Candice shares her harrowing story of being hooked on methamphetamine.
Igrew up in Adelaide, South Australia in a loving family with a mum, a dad, a younger sister and my grandparents. I had everything a child could ever want or need. After my parents divorced when I was 17, I became a rebellious teenager. I didn’t want to listen to my parents; I wanted to be out every weekend with my boyfriend. I thought I knew everything about life. My boyfriend introduced me to the wrong people, older people, people that took drugs and drank alcohol. By the age of 19, I was drinking and smoking marijuana. I thought I was just having fun and that’s what teenagers did.
After school, I worked in hospitality and went travelling, then at 27, I gave birth to my beautiful son with my partner of nine years. By the time my son turned one, our relationship was on the rocks. After a lot of soul-searching, I finally left him. I was heartbroken but I knew it was the right decision for me and my son.
A BAD DECISION
Soon after, I met a girl who I became very close to. Unfortunately, she was the worst person I could ever have met. She introduced me to the drug, methamphetamine, and this is where my story really takes a turn. All the other drugs I’d tried in the past I never had a real connection with.
With methamphetamine, I felt pleasure, I felt invincible, confident and full of energy. After using it just once, it was all I could think about. It was always in the back of my mind. If I was feeling bad about myself, methamphetamine would make me feel better. If I was feeling good about myself, methamphetamine would make me feel even better. But it’s when you start needing it and you can’t obtain it ... that’s when you do things that you probably would have never thought you were capable of.
I started stealing anything I could get my hands on. Groceries, clothing, vacuums, shoes, tools – anything that was accessible. I lived on the edge and sometimes over the edge. I regretfully admit that on occasions, I even took my son with me. Before I knew it, I had 34 charges for attempted theft, eight charges for possession of a controlled substance and three charges of criminal trespassing.
I put drugs above my family and friends. I carried my pipe in my handbag everywhere I went and smoked every day. If I didn’t have methamphetamine next to me when I woke up, I wouldn’t get out of bed. Some days, my son couldn’t wake me up so my mum had to drive over and make me get up while my son watched on. I would force myself to get out of bed and ring my dealers and ask them if they needed or wanted anything from a department store, a tool shop, or a supermarket and then I would go and get it for them. Someone always wanted something. I was good at stealing and had become addicted to the feeling of getting away with it. I loved the adrenaline; it was just as much fun as taking methamphetamine.
No one tries methamphetamine thinking they’re going to become an addict, but the drug takes control right away. You don’t notice it instantly but when you come down you start feeling aggressive, angry, frustrated and you just want to rip your hair out and punch the wall. All you can think about is meth, meth and more meth. That’s how powerful the drug is.
I’ve seen people who were so badly addicted they would smoke methamphetamine in their living room while their toddlers were running around right in front of them, playing in a cloud of smoke.
I’ve seen women sell their bodies for it and I’ve even seen parents give up their children so that they can continue to get high.
My parenting was unreliable, inconsistent and unpredictable. I missed a lot of my son’s school activities. I never prepared nutritious meals and I didn’t supervise him properly. Most days, he didn’t get to school until 11am. He would cry and say to me, “Mum, it’s embarrassing, why can’t I get to school the same time as my friends?” His grades started slipping and his behaviour at school was becoming a problem because of me.
The negative side effects included mood swings, depression and anxiety. When I was experiencing these side effects it was hard for me to give my son support or comfort. I made promises I rarely kept. I stole toys for him because I felt guilty. My son was growing up with an addict for a parent and was being exposed to so much misbehaviour and poor parenting. I was robbing him of a healthy and nurturing childhood.
After attending court on charges of theft, I was told by the magistrate that I had to do rehab for seven days. I couldn’t believe my life had reached this point. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t think I had a problem and I didn’t want to stop using drugs. My mum and my sister were beside themselves, and it got to the stage that Mum couldn’t even talk to me. I was always angry with her, even though she was looking after my son. My mum and sister drove me to rehab. I stayed for five days, sleeping most of that time. I found it a waste of time, so I packed my bags, walked out, and went to go buy methamphetamine. I got high that night and before I knew it, I was back to my old self. You can imagine how my mum and sister were feeling after hoping to see a change in me.
Back in court again, my mum and sister pleaded with the magistrate to put me in prison as they knew this was the only way to stop me. He sent me to jail for two weeks. I verbally abused my mother as I was walked out of the court room. I cried and cried. I was so scared. I couldn’t believe I was going to jail.
One week felt like months. The days dragged on and on. There was no work or education, no physical activities, only church on Sunday morning. Dinner was at 4:30pm and lights went out at 8pm. I thought of my son every minute of the day, before I went to sleep and when I woke up. You don’t go through addiction without hurting those who love you the most.
As I sobered up, I started to realise all the damage I had caused. All I wanted to do was go back and change it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t. My past decisions now dictated everything in my life and the people around me. All my dreams, all my hopes, all my desires had been taken over by my addiction.
That was the start of my recovery. After my stint in jail, I was put in front of the same magistrate and offered a 12-month ‘treatment intervention programme’. It involved home detention, electronic monitoring, night curfews; frequent drug screening tests; regular court attendances; participation in a specialised individual and group treatment programs; and a case manager who would stick with me throughout the whole program.
I completed it in nine months. I learnt the 12 steps of recovery. The start was tough. I needed to change my whole lifestyle, starting with coming clean. Staying on a programme and following something all the way through gave me the structure I needed in my life. I had the same magistrate all the way through; he was tough but without him I don’t know where I would be today. I looked forward to going into court to see him and show him the changes in me; I was determined to show him I could do it.
The programme gave light to some very dark moments, and strength when I thought I was lifeless. It provided me with the education and tools I needed to help me with my recovery. I was moving forward with more compassion and forgiveness. Each day I started feeling better about myself, and as weeks turned into months, the idea of getting high was soon forgotten.
The programme saved my life and gave a life back to my son. Beforehand, physically and emotionally, I was at a really low point in my life. I finally gained my trust back from my mum. She invited me to move in with her. I was so grateful to have the chance to rebuild our relationship. She and my sister were always there for me and never gave up on me.
Mum suggested we join a gym. I needed an outlet and the gym gave me purpose, structure and direction. I wasn’t obese but taking drugs, poor eating habits, and not caring what I put into my body had taken a toll on my body. My diet was unhealthy, I hated cooking and I wasn’t active. Knowing more about food, how it is being prepared and the nutritional values of what you are putting into your mouth helped change the way I ate. I revamped my diet, removing sugar and eating more lean proteins, healthy fats and fruit and vegetables.
Over the past 10 months I have transformed my body, my mind and my heart.
1.2 million Australians over the age of 14 have used ice.
“MY MUM AND MY SISTER PLEADED WITH THE MAGISTRATE TO PUT ME IN PRISON.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
I want to be a good role model for my child, after all, I am the first role model he has ever known. I am now in the moment with my son – spending quality time with him, showing him I value and appreciate him and being more aware about what is going on with him. I am now always there when he needs care, help or support.
Taking drugs to deal with your problems is not the way to go. Now I am focused on staying in control. There were times I cried myself to sleep, and times I thought I would never get through it without using, but I kept strong and I survived.