Former client, Andy had lost everything. But getting clean got him more than he could have possibly imagined.
“I’m the youngest of three boys and was brought up in a Christian, church going-home. It was instilled from me at a young age that we needed to live a life with good values and have somewhat of a moral and ethical code to live by. I always viewed myself as a leader, and felt that I was meant to be a good role model for others, so during my school years I was never a drinker or drug taker. If I went to a party I was the person that took care of their friend who might have drunk too much. I was the guy that everyone came to when they needed something resolved.
That life of responsibility laid heavy on me, so when I turned 21, I decided to get in my car and travel Australia with the intention of trying new things outside of my local bubble, where everyone knew who I was. On that trip I got drunk for the first time. I didn’t know how to drink. I knew there was some happy place you needed to find after a certain amount of drinks, but I got completely obliterated, and gave myself two-day hangover. The happy-tipsy moment was very short lived. It was also the trip I decided to get high for the first time. Having never smoked I attacked it like a Ventolin puffer, burning my throat and sending me very high, very quickly.
But this isn’t the part where I tell you it was all downhill from there.
In my mid 20’s I married and then later into my 30’s had a beautiful daughter. But, after 14 years of marriage, at the end of 2019, my wife said she wanted to move on. Our lives at the time were becoming less and less compatible, we were becoming ships in the night as our practical responsibilities started to eat away at the available time we had to spend as a family. Our time together became sparse, and when we did come together for quality time, it felt manufactured. But I still didn’t see it coming, and it hit me like a bus, especially given my upbringing.
I didn’t have the emotional intelligence to know how to handle the situation, and those feelings of rejection, replacement and abandonment were so thick and so strong, I just didn’t know how to deal with them. I didn’t know how else to deal with these feelings. I didn’t know there were people and places that could have helped.
I’d been on prescribed medication for many years to help with the symptoms of my ADHD, and so I knew that taking Ritalin would give me a false sense of wellbeing. That was the point where my inner addict began to come out, before I was even addicted. I was so fragile and broken and vulnerable, and so when voice inside my head said “you know what you can take right here right now that will help you feel better”, I knew where to go.
I sought out a new psychiatrist, and lied my way into getting the maximum prescription allowed for my medication. The day I went and got those boxes I took about 12 tablets. I started to use and abuse my medication, and not long after, alcohol was introduced. I was so wound up from the prescription meds, I needed the alcohol to help me relax and sleep. But the more Ritalin I took, the more alcohol I needed to drink. I very quickly became a drug addict, and an alcoholic. Then Covid hit.
Health and fitness is a big part of my lifestyle, and during the pandemic, when the gyms closed, all that got taken away from me. This brought me down to another new low. I was inside, isolated. I didn’t have people, I didn’t have my wife, I didn’t have my gym, and soon after I had to sell my home. That’s when things really began to ramp up.
I was starting to go through my Ritalin so fast that I needed a buffer before I could get my next prescription. So I turned to cocaine. Things quickly spiralled as I surrounded myself with people who would do drugs with me. But when everyone would leave my apartment at 3am to go to home to bed, I wouldn’t. I’d crawl from one side of my apartment to the other to find any trace of anything that I could take, smoke or drink to stay as numb as I could. I knew what I was doing, but I couldn’t stop. If I stopped, all of my feelings were going to come out. The longer I went between hits, the more I felt like I was going to cry, so I had to keep my feelings down at any cost. That was about six months into my addiction. It was at that point I knew that I was powerless, and that I needed help. I sought the help of a friend who was a recovering alcoholic, but unfortunately he ended up incarcerated. I’d now lost my friend and support system, and I was so lonely.
I started reaching out for human connection, intimacy and affection, and so I started sleeping with people. This tends to go hand in hand with anyone who drinks and drugs. There are two process addictions that will sneak in there eventually – sex and porn. I was an addict, and I was selfish with my partners. They say ‘hurt people hurt people’, and during this time I dished out my fair share of hurt. So I banned myself from people. I stopped sleeping around, I stopped going to gym, I pulled back from work. And that’s when my porn addiction began. I would stay home, draw the blinds, use drugs, drink alcohol and watch porn. Desperately trying to find that human connection and intimacy through a screen. It was a hollow pursuit, but I didn’t know what else to do. I had no clarity, no perspective and I was lonely. And I did it all to myself.
Around 9 months into my addiction, things got even worse. I was taking 3 bags, 20 pills and drinking 2 bottles a day. Porn, isolation, self-pity and self-destruction had all got me. But I didn’t know how to get out. I put my heart under a lot of stress, feeling on the verge of overdose twice. My heart rate was through the roof, my chest and lungs began to close in, and I knew I was red lining and was right on the edge of losing my life. That happened twice. And each time, I went back to using.
