that's life (Australia)

Aussie mum: I was an ice addict at 40 – Now I’m helping others

Andre’a had an enviable life until one night changed everything Andre’a Simmons, 50, Gold Coast, Qld

- As told to Kathryn Lewsey

Taking my two daughters, aged 11 and nine, into our brand-new dream apartment, I felt on top of the world.

‘Look how far we’ve come,’ my husband had smiled when we bought it.

I’d been 18 and still at school when I fell pregnant.

So young, we had no money or life experience.

We even had to sell some belongings to pay for the baby’s milk. But later, my husband’s constructi­on job led to us starting our own property developmen­t company. By 21, we’d made our rst million and also welcomed our second bub.

‘I can’t believe it,’ I gushed to my mum, who’d always been my rock.

By 27, I was able to semi-retire and we had the money to buy anything we wanted. But my hubby and I started to drift apart and, when I was 39, we split.

For the rst time in my adult life, I was single. With my girls being 21 and 19, I decided to have some fun.

Reconnecti­ng with an old friend in Melbourne, I felt there could be something

more between us.

So, I ew down to see him and that night we sipped wine in a hotel room. Then he produced a pipe. ‘Why don’t you try it?’ he offered.

‘Drugs aren’t my thing,’ I explained.

‘It’s only going to make you relaxed – if you don’t like it, you don’t have to have any more,’ he convinced me.

I wasn’t sure what it was, but I reasoned it wasn’t needles or pills.

How bad could it be? Moments after taking a puff,

I felt the highest high.

Everything seemed beautiful, like I was living in a fairytale.

‘This is amazing,’ I grinned. As soon as I started to come down, though, I was hit with anxiety and couldn’t stop crying.

I needed more!

In the following weeks, I couldn’t stop thinking about that euphoric high.

Visiting my friend again, we got more.

From then on, I was hooked. I convinced myself it was ne – I’d missed out on the partying years as a young

mum, so this was my opportunit­y. In time, we became a couple and I told my girls I was moving to Melbourne to be with him.

I discovered the drug we were taking was crystal methamphet­amine, or ice. I’d never heard of it before, but it quickly became all I cared about.

Every three to four days, we spent $500 on a bag.

As soon as I woke up, all I could think about was my next hit.

Aged 40, I was an addict.

Soon, I was buying ice daily.

Occasional­ly, we’d stop and get our life back on track. But within days, our good intentions went out of the window.

I barely saw my mum or daughters.

The rare times we spoke on the phone, I’d brush off any concerns.

‘I’m just busy, Mum,’

I’d lie.

With funds low, I sold my $60,000 Mercedes – getting just $20,000 for it.

And I shifted $20,000 worth of jewellery for $3000. My addiction also affected me physically. I lost 40 kilos, my gums bled and clumps of my hair fell out. My world had totally changed – I was now stealing food, wandering the streets and couch sur ng.

Then, one day, two years after the rst hit, I was struggling to breathe when I had an epiphany.

I need to go to Mum’s, I realised.

So I ew back to the Gold Coast that very day.

When Mum saw me, she didn’t even recognise me. ‘Who are you?’ she asked. ‘It’s me, Mum,’ I croaked. ‘Oh love,’ she said, crying. Locking myself away at hers, I went cold turkey.

It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Mum was shocked, but supported me.

When the girls saw me, they couldn’t understand what had happened to their mum.

‘Why didn’t you tell us? We love you no matter what,’ my eldest said.

It was just what I needed to hear.

I tried to help my partner get clean, but it ended in a slight relapse, so I had no choice but to end it to focus on my recovery.

After 18 months being drug-free, I learned just how dangerous ice is.

I decided to set up the Australian Anti Ice Campaign (AAIC), an organisati­on to help other addicts, educate people and raise awareness. Anyone can get addicted. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be me. I’m not proud of who I became, but

I’m using my past to help others.

I’ve now been clean for eight years but my body is still affected. I experience heart problems and a CT scan revealed areas of my brain are completely black.

Parts of my memory are gone and my daughter once said, ‘Mum, it’s like you’re a kid again, you don’t remember what you like or what you want.’

I lost all my money and went from being a millionair­e to being

$75,000 in debt.

Despite it all, I just feel so fortunate to be alive.

I’m making up for lost time with my beautiful family and I recently remarried.

Grateful for my second chance, I’m relishing life. ●

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be me

For help, visit australian antiicecam­ or call 1800 66 86 423.

In NZ call 1737.

 ??  ?? I’d missed out on partying in my 20s
Ice became all I cared about
I’m clean but my body is still affected
I’d missed out on partying in my 20s Ice became all I cared about I’m clean but my body is still affected
 ??  ?? Raising awareness through AAIC
I’ve been given a second chance
Raising awareness through AAIC I’ve been given a second chance

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