2011….I can’t understand why I’m soaking wet, and so, so cold. I’m shaking uncontrollably. I don’t remember going swimming. I notice the ground under me is
very hard. This seems familiar but I can’t form a thought..recall a memory. I don’t realise there’s a fog until the moment it begins to clear. I start hearing voices. Faces take form in front of my eyes. I gain perspective. I’m down and they are up. Their heads inclined to look at me as I lay on the ground.

My spirit cries out in anguish at the realisation I’m still alive and my mind is conscious. There’s no drug to numb me. The shaking gripping my body is ferocious. It’s like I’m having a fit. I’m scared..not of death, but of life. And now I know. I’ve overdosed. They (paramedics) have revived me with narcan.

This has happened before. A lot. It happened yesterday. And two days before that, and the day before that. And approximately 20 times over the previous 15 years. It’s never felt like this though. This is a big one. My brain won’t work. There’s no messages getting to my body.

On reflection I can’t believe I survived that one

and went on to overdose and be revived by paramedics twice more the very next day, and again the day after that.

I’m lying in the emergency lane. Eastlink. Near the Mullum Mullum tunnel at Ringwood. Earlier I had told 3 young girls I could get them some ICE, but I had no intention of doing that. Instead I got them to drive me 30 kilometres so i could take their money and buy myself heroin. I apologised for ripping them off and asked them to drive me back home. I’d long since given up on letting shame stop me from using and I mixed up and injected the heroin I’d spent their money on, in the back seat of the car.

On some level I think I knew. I didn’t want to live anymore. I couldn’t even remember what hope felt like, or even if it had ever existed. Besides I was such a piece of shit. The world would be better off without me. I wouldn’t claim it as a serious suicide attempt, but if that syringe full of heroin had have brought my miserable life to a gentle end I guess I would have been grateful.

I lost consciousness somewhere near the Chandler highway over pass. Heading away from the city on the Eastern freeway. The girl beside me in the back seat had never seen anyone using heroin. It was about 15 plus minutes before she asked the girl driving why I had turned blue. They were in the tunnel at Ringwood

and had to come out the other side before they could pull over. They thought tipping bottles of water over me might help. At the time I resented the fact they called 000. Now I’m so very grateful

Many are not so lucky. I had an on again off again girlfriend that overdosed and died many years ago. She had gone to buy heroin with two people well known to us. I believe they all went back to her house and used. The other two left and the next day she was found with her infant son screaming beside her lifeless body.

Jezz. James. Carla. Richard. Sam. Damaris. Johnny. Nadia. I knew and loved all these people and they have all died of drug overdoses in the past 6 years.

The very same pair of paramedics revived me on consecutive days in 2011. I remember the look on his face as one asked me “what are you DOING mate”?
It was a look of dispair. He thought he was fighting a losing battle, and who can blame him.

The thing is I got clean not long after that. I stopped using drugs and drinking….and I’ve stayed stopped. It’s been almost 7 years. And I’m unrecognizable. Instead of being a drain on society, I contribute. I help other addicts stay clean. I love people. It’s important. To me for sure but to them. It’s important to them.

Jezz and James and Carla and Richard and Sam and Damaris and Johnny and Nadia…our society is poorer for not having them here sharing their love. We all light up the lives of others. Often we don’t even know it.

There’s a vast section of our society that doesn’t understand addiction. That can come up with no other explanation than that addicts are bad people. Morally deficient, and should be punished. I can see why

one might think that way.

The problem is not the lack of understanding, addic‐ tion is complex and baffling. I lived it for 25 years and I’m still confused by it. The problem is the lack of willingness to try a new way of tackling addiction. We’ve been punishing addicts for generations and in and of itself that has never brought about recovery.

We need to show love and compassion, invest in treatment and we won’t need so many prisons. There won’t be so much behaviour that screams out for punishment.

We’ve finally got a safe injecting facility being trialed in Melbourne. The one in Sydney has been saving lives for many years. No one dies in a safe injecting facility…and if we can be kept alive long enough we can turn our lives around in to ones worth living.

We’re not scum. We’re lost and lonely and confused and scared and in our minds drugs become a survival mechanism…we don’t see they’re killing
us until it’s too late. Until we’re prisoners, trapped and out of hope.

The advertising industry spends billions of dollars convincing us that we’re not good enough. That we don’t measure up. That we’re not successful unless we have X or Y. So we chase it. We set our course. Solo. Trying to attain what we’re told will fulfill us..and when we get that thing we feel empty. We wonder what’s wrong. I set the goal. I worked. I achieved. Why am I depressed? We self medicate. We become addicts. People trying to feel good..and so many of us forget along the way that we’re not really supposed to go solo. Real success is helping those along side us. Working together for the common good is fulfilling. There’s nothing but emptiness in getting all I can for myself with no thought of the next guy.

If you think overdosing is just for street junkies think again. Prescription medications play a part in 70% of overdose deaths in Australia.

There’s no immunity. Addiction doesn’t care where you’re from. Who you know. What public or private school you went to. How much money you have
or don’t have. If you think it doesn’t affect you you’re wrong. It affects your insurance premiums.

Your taxes. Your personal safety..at home, on the roads, at events.

The problem is yours. Like it or not. Governments punish because they think that’s what we want and it will get them the vote…and generally they’re right.

Let’s tell them we want something different and make them earn our vote doing that. Too many Australians are dying needlessly.