“It will kill him”, I said as the realisation came that I had to finally sit my parents down and tell them what was going on.
Almost two years had passed since I had lost my job due to stealing a significant amount of jewellery to support a gambling problem.
Almost two years had passed and I still had not told my family.
My mother was a hard worker. Worked in the early hours of the morning as a cleaner and stayed at home the rest of the time to raise my older brother and me. My mother was great with money; always kept to a budget and would not spend her money on new clothes or trinkets. I always felt that she deserved to treat herself every now and then but she always put us first. My father was the same. Worked 7 days a week to support his family and give his family the best he could as well as putting away money in his super so he could retire comfortably. Being responsible with your money…it is a lost art.
My parents had always been proud of me and the positions I had earned over my years of employment. I had never lost a job. Let alone being terminated and cautioned by the police. When I was admitted to the psychiatric unit a few days after I was terminated from work, my husband had spoken to my parents because he needed someone to talk to. He had only told them about my severe antenatal depression and a gambling problem that he assured he was taking care of. My husband felt that was all they needed to know at that point. Everything was still so raw, we were still coming to terms with what was happening ourselves. Our daughter was due and that is what we wanted to focus on. Being their first grandchild, we didn’t want to ruin this moment for them. I hadn’t been officially charged for the offence, so we decided not to say anything.
And for the next year we still didn’t say anything. We knew that we couldn’t keep this from them forever. But would it be fair to drag them through all of the heartache and tears we went through? their constant worry and feeling they needed to help in some way when in actual fact there was nothing they could do at that point?
We would know when the time was right.
I was then officially charged with the crime.
We had to move back home.
We moved back home just before Christmas of 2014. Selling our home of 9 years to pay for legal fees and other debts of which there were many. The thought of having my parents so close at hand and so close to their only granddaughter should be welcomed with open arms….
You can’t welcome anything or anyone into your life if you can’t look them In the eye.
So I isolated myself and my daughter in our separate living space for the first 5 months. We have adequate space so it didn’t feel cramped. I Only really spoke to my parents when I was in the kitchen and they never really saw their granddaughter unless I had to bring her to the front of the house so I could cook and do laundry. My parents never really questioned it. It didn’t mean they didn’t want to see their granddaughter. They wanted to give me space and time to adjust and settle in.
Before any of this has happened, we enjoyed each others company. We used to have long, vivid conversations about various topics and matters of the world for hours on end. Now with just a quick and mumbled “hello”, these vivid conversations were a long thing of the past.
My lawyer had made an application to the magistrate stating that there were circumstances during my pregnancy, mainly my antenatal depression that had triggered my gambling addiction. This would mean asking the magistrate to sentence me under the mental health act and release me into the care of my doctors and not the state corrections department. After rigorous and confronting assessments with both a forensic psychologist and criminal psychiatrist and all medical records submitted, we waited for the decision.
The application was refused.
Whilst there was significant and consistent evidence supporting my mental health at the time, both doctors stating my eligibility for the application, the court could not ignore the factor of gambling as the reason for the theft and the amount that was taken. Even though my depression had impacted the decisions I made, it could not be the sole excuse of my actions.
What did this mean for me now? It now meant that I was going to be sentenced under the criminal act. There are many options of punishment. The highest of all…prison. A prison sentence could now be a reality. I would be sentenced in a month and during that time I would be assessed for an “Intensive Corrections Order” or ICO. An ICO is where you are sentenced, what ever the duration may be and you are monitored by state corrections outside of prison. You also have to partake in community service for the duration of your sentence. You don’t get to choose where you go or what you do.
” You will have to report to a parole officer regularly” my assessor stated as I sat in his office. I understood and was fine with that and everything else he had said so far. ” you will also have home visits so I would like to come and see where you live and have the permission of all who live there before I can state you as eligible for an ICO”.
My heart stopped. I still hadn’t told my parents. In the few months of us living at home I began to see just how fragile my parents had become both physically and mentally. My mum was still tough mentally but not as fit as she used to be, and my dad was getting slower in his old age. Overweight, he could hardly take care of himself let alone anyone else, he was a highly emotional man and his mental coping skills were not their strongest. I had convinced myself I wouldn’t tell them.
“It will kill him” I explained to the assessor. ” he won’t be able to take this. He will surely have a heart attack and that will be the end of him”. The assessor whilst understanding, explained to me that without permission of everyone in the house he could not approve me for an ICO. Without the ICO as an option, it would limit my options for punishment. This would ultimately reduce the chance of me serving my sentence on the outside with my daughter and family. He gave me a week to think it over with my husband.
I was so convinced that if I told my dad it would literally be the end of him, that I was willing to throw the ICO away, hope for a suspended sentence. If that failed and I was sentenced to jail we could apply for bail and appeal right? That way we don’t have to tell them. It all sounded so simple, that was what I was going to do….surely they can’t send me to jail? I was letting fear and shame make my decision….similar emotions that drove me to make the decisions that got me into trouble in the first place. That fear was influencing me to throw away an option that would let me serve my time at home and continue raising my daughter and begin to mend our life. Also not thinking how my parents would feel If the way they found out was because I was put in prison. My husband convinced me that if I agreed to the ICO that he would tell my parents. I would be there but he would do most of the talking. I finally agreed. I know it seems like a cowards way out but it was the only way I could do it.
We had just less than a week to tell my parents before the assessor came to our home, and we decided we would tell them a couple of days before. Needless to say it was a tense week.
I don’t know what triggered it, but something clicked inside me. Earlier than planned, I asked my husband if he was ready to tell them. He was surprised and asked if I was sure. And I was. I was tired of letting this burden control our life and how we lived it and I needed to deal with it head on.
So we sat my parents down.
I didn’t let my husband say a word.
I needed to do the talking. This was my problem, and I needed to speak up and admit the responsibility and apologise to my parents.
Ultimately, waiting to tell them was the best decision we made. We had been through all of the emotion and the tears and we were now coming to the end of the journey, so to speak. There was no need to drag them through the mess that we had been through over the past year. My father is still alive and kicking and very supportive. Surprisingly, it has given him the kick he needs to get himself into shape again. My door is open all hours and they can see their granddaughter anytime they want. We are also starting to have those long, vivid conversations we used to many moons ago.
I still had one more wall to face and that was my sentencing. But to me, I had just faced and broke down the toughest one of all.
I was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by way of and Intensive Corrections Order (ICO) with 32 hours a month of community service. I am still to continue my treatment and it will be monitored.
I now have a criminal record.
But, I still get to live my life, raise my family and plan for a better future; one that my family truly deserves.
Had I not finally faced all of my demons, who knows how much worse it could have been.
I’m glad I will never know.