A client’s story

I started using in my early teens, predominately alcohol and then I moved on to marijuana, speed and cocaine. The initial reasons for my early drug taking can be attributed to boredom, experimentation and escapism. I felt the normal pressures of growing up and drugs seemed to be a good way to cope with these pressures.

I can put some of my use down to peer group pressure, to be on the same level as people that I was hanging around with.

I started drinking when I was twelve and drank right through until 1986. I started to use marijuana in my late teens and moved onto speed and cocaine at twenty-one.

Because alcohol is so socially acceptable I found it hard to address my problem given the fact that alcohol consumption is so widely expected of Australian’s and intrinsically woven into our culture.

At the age of nineteen I joined the military as I was looking for a secure job prospect, further training and a way to get into the medical field. What I found was not what I had expected, the underlying social culture relied heavily on the intake of alcohol.

In 1981 I left and I was using alcohol, marijuana, speed and cocaine. I looked for ways and means to better my life but I never addressed my Drug and Alcohol issues. The decline continued and for the next five years I spiralled out of control. I tried geographical change, different jobs, different friends but was still unable to recognise my drug and alcohol problems.

It wasn’t until 1986 when I was confronted by concerned friends who alluded to the fact that I did have a problem.

They suggested that instead of drinking spirits that perhaps I could drink beer, instead of taking speed and cocaine that perhaps I should just smoke marijuana as it mellowed me out, opposed to the “up” affects of speed and cocaine.

So basically my friends were suggesting “harm minimisation” strategies which I embraced but consequently struggled with.

During this time I really hit rock bottom emotionally and I was totally exhausted. A friend suggested that I come along to a meeting with him which I did. At the time I didn’t know what sort of meeting I was being taken to but I went along anyway.

The meeting happened to be a self help group meeting and for the first time I was able to identify with other people with similar problems.

I began to see that I was in a place where I could get help and support from people who were going through the same thing, for the first time in my drug taking life I didn’t feel totally alone and isolated and that I could see that there was an answer to my problems.

I spent five years in the self help group drug free and my life turned around 180 degrees.

For the first time since 1981 my life began to stabilise. I gained stability in my living environment and relationships as well.

Within the five years I was attending meetings, I pursued a relationship with a non-user.

I walked away from the group and focussed on my family life and my career without any external support for on-going recovery. I got married and had a daughter.

I ended up going back to socially smoking marijuana which I had under control, however it became a problem. Initially my using was spasmodic, but progressively became heavier. But I knew all along that I was again escaping my problems.

A near fatal motorbike accident led me to experience major depression. I was placed on very heavy pain killers, anti-depressants and I was also smoking a lot of marijuana.

For the next 11 months my life revolved around lying on a day bed, doctors, surgeons, physiotherapists, psychologists and drugs; both prescription and illicit.

In November 2001 my marriage finished, from here I returned to the self help group and was put in contact with another treatment option by a peer.

I realised that I needed more support than I had had previously, so I phoned that centre and began the process of admission.

While waiting to enter the program I had again had major surgery I spoke to my father straight after the operation which was wonderful because he himself had been in Intensive Care for three months and had been released.

The next day I received a phone call telling me that my father had died in his sleep.

I spent the next five weeks with my mother, supporting her and then entered the treatment centre.

I entered the intensive support house and my experience within the initial four weeks within the house was very positive. The level of support given to me by the workers was wonderful, I began to open up and address some of my underlying issues and this was something that I hadn’t been able to do up until now.

The program was structured around group sessions, one on one counselling and peer support groups. Without all of these support mechanisms I believe that I would not have been able to cope with the challenges that life has presented to me, and that I would not be clean today.

Initially I had reservations about being assigned to a worker that hadn’t experienced what I was going through. I spoke to the workers about this and resolved my initial fears.

With this in hind sight, it has been really beneficial for me to draw on my workers experience of a non-using background.

This was my first time in a support program and I have nothing but praise for the staff as a whole.

I truly value the non-judgemental and compassionate way that I was treated throughout the whole fifteen months that I was in the program.

I have a number of times, whilst in and after exiting the program, strongly suggested other people contact that place for support.

I feel that I could not have made this journey without the centre and for that I am so thankful.

If I was going to draw on one of the most beneficial aspects it would be the total commitment that all staff members give unconditionally to clients.

One experience in particular was the unforseen and very tragic overdose of my flatmate. I found this situation extremely hard to deal with not to mention the feelings that it conjured up in me, relating to my past.

The workers were so supportive and caring in their approach in working with me on all the issues that surfaced in relation to this.

I have just completed the program very successfully.

I don’t have sufficient words to do justice to the support, caring and understanding that I have received.

I just want to leave you with a ancient Chinese proverb, that sums up the importance of persistence, self confidence and positivity.

“It is not what life does to you that is important it is what you do with what life does to you.”