My name is Cassandra. I am 25 years old. Six months ago, I was trapped in a horrific cycle of ice addiction. I had resigned myself to the fact that this would be my life.
My childhood wasn’t awful, my parents were together, and I did well at the private school I attended. I was the eldest of 2 and had a younger brother who I was close with. My parents were drinkers, but things were mostly happy at home.
I remember being very depressed, and I had a general sense of discomfort growing up. I never felt comfortable in my skin and found it difficult to make friends. I was a loner and spent a lot of my time reading books.
At 13, I had an eating disorder and started to self-harm. I saw psychologists and psychiatrists, who prescribed medicine, but I didn’t want to take it. I couldn’t understand why I felt like this. I tried to exercise, eat well, and socialise, but nothing helped to take away the depression I was experiencing.
The first day I drank alcohol was the day I turned 18. I drank an entire bottle of vodka at my friends and blacked out. I knew there was something different about the way I drank that night.
After this experience, I decided that alcohol wasn’t for me and didn’t drink for a few years.
I started University, studying social work. I was still plagued with waves of depression. To combat my depression, I turned to physical fitness and healthy eating again. Nothing ever seemed to work or give me any relief.
I had made some friends at uni, and they were going out and partying on the weekends. Since the healthy lifestyle did not seem to help me, I decided I would start socialising more and going out with them on the weekends.
I found the nightlife in the Valley fun and drinking helped me to socialise and connect with people more. I applied for a job as a waitress at a strip club. During my interview, they asked if I wanted to strip instead. I took them up on this offer. It was a fun and exhilarating experience. I found a sense of belonging with the people I worked with at the club and my regular customers.
I loved the confidence I got from stripping. I had been dancing for a few months when one of the girls offered me a line of cocaine. I took it without too much thought. I remember feeling that If I said no, they wouldn’t offer it to me again, and I really wanted to be part of their world.
My use of cocaine progressed quickly. After a few months, I found I was doing it regularly. This concerned me and I found myself depressed and isolated again, wishing to be anywhere else. I decided to take a trip overseas and visit my family in Scotland. This was my first attempt to stop. I was there for 3 weeks and remained alcohol and drug-free the entire time. This gave me a sense of control over my drug use.
When I returned, I started stripping again but was not using drugs. I felt like I had control of my life again. However, tragically a few weeks after I returned from Scotland, my dad died suddenly.
It was hard for me as we had only just started to become close after many years of what I felt was a strained relationship.
This loss was devastating to me, but I felt like I should be handling it better… like I wasn’t entitled to the pain of losing my father like the rest of my family. I was angry at the world and particularly at my mum, I thought it was her fault.
I immediately went back to using cocaine. I felt I had no choice, and that it was the only way I could handle this situation. Things got messy fast. I would come to work after being up for days. This continued for 4 months and lead to my being fired.
I got a job at a different strip club. It didn’t feel the same working there, nothing felt the same as before. The horrible feeling of isolation and not fitting in was more present than ever.
One night they invited me to “kick-ons” after work and they were smoking ice. It was different this time than the first time I used cocaine. It wasn’t about fitting in anymore. I simply didn’t care about anything.
When they passed me the ice pipe, I told them I didn’t know what to do. They showed me how to smoke it. I didn’t have an overly great experience. Looking back, I feel like I went into psychosis right away. I was hearing voices and felt paranoid. I left and went home.
The next day, I immediately returned. I rationalised and justified this to myself. I thought if I was not buying it or using it at home, it was ok, and the cocaine wasn’t really working anymore.
I was terrified to slow down, sleep, or face anything I felt. The only time I felt ok was when I was on drugs. 21 years old and I had a full-blown ice addiction.
I met a guy who was dealing coke, and he was a meth user. I started a year-long relationship with him.
He was physically and mentally abusive. We were on drugs most days. He made me quit stripping and isolated me from everyone I knew.
I was so afraid of him and was deep in a foreign, violent world. I was completely out of my depth. This man was an abusive and violent criminal, and I relied on him for everything.
