An anonymous young man speaks about the six months he was a user of crystal methamphetamine, or ice, and how hard it was to break free from the evil drug.By Kathleen Tonini
The prospect of losing not only his job but his friends and family brought Sam* back from the brink of his addiction.
Despite this, he does not believe he will ever fully regain all that he lost — particularly close friendships and family relationships.
The 18-year-old sits with his mother at the kitchen table, speaking openly about the six months he used crystal methamphetamine (ice) — first recreationally and later to feed his addiction.
Sam was at a party when he first tried the drug. It was offered to him by a friend.
He had rarely used drugs before, only the occasional puff of marijuana a year or two before.
He used ice on and off for the next month or so, just at weekend parties, before he began using almost daily.
Soon after, he was going to work to pay for his habit.
Though he noticed no change in his own behaviour, others around him did.
‘‘I felt normal and I felt like it wasn’t affecting me,’’ he said.
‘‘I thought no-one would have a clue, but it turns out pretty much everyone noticed body language changes, looks and how I worked.’’
However, even though his mum noticed a change in his behaviour, she put it down to normal teenage angst — Sam was 17 at the time.
It wasn’t until she found a pipe in her son’s car that it dawned on her Sam might be using drugs.
She was ‘‘blown away’’ by the discovery.
After establishing what the pipe was for — she initially thought it was for marijuana — she confronted her son and asked if he needed help.
His response was: ‘‘No-one can help me’’.
She told him if he wanted help, she would help him get it and soon after booked him in to see a counsellor.
Sam thought the weekly counselling was ‘‘stupid’’ but gradually got used to the idea.
He was booked into a two-week detox retreat to help him get off the drug, though he did have to wait some weeks to get a place.
‘‘It’s just somewhere to get away and break the cycle,’’ he said.
‘‘In the end it was probably the best thing for me, it kind of broke it all up.’’
Removed from family and friends, his phone and the internet, he gradually got the drug out of his system.
On his return though, Sam relapsed, using for a number of days and spinning out of control.
At one point he described feeling like he was floating.
Before he left the house when he got back from detox, his mother had given him an ultimatum — if he used again, he was not welcome in her house.
Using again meant he was facing the real possibility of not having a home.
Not long after the relapse, Sam made the decision to stop using.
His workplace offered him help and support and established clear conditions for his continuing employment.
Because he stopped taking drugs, Sam was able to stay at home with his family and, since then, things seem to have turned a corner.
He has been clean for about six weeks and he still attends counselling sessions when he needs to.
Sam and his mum are taking it week by week.
Reflecting about the time he was using, Sam says the ‘comedown’ made him ‘‘feel like crap’’, sometimes becoming aggressive and thinking about stealing things to pay for his habit.
Paranoia was also common.
Sam’s mum said he often demanded to know who had stolen his things, when they had clearly not been taken.
‘‘The come down is the main predator really,’’ he said.
Sam could be aggressive, but not physically threatening, and never brought his drug taking home, his mum said.
‘‘Before I went to rehab it was pretty much all about the drug, I didn’t really care about much else,’’ Sam said.
‘‘I lost all my friends — contact with all my friends — none of them wanted to talk to me.’’
His mum said she was glad to have her son back.
‘‘It (ice addiction) affects a lot of people,’’ she said.
‘‘We’re very proud of him (for getting off it).’’
Sam, though clean, is still aware of the drug in his social circle.
He said when he went out and saw others using ice it was a strong reminder of what he used to do.
‘‘Just to think that I was like that once,’’ he said.
‘‘It just makes me wonder what I was doing and that is what kind of keeps me off it.’’
*not his real name
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