The medicine had become my poison
I came to the front door for treatment at South Pacific Private with a $500 a day ice addiction and pot dependency which I needed to get myself to sleep each evening. Despite the severity of the situation, I had little idea how sick I was back then.
I didn’t come because I had some spiritual awakening, I didn’t have a light-bulb moment, it was simply that the drugs stopped working. There is a saying in Narcotics Anonymous that “chemicals medicate pain.” For me, the drugs had long stopped medicating – the medicine had become my poison.
I didn’t use ice to enhance my Saturday nights, I used so I wouldn’t think, feel or dream. For a while, the chemicals ticked those boxes. For a while, I thought I was the puppet master changing my world both instantly and dramatically. I didn’t notice that I had morphed into a slave to a substance I thought I needed more than oxygen.
On my third night at South Pacific, during a medically supervised detox, I went into a psychotic fit of involuntary spasms. An ambulance was called and I was taken to Manly Hospital. The next few days were spent having brain scans to determine whether I was epileptic and was suffering fits. They proved negative, it was the beginning of my body detoxifying.
Recovery isn’t always a straight line. I stayed clean for three hours after my first admission. After my second admission, I stayed clean for seven months before a single case of relapse. I came into my third admission after three months clean, and was sent by my GP who said I was on the verge of a major relapse and needed to go somewhere safe.
“The only courageous thing I did was ask for help and admit that if I had no idea how to stop using, maybe someone else did.”
My diagnosis for that third admission was 'complex grief.' In the space of just a week, my ex-wife had died prematurely of a rare cancer, an intimate relationship collapsed and my best friend moved overseas.
That third visit was significant because of the depth of the work I was able to focus on to resolve issues of intimacy, avoidance and relationships. Once I was clean, I was able to focus my attention on addressing more substantial issues. I had the opportunity to ‘re-parent’ my inner child, which raised my awareness of how my childhood experiences had led to destructive coping mechanisms in later life.
I learned more about my issues with avoidance and adapted behaviour, and how I could work on them going forward. After that inpatient stay, I was fortunate to engage with the Transitions Program for three months, four days a week.
Writing this now, I am nearly six and a half years clean. I worked through a 12-step program and began my journey by doing a meeting a day for two years, and ringing my sponsor every day for that period.
I thought recovery from addiction was a 10-day detox focused on switching from extreme use to a more manageable diet of substances. I never signed up for abstinence nor for a deep searching personal inventory, but that’s what I got. I now recognise that it’s the only way I could have found freedom from the addiction cycle, which had become a soul-destroying nightmare.
I learnt at South Pacific Private that early recovery takes about five years, and have discovered that this is a journey you should never travel alone, that it demands a comprehensive support network. The only courageous thing I did was ask for help and admit that if I had no idea how to stop using, maybe someone else did.
If you’re at the beginning of your journey, or struggling with relapse, reach out today. Freedom is out there, if you take that first step.
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