DJ is a recovering ice addict. He has now been in recovery for ten months.
For DJ, life in addiction was chaotic and fast paced. “I lived life solely for drugs and the lifestyle that went with it. Methamphetamine (ice) was my drug of choice but as an addict I would use anything I could get my hands on”.
DJ suffered in the grip of addiction for many years, starting with weekend use and in the last four years was using daily or even hourly if he could. Yet, DJ was oblivious to his addiction. “I thought I was in control and everyone else were idiots.”
A combination of triggers preceded DJ’s spiral into addiction, he was working full time in a very stressful position and he’d recently separated from his then wife. “I didn’t know how to feel good. When I used, I felt pressures and my sorrows disappear”.
“Drugs were my survival mechanism. I used them to get through every day so I didn’t have to face the reality of what my life was.”
As a drug dealer, being raided by the police and charged on multiple drug related offences got DJ into rehabilitation, rather than heading to jail. However, DJ was extremely resistant to the idea that he was an addict.
Initially DJ thought he was indulging in a typical rehabilitation fantasy – he was there to tick a box and then leave. “I didn’t think I had a problem with drugs, I didn’t want to go rehab! When I got there I thought I’d just get through it, keep my parents and the court happy, and then go back to exactly what I’d been doing and nobody would be any the wiser.”
However, exposure to a therapeutic community changed way he felt. He spent the first fifty to sixty days fighting the program. “I was standoffish and trying to maintain the persona of the drug dealer lifestyle I was living. I was the dealer without a problem, not one of my junkies. I thought the staff were full of it – how could they be clean and so happy, loving and caring?”
Other aspects of the residential program were a rude shock for DJ. “I thought it was going to be a good holiday. A private retreat sounded so tranquil. I had to learn to cook and clean, not just for myself, but for everyone else! I had never lived with other people and the experience forced me to stop thinking of myself and start thinking about others. However, the staff were supportive, understanding and non judgmental – and that helped me feel safe.”
At sixty days, DJ had a small spiritual awakening – for the first time in many years he felt some self belief and faith opening up within him. “I started to open myself up to the possibility that I could live a clean life. I did the last thirty days for myself. I wanted it.”
The part of the program that resonated the most for DJ was learning to have compassion for himself and others. “The residential program helped me become the person I was meant to be. I was very self centred, violent and arrogant and going to the Hader Clinic Queensland help me instil compassion towards others and gave me strength in knowing that helping others would help me as well.”
For DJ, life since completing program has been up and down. However, he has been equipped with the foundational tools to move through it with support from others and plenty of self reflection, realising that “each day I get through clean is a successful day”. Since leaving rehab, he has at times felt “lost”, and has had to learn to slow down, reduce his expectations and take things one day at a time. This process has helped him to connect more with his feelings and not be scared of them, whether they are pain, happiness or sadness.
There have been some major family changes. Previously he would use drugs to spite his mother and manipulate her reaction to his behaviour. “Mum didn’t know how to handle it, so I’d see her drinking and accuse her of being an alcoholic as her way of lashing out at me, but I didn’t realise that I was doing the same thing with my drug use. Rehab has strengthened our family bonds. We can now communicate, share a meal together and go shopping. It’s been an amazing journey.”
“The future? I’m taking it day by day. I do have goals though! I’m completing a Diploma in Drug and Alcohol Counselling so I can help other addicts through their journeys”.