care of the admin side of his business. It meant I could keep on top of the cleaning, ferry the boys to matches and prepare dinner for when everyone got home.
Once the boys were in bed, I made a to-do list for the following day. One day though, I only got the chance to tick off two out of four jobs.
‘How come you didn’t call the insurer?’ Jeff sighed.
‘I’m not superwoman,’ I snapped.
As time passed, resentment bubbled up inside me. Here I was, driver, teacher, cleaner, employee, Jeff’s wife, the boys’ mum... Where was Kelly? What do I ever do for me? I thought bitterly.
I knew other mums led similar lives and were happy, but when I turned 40, I re-evaluated everything.
I can’t do this anymore, I thought.
A few months after my birthday, I told Jeff I needed some space.
‘Can’t we work it out?’ he pleaded, confused. ‘I love you.’
My mind was made up though, and I went to stay with a friend. There, I noticed that people were constantly coming and going.
‘What’s going on?’ I asked.
‘I’m selling ice,’ she grinned. ‘Want to try it?’
Suddenly, I felt a rush of excitement. Although crystal meth is illegal, and I knew it was addictive, the thought of doing something on my own, without my family, gave me a thrill.
‘Sure!’ I said.
As she showed me how to breathe in the smoke, I didn’t even think about Jeff and the kids. I soon felt euphoric. The next morning I went home to get the boys ready for school, but all I could think about was getting high.
I’d only smoked meth once, but it was clear I was already addicted.
From then on, I did it every day. To pay for my binges, I stole money from Jeff’s business account. I’d always handled our finances, so I knew I wouldn’t get caught.
Some days I blew $1500. The drugs kept me up all night, then I’d go home in the morning to see the kids off.
It gave me the chance to intercept the mail too. That way, Jeff wouldn’t see all the late notices. I just paid the minimum amount to keep the services running.
There were some things I couldn’t hide though. Acne appeared on my back and my personality changed. Before, I was loving and sympathetic. Now I’d become spiteful.
‘Have I hurt your feelings?’ I’d mock Jeff.
‘What’s got into you?’ he’d ask sadly.
I met dealers in motels and would hear stories about people getting beaten with baseball bats if they owed money. It was a whole world apart from footy practice and family days at the zoo.
Soon my teeth rotted and my weight plummeted to just 50 kilos.
In August 2013, when I’d been taking meth for 18 months, I realised there wasn’t enough money to pay the mortgage. Looking at the figures, I felt sick. I’d spent $125,000 on drugs!
What have I done? I thought, horrified.
I’d abandoned my sons and put my hubby through hell. Picking up the phone, I called Lifeline.
‘I need help,’ I sobbed.
They gave me the number of Windana Drug and Alcohol Recovery, and they booked me in for a 10-day detox starting the following morning.
When Jeff got home from work, I sat him down.
‘I’m addicted to ice,’ I confessed. ‘I’ve spent all our money.’
He was shocked, but he pulled me into a hug.
‘I love you,’ he said. ‘We’re going to get through this.’
I had no doubt about it – I wanted my family back.
‘I promise I’ll never leave you again,’ I vowed after rehab.
It would take time to rebuild their trust, and Jeff and I saw a counsellor. But I couldn’t fix the rest of the damage. We had to sell the house and I needed a full set of false teeth.
Some days I’d break down.
‘I can’t believe what I put you through,’ I cried to Jeff.
‘I’m just so happy you’re back,’ he’d reply.
In January 2014, it was our 10-year wedding anniversary.
‘Why don’t we renew our vows in Bali?’ I said.
It seemed like the perfect way to celebrate getting back together. Posing for pictures after the ceremony, I felt like the luckiest woman alive.
I’ve been clean for three years now and we’re closer than ever. Jeff and I share all the jobs around the house and I feel appreciated. I hope that Jakk, now 17, Ky, 15, and Travis, 11, forgive me too.
I’d like my story to serve as a warning to others. I still can’t believe what I did. I went from model mum to meth addict. Thankfully, I got the chance to be a great mum again.
Jeff, 49, says:
For the first 12 months, I had no idea what was going on, then I began to suspect something was wrong. When Kelly finally confessed, it wasn’t about me. My main concern was her getting better.
I wouldn’t wish addiction on anyone, but it’s changed my way of thinking. Before I wanted a big house, now I just want my family to be together. That’s the best thing I could ever ask for. I’m so happy to have my wife back.
This story originally appeared in that's life! Issue 6, 9 February 2017.