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My YSAS journey

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Mitch
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Hello, my name is Mitch and I am a recovering drug addict.

I first started smoking pot with mates just for fun. Laying there in a half built house in a new housing estate on a cold, windy, wintery Melboune night, pissing myself laughing. Life seemed good. Pot seemed good. What I didn’t know at the time was that that night would change my life forever. I would never reach that high again. I was 14, and I guess the depression I had been developing for a few years prior meant that smoking pot had a more lasting effect on me than my friends.

They were happy people & I guess I was too at the time. I had lots of mates, a girlfriend and was just generally enjoying life. I was pretty good at school too.

They used the same amount of the same poor quality pot that I did and were just as hysterical. "This is great" I thought, "I am going to do more of this more often".

Time passed & I kept using on weekends and I started wagging school to use too. After about a month of this my girlfriend left me. A few weeks later my 2 best mates got girlfriends (who they are still with today) who were also best friends. I started to feel like an outsider. "No worries" I thought, "I'll just get high". That attitude was silly and naive and just about the worst thing i could have done. Over the next few months, things began to change.

I was always getting high whenever we went anywhere, from mini golf to birthday parties and, as a result, I probably wasn’t great company. I wasn't social with strangers and made no real effort to make other friends.

It was at this point around 15 years of age that I realised I had a problem, but did I do anything about it? No. Looking back on it 5 years later I wish I had, as recovery would have been far easier and my life would be very different now. If you are at this point, get help now!

Eventually my friends stopped inviting me out so often and when they did I wouldn't attend. I was sick of being a 3rd or 5th wheel. On one occasion i was actually a 9th wheel when we went away for a weekend. Imagine how much I used then.

I should have told my friends of the issues I was having with them and the issues I was having with pot. But I didn’t, certainly not in a clear and honest way. I was ashamed to be depressed and ashamed to be a drug addict.

I dropped out of high school at the end of Year 10 to pursue my trade as mechanic. I worked with plenty of good blokes who I could easily have made friends with but again, I didn’t. I treated everyone with contempt and was just a real ass in general. I didn’t sit with them at smoko or lunch and I never saw any of them outside of 8&5. I was just a stoner who was set and comfortable being alone. I didn’t see friends as a necessity anymore as I was just comfortable getting high and playing my guitar alone. It remained this way for another 3 years.

Every day after work I would go home and out to my garage and get high. I would kick back, smoke a few joints and forget about life for a while. I would listen to the radio and just think about how miserable I was. During a particularly dark period, it seemed like every time I got home and went out there to get high a headspace radio advertisement would come on and I would think "Is it time i get help?” Eventually I thought, "Fuck this, pot isn't getting me high or making me feel any better anymore", so I either escalate or get help. I was at a fork in the road and, for once, I chose the right option.

I saw my options as:

A) Get help

B) Keep doing what I'm doing and hope for the best, or

C) Get on heroin and make everything much worse.

When I realised heroin had stared to creep into my mind I realised getting help soon was my only option or else I was just going to be this way and worse until I man up and accept and sort out my issues. The temptation of heroin was constant and powerful, regardless of how significant all of the consequences were. I rang headspace.

I waited approximately 2 weeks for my appointment and, in that time, I was freaking out.

"What if I can’t get clean?"

"What if they can't help?"

"What if there's nothing they can do?"

I was really scared to confront my issues and actually have to deal with them. Sitting in the waiting room, I was sweating profusely and felt like vomiting such were the nerves. Sitting there waiting for them to call my name was the hardest half hour of my life, prior to withdrawal.

I spoke to an intake worker and she set me up with a youth worker from YSAS, someone who would go on to have a profound impact on my life. I was reluctant to schedule regular appointments or share anything personal with her at first, but after several free lunches and appointments she gained my trust and my respect. I saw that as a massive step. She is one of best people I have ever met and my life is incalculably better thanks to her. After about 6 months of appointments I started trying to take small breaks from getting high: a day. Two days. A weekend. A week. Each time was hard but it also taught me a lot about myself and helped me to prepare for the big withdrawal that would ultimately come. Every time afterwards we would sit and discuss it and what I was thinking and feeling and every time she was proud of me, which for some reason meant a lot. She was also very patient with me and really understood how difficult it can be for an addict to stop using.

The longer the breaks I would take, the more I would learn about withdrawal and myself. Emotions and feelings would come to the surface and, because she had gained my trust, I shared with her the issues I had with my friends (who by this point were well and truly out of the picture) and my father (who abandoned my family when I was pretty young). I also shared with her my thoughts of heroin, self harm and suicide and every time she made me feel comfortable and helped me to deal with these emotions in a healthy way.

Eventually, after about 9 months on from my first YSAS appointment I had my first real crack at long term abstinence from pot, and there can be no doubt it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I took a month off work to give me time and space and began my withdrawal.

From sweat, to nausea, to no sleep to the crazy dreams I had when I did sleep, I went through it all. There were times when I searched my apartment top to bottom looking for anything to get me high. A crumb, a butt of an old joint - I just needed something. But eventually I ran out of stuff to find, so I stopped looking.

The support from YSAS at this point was crucial. I would call the youth worker on a near daily basis at times freaking out about everything but she always kept a cool head and was able to keep me focused on my long term goals. Six months on from that big withdrawal, I can’t help but look back on my life and the things I would do differently. Why didn’t I tell my friends of the issues I was having? Why didn’t I get help sooner? Why did I start using in the first place?

I lapsed a few times along the way, and my life is far from perfect now but for the first time in a long time there is hope of a normal life in the future. I'm 20 now and I begin real counselling in the next few weeks to confront my depression which is the next big step for me. It is just as intimidating as the first YSAS appointment was, but I will push through and keep trying for a normal life, and its all thanks to a youth worker from YSAS.

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