I started using alcohol at about 13, my first real experience of being drunk was at my brothers wedding drinking red wine from the tables. Little did I know the road that alcohol and drugs would lead me down, or should I say the road I chose to take.
Like many others, I used alcohol on the weekends with my other friends and by 14 had started to occasionally get hold of some cannabis leaf. Throughout the early years it was on the weekends and only casual use. My school work had started to suffer but I was keeping up my sports such as soccer which I was relatively good at.
By age16 a friend and I started working as delivery boys at separate chemist shops, this brought in a whole new world; Avil car sickness tablets, Valium and eventually Mandrax by the time we had worked there 6 months we were taking whatever we could when we could. Friends became involved and several years later I was informed that one friend lost part of a kidney from the Avil use.
I used to visit my sisters in Melbourne and they were all part of the 70s cannabis and hippy scene, which meant that I had access to increasing amounts of cannabis and alcohol and would use it whenever I could.
By 17 I was at risk of being expelled as I had several run ins with the school and was absent about 80 days in my fourth form year I decided to leave and start my apprenticeship with my father as a carpenter. This went on in stops and starts over the years but I never completed it. At 17 I was starting to snort speed and just before my 18th birthday I began using heroin with some friends. I was only every injected 3 times and then took over myself. Back in my home town Physeptone tabs secanol sodium (reds) and tuanil (tooeys) were all the go, the barbiturates were $1 or $2 each and methadone tabs $5
By 19 I was involved in dealing at various levels cannabis at first but then heroin or speed. I was eventually arrested at 19 and went to prison attempting to smuggle drugs into a prison.In the same week that I was arrested for the prison episode I was busted in Melbourne with a car boot full of cannabis and some chemist drugs from a previous adventure. I continued to use even on bail and the following appeal, eventually I did my time as you eventually have to do. All the time stating that heroin would not get hold of me again.
On release from Geelong prison I quickly resumed my using and once again ended up with a habit. I continued to work in patches but mostly sold heroin and would jump on and off methadone (liquid handcuffs) as the need arouse or would use doloxene to get me through the days without heroin.
My relationships were mostly drug related. By my late 20s and I was arrested every now and again for cultivation or other possession offences. By the 1990’s I had managed to limit my heroin use to most weekends and had hidden it from my new love interest, this failed in the end as all deception does but my partner remained with me even though I had to inform her that I had been arrested for heroin trafficking and would be looking at gaol again.
I decided from about that point, as I had a new baby with my partner that I did not want to continue with this life so I set out to get myself together. With support of a GP and a counsellor, I set on my road to recovery I went on low dose doloxene for a short time, went to N.A. for a while and got myself fit. My 6 months of effort paid off, and I was given a suspended sentence because of my efforts, support structures and a lack of evidence.
I continued to use on occasions sometimes for a month or so and then to opportunistic use when I ran into someone who could get on.
By the mid nineties I had become involved in a project around Hep C and outreach research this was a good time as I started to see that I could do things which were not only useful to me but also to my clan,( IV drug users) who I knew were often isolated and feeling labelled by the general public.
I was able to learn more about the effects of hepatitis on IV drug users and became heavily involved in advocating and setting up a mobile needle exchange program in a small regional town. I also volunteered with a support group for HIV/HEP C services.
From here I returned to study and finally after many unfinished attempts at almost everything I received what was then an Associate Diploma, still the only qualification I hang on the wall. I was so proud that I had finally finished something.
From there I started a placement with a Community Health Centre from which I received some part time work. I then moved onto University and completed a Bachelor of Social Work and was offered a job in alcohol and drug work. I declined at first because I figured I had spent enough of my life in and around drug use but finally agreed to a 3 month position that was 13 years ago.
I currently work in the AOD sector and supervise a multidisciplinary team across all of the streams of intervention in AOD work. I would not be here to day without the interest and support from those people who had the time to support , listen and encourage me to make the changes I had to make.
I did not stop in one day it took many years even after my last court appearance, however knowing that there are people out there, and that you can make change always held strong. Even in dark times I was able to draw on the advice and knowledge that there is always someone to talk with, and support you if you want to have a go.
The other thing is to know that it is ok to stumble, its ok to fear, but most of all its ok to say it’s too much to cope with alone.
I thank all involved from friends and family and those services who supported me as each and every one of them had a part to play, a piece of a puzzle that was my life and for so long was a dark and lonely place.