Take 5

I caught my parents doing meth. Now I’m helping others

Taydam Knowles, 23, Adelaide, South Australia, shares her real-life story of growing up amid the chaos of her parents addiction. Today, she speaks freely about this experience to help others.
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Hiding behind the door, I saw my dad pour a powder into a clear glass pipe.

“Tay, you shouldn’t come here,” my mum said when she caught me.

It was 2010 and even at 10, I knew my dad did drugs.

Addicted to meth, he slept all day, was always tired and could never concentrate during a conversation.

Strangers visited our house at odd hours and we moved around a lot, without any explanation.

Me, John and Nathan in 2011. (image: Supplied)

Dad often fought with his own parents, but they were the ones who took me and my brothers, John, seven, and Nathan, four, to school recitals and sports events.

“You need to grow up,” Grandma said to my parents bitterly one day. “You both need to get jobs.”

My father was 16 when I was born, and my mother 18.

Neither of them finished high school.

Every weekend, they dropped us off at our grandparents’ house.

“Why can’t you stay with us?” I often asked Mum, but her reply was always the same.

“I need to go away with Dad for a bit,” she said.

Me and my brothers in 2012. (Image: Supplied)

I loved my parents but also hated them for abandoning us.

While I could see they loved each other, they fought all the time, too.

Often, we came home from school to find them sulking or shouting at each other.

When this happened, I took my brothers out to play with Nerf guns or we rode our bikes around the neighbourhood.

Only my best friend, Angelica, knew what my home life was like. I kept it a secret from everyone else at school.

In April 2012, our brother Blayte was born.

I wondered how my parents would provide for him, but we all adored Blayte and took him under our wing.

One day, when I was 12, my cousins and I were at a bowling alley when my Aunty Kelly arrived.

“Taydam, I need a word with you,” she said.

“What happened?” I asked.

We stepped outside and she handed me the phone.

“I’m going to be going away for a while…” my dad told me.

I began to cry.

He’d been caught dealing drugs and was going to jail.

At first, we visited Dad regularly in prison, but after a few months, Mum stopped going and started seeing someone else.

I felt so ashamed that both my parents were methamphetamine addicts. (Image: Supplied)

John, Nathan and I went to live with our grandparents.

When Dad got out of prison two years later, Mum got back together with him.

“This is a bad idea,” I said to her. “Let Dad sort himself out first.”

She didn’t listen to me and soon I noticed she’d lost weight, had dark circles around her eyes and was always angry.

“Are you doing drugs?” I asked her.

“Of course not!” she said, but I knew she was lying.

I felt so ashamed that both my parents were addicts.

I hated myself and wondered what I’d ever 
do with my life.

Then, when I was 14, a woman approached me at 
a shopping centre.

“You should consider modelling,” she said, handing me a card.

I asked my grandma what she thought.

“Give it a go,” she urged, and helped me get an ABN.

Speaking at a program for youths. (Image: Supplied)

Modelling gave me confidence and I realised I had a choice.

I could choose to feel sorry for myself or I could make a go of my life. I decided on the latter.

In my final year of high school, I did a journalism course and loved it so much I enrolled in a Bachelor of Journalism and Film at the University of South Australia when I left school. At uni, I interned at a community radio station which offered me a regular gig.

Then, I was approached by George, the founder of The Adelaide Set – an online youth platform.

He gave me a job interviewing local politicians and musicians for their radio show.

In October 2020, George, 30, and I were attending an event together.

We’d become close so I decided to tell him about my rocky childhood and the problems my parents had.

I was nervous about how he’d react to what I told him, but he smiled at me.

“Look at how amazing you turned out regardless of your situation,” he said. “You should be proud.”

“You’re right,” I said, grinning at him. “I am proud of myself.”

Me and George, my mentor and now fiance. (Image: Supplied)

After four months working together, George and I became a couple.

He encouraged me when I started an Instagram account advising businesses on how to grow their social media output.

I also started running online social media courses.

My career has gone from strength to strength, and in October last year George and I got engaged.

Over the years, I’ve met people from wealthy backgrounds with family members who are addicts. It taught me that addiction doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor. It’s a health issue.

Everyone has a choice in how they react to life’s challenges.

When I was a teenager I felt a lot of shame around my family situation, but now I’m proud of what I’ve achieved despite all that.

My brother John, 20, is now working with horses and living with his girlfriend. Nathan, 17, and Blayte, 11, are still at school.

While I’m not close to my parents, I forgave them a long time ago.

I hope my story inspires others to keep going. Life can be beautiful, no matter your upbringing.

For support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 (Aust) or 0800 543 354 (NZ).

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