I had never been around this stuff, being in crack houses and around serious criminals. I felt like this wasn’t who I was meant to be. It went against everything I had ever known. I thought I was going to die so many times, I didn’t know how to leave. I always felt it was safer to go back.
I tried to leave a few times, I would sleep in my car or go to friends’ houses. He would always find me. Even though I was in this situation. I still didn’t want to stop using ice. I tried to hide it from everyone. I was isolated and alone.
This continued for a year. The night I left, he had returned from a night out in psychosis, saying a lot of stuff happened that didn’t. I was afraid he was going to kill me.
He went to sleep, and I left and took all of my stuff. He tracked me down in the Valley a few days later, but I ran away from him.
My daily ice addiction continued, and I knew I was an addict, but I kind of just thought that this was going to be my life now. I didn’t see a solution.
I got my old job back at the first strip club I worked at. I didn’t feel so alone there, and as drugs were a massive part of the culture, I could go to work high and nobody really knew I was on ice. I was in this vicious cycle of addiction, needing to work to get money for drugs and using drugs to be able to work 7 days a week to support my habit.
This went on for about 6 months. I started dating a guy who said he was 18 months clean from serving time in jail. Pretty quickly, he was shooting up ice and heroin. He overdosed in my room multiple times. One time he went out, and I decided I was going to try shooting up by myself because I knew people wouldn’t want to do it for me the first time.
It really hurt. I hit a nerve and injured my arm, but I just kept trying until it felt the way I thought it should.
In 2020 when covid hit, I lost my job, and I had no money or way to support my habit. As a daily ice user, I had never experienced ice withdrawal symptoms for very long before.
I had to move back in with my Mum, and I tried to improve my relationship with my family.
I was still using ice heavily but would justify it to myself by limiting the number of times I used or smoked ice instead of injecting it. These were all ways I tried to show myself I had control.
I could go through ice detox for 4 days but could not bear it any longer than that. I would always find a way to get more. I just made using work for me however I could.
I continued this for another year. At the start of 2021, I decided I was going to reduce the amount I was using. I started to go to the gym and eating healthy again. I made a point of not hanging around the old scene. I preferred to use ice alone, anyway.
It was just me and the drugs. I was always using alone, even though I started using to feel connected at the start. It had really taken everything else away from me.
I tried to be normal, but I knew I was an ice addict and it made me feel so ashamed. I felt so disgusting. In June 2021 I was trying to detox from ice on my own again. This time I could only last a few weeks.
I knew about NA. I went to some meetings in Brisbane but would sit outside and be unable to make myself go in. I would get my life together for a few months, but I would always return to it, and it would always be worse. Without drugs, I couldn’t handle life or my feelings.
Finally, I went to mum and told her I needed help. She helped me get a bed at Hader Clinic Queensland and I was in there 2 days later.
My journey so far hasn’t always been easy, but I have learned so many tools and coping mechanisms to face life on its own terms. The support workers at Hader Clinic Queensland educated me about the disease of addiction and that I wasn’t just a horrible person.
Being with people I could identify with was amazing. Being around the staff and other recovering addicts made me feel a part of something wonderful. I was finally not alone. I had seen a lot of professionals, but I had never been with people who knew about addiction and had a way out.
I learned so much in rehab and got so much hope that there was a way out. Before coming to Hader Clinic Queensland, I had never known anyone that had recovered.
The structure in the detox made detoxing a lot easier than when I tried to do it alone. I felt like I could accept help, as I wasn’t being judged. I originally was going to do 28 days, but I decided to do 90 days. I am so glad I decided to do a longer program. It gave me more time to get a clear mind and let things sink in. The tools I learned there are invaluable and help me every day. The Hader Clinic gave me the foundation I needed to heal.
I don’t know what the future holds for me. The Transitional Housing Program is helping me integrate back into the community. I am kept accountable. I am so grateful for everything I have learned and the people I have met along the way.
I am finally free from the cycle of ice addiction and I know if I use the tools I have learned in rehab, the support of Hader Clinic Queensland’s outpatient program, and my friends in recovery, my future is much brighter.
Names and photographs of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.