The medicine had become my poison
I came to the front door for rehab at South Pacific Private in Sydney's Northern Beaches 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 in rehab, 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 back to rehab 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 and thinking about rehab for the first time – or struggling with relapse further down the track – reach out today. Freedom is out there, if you take that first step.
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