Robert’s story

I grew up as a good church boy in a working class suburb of inner Sydney. At school I felt different being one of only a handful of fair anglo-saxon boys in a school full of middle-eastern men. Despite my role and my training at the age of sixteen I abandoned my church, repulsed by certain aspects.

At seventeen after exploring my sexuality during a trip to the USA I found myself being further isolated with the discovery that I was gay. After my first arrest I also learnt that the laws of the day decreed that any act carried out by me with another male was an illegal act and through no fault of my own I had become a criminal in the eyes of society.

During my early teens as a child of the sixties I embraced the mood of the times and "tuned in, turned on and dropped out " and began my experimentation with drugs. It was a textbook case of smoking dope and alcohol binges that by high school graduation time saw me hosting drinking sessions from a fully stocked bar after school. I couldn't wait to explore adult life so armed with a forged ID I set off to explore the world of nightclubs and all night partying. I soon found my Nirvana being off my face on the dance floor of a disco.

Over the next five years, and as my social circles increased so did my experimentation with drugs. I regularly began to consume various forms of pills, which I learnt to mix with alcohol and had my initiation to psychedelic drugs and an innocent dabble with heroin. My work at the time gave the opportunity to socially drink and it was not uncommon to go for a boozy lunch that would finish at midnight. I also had the benefit of free international travel and I pursued my passion for nightlife and disco music and party drugs in all the major capital cities of the world.

By the age of 23 Sydney had grown too small and I set off to live overseas. I found myself in London and my indulgent lifestyle increased. If fell in love and found myself in a co-dependant relationship with an alcoholic cabaret singer. The next few years of my life were spent in a haze of alcohol and drugs and four years later I found it impossible to get through the day without at least a bottle of scotch. My visa ran out and so did I escaping to Amsterdam where I found refuge in a supermarket of drugs with an expedition into the use of all narcotics known to man. From there, my partner and I went to live in the U.S. where I found the people superficial and the cocaine good and cheap.
Finally I arrived back in Australia in time to celebrate the Bicentenary and as my gift to the nation helped to introduce Sydney to the delights of ecstasy. My new drug of choice did not mix with alcohol and I was pleased to finally find a way to address its excess in my life.

I had always held the romantic ideal of "live fast, die young" and I was almost given my wish when at the age of thirty I became suicidal. The break up of an eight-year relationship, the loss of my business and the start of my own Vietnam when sixteen of my closest friends began dying as a result of HIV & AIDS sent me to the edge. My way of dealing with life's challenges and my denial around my problems with drugs was to embark on a no holds barred IV amphetamine campaign that would rule my existence over the next ten years.

This decade of denial involved many highs and lows, many outrageous indulgent episodes that were somehow balanced by serious work on major large-scale dance parties. My passion for nightlife and hedonistic pleasure had grown into a full time career and my world became one big party full of drugs, sex and dance music.

By 1998 I somehow managed to find my way into the corporate sector and spent the next three years working for the government. During all of this time I maintained a ferocious drug habit fuelled by large sums of money that friends had secured through superannuation payouts and inheritance.
In 2001 I experienced my own Space Odyssey through consuming large quantities of 'ice' and 'special K'. I became a psychotic and physical wreck. I was hospitalised three times. I was unable to continue to work or afford to maintain my rented flat and spent all of my time glued to a poker machine. I had become fearful and neurotic about everyone and everything. I had reached a point of emotional, physical and spiritual destitution.
It took two more years for me to finally realise that I was an addict and that I needed help and when that moment arrived, a good friend who had been through a treatment program four years prior, on my insistence booked me in and I finally began treatment.

I had no expectation of what the program entailed. All I knew was that I needed help. I had tried for too many years to address my drug problem alone and I had failed miserably. What I wanted was a chance to break the vicious cycle that I was in. I felt that if I could just not use drugs for a period that all would be well again. What I found was a whole new world and a set of attitudes about what addiction was and I found myself living with a large group of men who were on the same journey as I was, and I no longer felt alone.

In the first few weeks, I was surprised and delighted to find that my body clock, that I was sure I had destroyed, returned. I found myself in a strict but fair structured program that was putting some balance back into my life. I was housed in a comfortable and safe environment where my rights as an individual were respected and my every move monitored to ensure that I was not left to my own devices.

Treatment introduced to me, several forms of meetings. The morning group session where I could freely express how I felt and air any issues that were coming up in my recovery. I was also taken to two self help group meetings a day where I could work on developing a network of friends with the common goal of living life without the use of drugs.

Through information classes I discovered real information about what it was to be an addict and was given the opportunity to embrace new ideas about addiction and ways of managing the disease. I was also reintroduced to living skills by doing domestic chores on a commercial scale.

I came to the program to change my life from being unmanageable into a manageable one. I look at it as a training camp where I have come to learn survival skills that I can use to manage my life without the use of drugs when I finish the program. I have achieved this and more. As a result of coming into the program I now have choice in my life. I am drug free, I have a support network of peers and friends and what I have now which I didn't when I arrived is that I now have the potential for a better life without the use of drugs.