I was 15 years old when I first tried drugs. There was a group of boys at my school I was jealous of, they seemed so “cool” and relaxed and I was desperate to be the same. So when one of them offered me drugs saying it would “help me” I jumped at the chance. I still remember how the first time felt; the adrenaline, the fear, the panic and the overwhelming desire to do it again. That was the beginning of the end for me.
Very quickly I moved on from this group of boys and began using on my own; this became a regular pattern throughout my life. I befriended people who used drugs like me and dropped them once it became apparent they wanted to slow down or stop, because I couldn’t understand that. Why would anyone want to ration their drugs? Why didn’t they want to use them all at once like me? I couldn’t see that I was the one with the problem.
When I graduated High School I attempted several courses at University before dropping out, not because I couldn’t do it but because I couldn’t stop using and that had become my priority. By the time I was twenty I was using drugs I promised myself I would never touch and had lost any sense of what was right and wrong. I lived in delusion, everything I did was to make sure I had the drugs I believed I needed regardless of the consequences and the people I hurt in the process. I pushed away friends, partners and my family.
Using drugs didn’t solve any of my problems, they only served to help me avoid them. I was lonely, angry, fearful and in so much pain. I didn’t know how get through that. I was 25 when I decided to leave Perth and start over in Melbourne so determined not to use anymore. I believed Perth was the problem, not me. What I couldn’t see then was that I was completely powerless over drugs, that I couldn’t stop on my own. I was using again within hours of landing in Melbourne.
For the first seven months in Melbourne I used more drugs than ever before. I had no sense of reality, safety or boundaries. In those months I got myself into dangerous and traumatic situations that only fuelled my drug use to a place of regular psychosis episodes and a rapid decline in my mental health. I had no idea who I was anymore. There are so many moments in my addiction that were insane but none more than the night I spent in my bathtub. Stuck in psychosis I barricaded myself in my bathroom and Googled addiction. I remember reading through articles and looking at photos of addicts; but I decided that because I didn’t look like I mustn’t be an addict. So I kept using.
The thing about addiction is that it doesn’t discriminate. Addicts are daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, fathers, mothers, your next door neighbour, your high school teacher and so on. It’s a personal struggle. In my experience, I struggled with addiction for eleven years before I finally reached out for help.
Recovery isn’t easy, you don’t go into rehab and come back out a shiny new person. The first time I went to rehab I wasn’t entirely willing and as a result had a painful relapse a month later. Things were different the second time, I had found a place of desperation and surrender. Facing myself has been one of the hardest things I’ve done in life, but also the most rewarding. I wake up each day and front up to life without needing a drug to do so. Recovery, for me, has been rehab, living in a recovery house, therapy and a 12 Step Fellowship. It’s been about understanding myself and the compulsion I felt to use drugs.
As I write this today I am a little over 19 months clean, living in a private rental house, working and finally studying the right course at University. I have my family back in life, I have real friendships and above all I have respect and love for myself that I’ve never had before. Recovery from addiction is possible. Of course there are good days and bad days that’s what life’s about.
I won’t ever forget where I’ve come from, the days I spent curled up on the floor in my apartment desperate for drugs. It’s not who I am today or who I want to be tomorrow. Addiction doesn’t have to be a death sentence. I’ve chosen to live.