The road to recovery
Often the road is long, but there is hope and recovery is possible. We spoke to Patrick about his lifelong struggle with addiction, and how his treatment with Turning Point helped him get on track.
Patrick* was just 16 when he started taking drugs.
That same year he had left school. “I couldn’t handle it, it just wasn’t for me and the opportunity came up to do a butchers apprenticeship so I took it.” He remembers the job being demanding –early starts and long days – with weekends the only chance to catch up on sleep. But, at 16 most of Patrick’s friends were still at school, and for them, weekends were about partying. Not wanting to miss out he began taking speed.
Patrick describes his drug use back then as casual, something that he only did on weekends, but that quickly changed. Soon he was using every other day. “I would take it just so I could get through the week,” he says, and in his industry that wasn’t unusual with many of his work mates also taking speed to cope with the rigours of the job.
By the time Patrick was 22, he was addicted. “That was the start of an up and down rollercoaster for me, though to be honest, it [my drug taking] didn’t really worry me at that point. I didn’t start thinking about it until I was in my thirties, by that time I was also using ice.”
Like many people with an addiction, Patrick kept it quiet from his family and friends. It wasn’t until he was in his late thirties that a family member found out about his drug problem and took him to rehab. “That first stint in rehab was about a month and I was pretty much locked up. I came out and re-lapsed after about 2-weeks.” Patrick continued to try to overcome his addiction in other ways. He undertook a counselling program through an employee support service for people in the construction industry where he ended up working, which did help him to cut back at the time. He also moved interstate in the hope of getting away from it all and starting a new life. Eventually though, the drugs would again find him.
In 2017, Patrick returned to Melbourne. It was at that point he knew he had to stop. “In my mind I thought, I’ve got to give this thing up it’s killing me.” At first, he tried to do it alone not knowing what services were available to support his recovery other than those he had already tried. Then, one night whilst scrolling through social media he came across a Facebook ad recruiting participants for a Turning Point clinical trial. The next day he made a call.
Patrick commenced the trial in February 2019, which included regular contact with Turning Point’s clinical team. Patrick’s participation in the trial helped him reduce his use. Just as the trial was finishing, the opportunity came up for Patrick to participate in a further Turning Point medication trial for methamphetamine dependence. Despite a couple of relapses, Patrick says his participation in the trials was what really helped him get on track. “Doing the trials gave me a chance to think about things and start planning for my future. You don’t think about things when you’re on the drugs, he says.”
Aside from the financial cost of his addiction – Patrick estimates he has spent close to 90 percent of his wage over the last 40 years – he acknowledges the toll it has taken on those close to him, admitting it nearly destroyed his family when they first found out.
It’s been a long road to recovery, but Patrick has now been abstinent for 3-months. He doesn’t know if he had a different mindset this time round,but does know that you have to have a goal, if you don’t have a goal it’s difficult. He also says that his participation in the trials ‘hit the spot,’ and even though he has now finished with Turning Point his team regularly check in to make sure he is doing okay.
“The support is always there if I need it. I can call at any time and that’s comforting to know.”
For anyone struggling with addiction, there is a solution here at Turning Point and the many other alcohol and drug services across Australia. Reaching out and asking for support is just the start - if you aren’t sure where to go you can call the National Alcohol and Other Drug hotline on 1800 250 015 or visit Counselling Online – both services are free, confidential and available 24/7.
* Name has been changed to protect participant’s anonymity.
* Reaching Out is now Diverse Pathways