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Barry’s Road To Recovery
My Parents And Upbringing
Your parents teach you a lot in life. My parents taught me a lot about violence – how to take it and how to inflict it. They taught me to avoid emotion (except anger) and not get too close to people, that life can be cruel so you must be too. The best I can say is my parents didn’t teach me about using drugs – I discovered from friends that drinking and pills provided an escape from life’s realities.
I am so grateful that now – at 37, and a parent myself – I’ve learned how to live differently, to be normal.
My mother was very violent towards me and would often whip me with belts. The other kids didn’t cop it, just me; I never knew why. My father didn’t defend me. He’d just say: “That’s how your mother is” and stitch me up with fishing line or dental floss. If I cried, he’d punish me with an extra stitch or two. I learned at an early age not to speak out or cry if I could help it.
Mum was also violent towards my father, one time burning his leg with the iron in front of me. Dad would walk away and not retaliate, because he didn’t believe in violence towards women.
Dad Was A Bikie And Involved With Drug Dealing
He had the opposite view about men. Dad was a bikie and involved with drug dealing. It was a brutal lifestyle. One of my strongest childhood memories is helping him dig bullets out of a guy’s back and cauterising the wounds with a hot knife, with blood all over the kitchen.
When I was about 12 years old, my father got me involved in his drug deals and taught me about fighting, guns and knives, so I could get the job done. That’s when I started drinking almost every day.
At 16 I was kicked out of home and got mixed up in a criminal lifestyle. I also became a father, but having my daughter didn’t change my lifestyle. It was all I knew.
It was a stressful life and I was anxious and moody, plus dealing with pain from being injured in fights (and sports). In time I started taking anxiety medications like Valium and Xanax, and Neurofen, Panadol and Panadiene Forte to try to ease my mental and physical pain. I eventually took to doctor-shopping to get supplies. At my worst I was taking Valium like Tic Tacs, up to 50 a day, along with drinking.
Eventually I had a psychotic breakdown and was admitted to hospital. The police caught up with me and I was given the choice of prison or rehab. I almost chose prison, because I knew I had the skills to survive. But, my daughter begged me to go to rehab; by then she was 19 years old. I went to Odyssey House mainly for her sake.
The Turning Point
It took me more than a year of hard work in treatment at Odyssey, learning to trust other people, let my guard down, express emotion (I can cry now) and manage conflict using words rather than my fists. Staff never gave up on me. It’s like Odyssey House flipped a switch that turned me into a normal human being with proper values who doesn’t need to abuse alcohol or other drugs to cope with life.
I think every day about what a monster I was, a menace to society who had no respect for the rules. I have changed so much. If everyone in prison went through rehab, the world would be a better, safer place.
I feel so lucky. I’m now renting with a fellow resident and we support each other to stay on the straight and narrow. I have a job, and I’m thinking of studying. Best of all, I have a great relationship with my daughter, who finally has a “normal”, happy father.