This is something we as young adults, parents, educators, grandparents and others fear ourselves and our young people.
It is something we hope we never experience and those around us don’t either.
Wherever we turn, especially living on the Gold Coast, Australia, we see advertisements about being aware. Don’t leave your drink, don’t go home with strangers, don’t accept a drink from someone and the list goes on.
We educate our young people in schools through talks and guest speakers. Through units we teach, however, when we look at the teenage faces in front of us we see ignorance and the idea that ‘this won’t happen to me’. Its everywhere. We remain ignorant to something like this until we are subjected to it. Until we experience it first hand. Then we are the ones trying to teach those around us to be more aware, we ourselves become frustrated with the ignorance you yourself once had.
Let me clear something up before I get into another very personal story. Being drugged is not something that happens just to young people. It can happen to adults and elderly. You don’t have to be an eighteen year old in a bar or nightclub. You can be in your thirties and at an organised event and it can happen to you.
It did to me.
It was a major event, ball gowns and all. An event attended by my colleagues, friends and more. We spent hours on our hair, our make-up and of course the perfect dress. I would like to say it was an amazing evening and event, but I don’t remember it. I don’t remember anything.
Now I am a cautious person, I was a thirty year old, educated and a responsible person. I was dressed to impress and enjoy the evening with my friends.We had been lucky enough to book a few rooms at the venue and had spent the afternoon in fits of laughter as we ‘glammed’ ourselves up.
We were ready early, yes I know, unheard of in the female world but we were, so we headed down to the bar outside the grand ballroom and ordered a pre-drink. This is where for me the night ended, or should I say began.
For me, the next thing I remembered was waking up the next morning, thankfully in my room. However, it was learning what happened, that I couldn’t remember, that made me feel empty, lost and eventually angry.
This is what I gathered from chatting to my friends.
After this pre-drink we headed into the grand ballroom, we took photos, we danced and I spoke and acted like a ‘normal person’. However, not the normal me. I was spacey, quick to make judgements, quick to anger and unable to make decisions.
I remember the following few days, after the event, hearing snippets of what I had done and said, how ashamed I was, how empty I felt, as for me I could remember nothing. It was like someone or something had crept into my mind and stolen hours of my life. Without my permission. Seeing photos or even talking about the evening made me sick to my stomach. I felt violated!
For days I felt physically sick, I couldn’t eat and even more so I was depressed. Truly down. Like nothing I had ever felt before. I rang my dad and told him I thought I had had my drink spiked and how I was feeling. He told me the emptiness is what people who have this done to them must feel. Its the come down. The after effects.
What were my options? Well I could have had a blood test, I could have gone back to the venue and reported the event, but I didn’t. I think this was part shame, part anger and part not being able to fully comprehend what had happened. Having your memory wiped, stolen never to return no matter how hard you tried to fill in the deep black hole that was now present.
It took me days to recover and months to forgive myself. However, I had to also realise, I didn’t need to forgive myself. It could have happened to anyone anywhere, it was just me on that night.
Living on the Gold Coast, one of the entertainment capitals of the world, drink spiking was, and continues to be a major issue. We educate our young people about watching their drinks, being sure to order their own and never accept one from someone else, but, we must also educate them in the ‘what if’. What if this happens? We must educate them as individuals and also their friends to identify the signs of when things are not as they seem. To give them a lifeline, someone to call, something to do. Have the conversation when the time is right. Make them aware and be there for them. If they won’t ring you be sure to identify someone they will contact. Someone they trust and will not hesitate to contact. I am hoping to be that person for my soon to be teenager.
I can imagine the fear and the anger I would feel if I ever received a phone call like this, however I am convinced through education, awareness and understating I never will be.
If only a friend of mine had noticed or been able to take me to my room, remove me from the evening maybe the night would have been different. This is not a blame thing more an awareness thing. We need to be aware of those around us, our setting and try be as cautious as we can be.
Don’t get angry with your child if they ring on a night and need you to come and get them, or if they do the wrong thing but reach out. This is the best outcome. Its a life lesson, a hard one but a lesson in itself. Forgive and then educate.
So many times I have wanted to share this personal story with the young people I see who talk about the parties they attend, the things they do and see but my job and need for professionalism inhibits this. I do believe hearing the personal stories and the real life events are what make our young people realise they are not invincible rather we are all just human beings.
To this day I have not been back to this venue. I am not sure why. Maybe its the shame, the anger or even the fear but I have not been back. Maybe one day but not just yet.