“Before ASCERT I was scared for my family’s future. My son battled addiction, I lost my career due to my long term
illness meaning our finances were strained and I worried our family wouldn’t have a Christmas. ASCERT offered us
hope. They helped us to work through our issues together and provided us with Christmas cheer. I can’t believe
the generosity of strangers and what they did for my family by giving us the gift of Christmas” Mrs Murray, Christmas 2022*
The Murray family found themselves in an unmanageable situation… Mum, Dad, “Jason” aged 17, “Ciara” aged 15,
“Hannah” aged 7 and “Tom” aged 2, found the feelings of hopelessness crippling and overwhelming, not knowing where to turn to for help.
The family were referred to ASCERT’s family therapy service due to Jason’s substance misuse which had left them at
breaking point. Their once happy home had become a battlefield of ongoing disagreements affecting Ciara, Hannah and Tom.
In addition to Jason’s substance misuse, the family was under enormous financial pressure with Mum losing her job due
to a long term illness and Dad reducing his hours to help with childcare. The household essentials were just about
covered, but there was no room for extra’s and with rising energy costs, a growing family and Christmas looming, both parents felt very anxious due to an uncertain future.
The family’s key worker realised the hidden agony within the Murrays’ struggles and quickly realised that although Jason’s
addiction cast a long shadow on the family, it was not the sole pain being endured by them. ASCERT’s person centred
approach centres on family relationships, offering support and encouraging every family members’ voice to be heard in a safe environment without judgement.
Mum and Dad explored their worries that at 15, Ciara was vulnerable to pressures that could easily lead her astray
tempting her into trying risky and potentially harmful behaviours in spite of her witnessing the pain Jason’s substance
misuse had caused the family. Hannah expressed her anguish through tantrums and furious outbursts mirroring the daily struggles happening within the Murray’s home.
At ASCERT, we believe that there is hope in every situation. Our support extends beyond therapy. Learning of the Murray’s
financial situation, our keyworker signposted them to information and advice to ease Mum & Dad’s immediate financial
concerns. ASCERT gave the Murray’s Christmas cheer through donated gifts from generous local organisations and a Christmas Hamper packed full of essentials and a few treats.
Our intervention not only supported the family holistically, but gave them the time, space and support to address their
issues. Jason subsequently acknowledged his addiction and began his journey into recovery with one of ASCERT’s young
people’s services. Recognising Ciara’s vulnerabilities, our key worker made a referral to a different ASCERT service specifically supporting young people affected by a family members substance misuse.
ASCERT have been at the heart of local communities since 1998, providing hope and support to families, young people
and individuals who are struggling with the harm caused by alcohol or substance misuse. Addiction knows no boundaries
and can affect anyone at any time, so as we enter our 25th Anniversary year and reflect on the thousands of people
across Northern Ireland we have supported over the years, we ask for your help this Christmas and invite you to Give the Gift for the 25th.
By giving a Christmas hamper, having a Christmas Jumper day, a Christmas Crafternoon, hosting a Christmas quiz,
donating the proceeds of a Christmas Cookie Sale or having a retiring collection at your Christmas carol concert or play,
you will demonstrate your support for families like the Murray’s this Christmas; families who are feeling helpless and have lost hope.
With your kindness, we can turn despair into hope, loosening addiction’s grip and offering families a chance to heal.
Please help us this Christmas and Give the Gift for the 25th.
*The Murray family name has been changed to protect their privacy, however the details given are representative of actual situations encountered by our service staff last Christmas