14 months into my addiction, my beautiful daughter sensed I wasn’t well. I never used when she was with me, but I did drink. I had her two days a week at that stage, but I wasn’t myself. My nose was blocked and bleeding, my throat was burnt out, and I was a shell of a man. I loved her, with everything in me that could. But it’s so hard to give love to others when you don’t love yourself.
One day, I was laying on the couch, in a house full of drugs and alcohol. And I thought, if I don’t stop now, it’s only a matter of time before my daughter wakes up one morning and finds me on the kitchen floor. It was going to happen. And I knew I had a decision to make. The drugs weren’t working for me anymore, so my choice was clear: upgrade to using ice, or stop and get clean.
I made the decision, on Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, to get clean.
The day I got clean, I went cold turkey, and for the first few days I was ok. But when the weekend hit, I spent those days in my bed, with my ex-wife and parents supporting me through the withdrawals. It was the worst psychological, spiritual and emotional pain I’ve ever felt in my life. I thought that it was how I was going to feel for the rest of my life. It was despair at its absolute lowest. Surviving that weekend was very difficult for me.
Since it came to knowledge there were drugs under my roof, I had my daughter taken away from me. Despite having started to get clean, that day was my true rock bottom. I’d lost the most important thing in the world. My daughter was the only thing keeping me alive and when she was taken, it broke whatever was left of me.
I originally decided to go to South Pacific Private so that I could get her back, but when I got there, I realised I needed to be there for me. That’s when the healing started. I cried almost the whole time, but I also flourished. I embraced the program, went to everything I could, I was given roles within the community and was starting to thrive again and I was ready to start over. But, life had other plans for me.
Three days away before graduating the program when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I’d been experiencing numbing and tingling in my body during my time in rehab, and had assumed they were withdrawal symptoms. So I’d gone into rehab to kick one monster, and I came out with another. I didn’t know what to do with this information, because there is no cure for MS. I didn’t know when I would see my daughter again, or if I’d walk again. I thought my fitness would be taken away from me, and I didn’t know what my future held.
When I walked into my home six weeks after it all began it was so quiet, and so lonely. But I knew what I had to do straight away, and that was work the program. So immediately I implemented all the things that I had learnt to do at South Pacific. I set up a calendar and diary to plan my days. I went back to church on Sunday mornings and NA on Sunday nights with all my friends from rehab. On Monday nights I’d work the program with my sponsor, telling him everything. Tuesday nights I went to a men’s group, so I could be part of a tribe. Wednesday night and Thursday mornings I would catch up with friends, just walking and talking. I’ve got all the books, guides and journals. I threw everything at it.
A lot of people ask if I was triggered when I found out about my MS, and you might be surprised that my answer is no. To be honest, it’s easy for me to deal with. It’s out of my hands. There’s nothing I can do about it. My MS is out of my control and that is liberating. But my addiction, has to be governed. I have to control it, making sure every day that I’m not in situations that will send me back into that life.
Having MS is time consuming and expensive, I have monthly infusions, blood tests and constant monitoring of my condition. But my time at SPP gave me all the tools I needed when I left to deal with what life throws at you. To be honest, I didn’t want to leave. It was such a beautiful place for me and so much healing happened there. I loved going to group therapy, and being able to share openly and not be judged. So much weight was lifted off me in every meeting. It was so nice to know I wasn’t the only one, because for the longest time, I thought I was alone.
When I got home, just because I was clean and sober, it didn’t mean life was perfect. I still had a lot to deal with. But, so many beautiful things have happened since I got clean. I started sharing my story with other people because I felt compelled to help others so they didn’t have to go through what I went through. And the more I told my story, the more magic started to happen. Suddenly, companies and businesses were reaching out to offer their support and I’m now an ambassador for multiple health and fitness brands. These companies are amazing, they just back me, despite knowing my past and knowing where I’ve been and what I’ve done. I’m so thankful for that. I really am one of the lucky ones.
Resilience is a big part of my message, and it’s my biggest strength. But patience is probably my biggest weakness. That’s why I’m careful to nurture the season I’m in right now, and stay cautious of overarching the present. I can’t wish away this time. It’s so important because it’s preparing me for what I want and who I want to be in the future.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Andy’s story is testament that recovery is possible. Take a self-assessment here or call our caring intake team on 1800 063 332 to see if our program might be right for you.