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Tom’s Road To Recovery
I had always been anti-drugs and lived a normal, law-abiding life, but things nose-dived when I was 35. I had endured workplace bullying, made a harassment claim and ended up taking redundancy. Having been ‘married’ to my job, my self-esteem plummeted and I became so depressed I couldn’t leave the house.
A friend suggested ice would help. I had heard of ice and the possible consequences, but I thought I could control things and I was desperate. I found temporary solace in the drug and managed to get another job, but my use quickly escalated from once a month to every weekend, and within 12 months I was injecting ice daily and taking GHB [an illicit depressant drug with sedative hypnotic effects].
At first I was able to juggle my addiction with work, but I started having psychotic episodes and lost my job. I had no family support and my friends had given up on me; my boyfriend was using too and we enabled each other. I’m ashamed to say I turned to selling drugs to fund my habit and survive.
I had never been involved in criminal activity and didn’t know what I was getting myself into – it was a very scary, stressful life that exacerbated my paranoia. After a year I just couldn’t continue with that life. My dog and I ended up homeless for three months, living in motels or my car. I knew things had to change and tried to call a helpline, but I hung up each time.
I think in another month I would have been dead, but the police caught up with me. My four months on remand was a horrendous experience where I was bashed for being gay. I was also appalled listening to police recordings of my conversations – I sounded like a different person and I thought, ‘I’m not going back to being that man’.
The Turning Point
The judge considered my crime too serious to qualify for a drug rehabilitation program, but I fought in the Supreme Court to go to Odyssey House. I was bailed there in October 2013 at the age of 38, a broken but hopeful man.
Prison stopped me from dying, but Odyssey House saved my life. I look on my 13 months in treatment not as rehabilitation but as intensive life-coaching. The personal growth and self-awareness helped me understand myself and work through the issues that had contributed to my drug use.
Accepting My Sexual Orientation
At first I pretended to be straight, but living by the Odyssey House values forces you to be honest with others. Finally a staff member encouraged me to come out at a group meeting. People were so accepting; it was a real turning point for me. Through peer support and therapy, I came to realise I carried shame and guilt for being gay, and that I had become a workaholic to avoid facing that I hated myself as a gay man. This sense of shame had been reinforced when a friend accidentally outed me at my 21st birthday and my parents and brother subsequently didn’t speak to me for 15 years.
Eventually I was sentenced for my crime, but the judge acknowledged how well I had done with my recovery, and I was given parole.
I’m now blessed to have an understanding employer and a senior management role with a great company. I attend support group meetings and see a psychologist as part of my self-maintenance. My family and I are working to bridge our estrangement and, while you can’t undo years of hurt, we’re doing okay. I think I’m still married to my work, but my life is more balanced now. Importantly, I’m three years clean, free of a great emotional burden and back following my dreams.