“My story” in brief

I didn't start using heroin until I was 29 years old. I went on a pharmacotherapy program one year later and stayed on it for over 13 years. At the age of 36 I was involved in an explosion and my daily dose was increased. I also began taking prescribed sedatives and continued taking them until six months prior to entering another program.

I spent two weeks doing a selective detox but this was insufficient time so I spent a further five months at home on an individually tailored reduction regime. This eventually got me off sedatives.

Three months after entering this program my dosage levels have dropped substantially.

Being confronted with 15 other people at various stages of detox, some clean, and with so few women to relate to I often find myself wishing that the program had a separate women's wing.

In this safe environment one of the main things I've learnt is the concept of personal honesty. The notion of not stealing from shops or from other people is not new to me. I was under the belief that one could not change beyond of age about 35. At 43 I've come to understand that it's our secrets that keep us sick and that being truly honest with myself will assist me in staying clean.

We are in a boiler room here where no behaviour goes unnoticed. This can be very confronting and is certainly alarming at the best of times.

I've become very surprised how one day I can feel absolutely fantastic and the next feel morose and lethargic. There are no guarantees to how one feels. The most important idea is that we cope with day-to-day events, tribulations and we don't pick up.

I've been here for nearly three months, way done if I decide to complete the six-month program through to aftercare. About three weeks ago I had had enough and made a spontaneous decision to complete my detox at a specialist women's service. That day I was the only female here and I missed the interaction women have which I can take for granted.

I spoke to a few male peers (fellow residents) and I decided to complete the program. Just before I came into this place I made a promise to myself that I would complete this program even if it saw me leave in a black box. Nothing as dramatic as that has happened.

I can tell you one thing that my life has no meaning living in a medication-induced stupor. I don't know what the future holds, but at least I will make some contribution to it knowing that on a daily basis I'll have the insight and forbearance that staying clean can bring me.