Builder addicted to cocaine for 3 years.
I was a daily drinker, but my main addiction was cocaine.
I would do on average an 8 ball a day (about 3 and a half grams), a $900/day habit.
Plus the drinking and gambling, and everything else that went with it.
I was so far in a hole with addiction, that I thought the only way out was death.
I had multiple failed suicide attempts.
Up until a couple of months ago I had the videos of me trying to give myself a heart attack by snorting cocaine, just to kill myself.
Hi, I’m 42 years old and a father of two young kids.
I used to be married, own my own home and have my own building business.
Due to my addictions I lost everything and was homeless for 3 months.
I’m now over 500 days clean.
This is my story.
WHY ARE YOU SHARING YOUR STORY?
If I can just reach out to that one person before they get to that point of suicide. If I can reach that one person who’s struggling, who thinks there’s no option.
There is so much more out there. It might seem like there’s no help, but there is help. I want to stop another person feeling like that. That would mean the world to me.
I had a conversation recently with a couple of subbies, a chippy and a plumber about why is it that the Australian men, their mentality is to just shut up, you’re a wuss, you don’t talk about your feelings.
When I was so heavy in addiction, I just shut everything down in my body. I had no emotion. I had no emotional attachment to anything. It stopped me from getting hurt.
You need to talk about your feelings.
HOW DID YOUR ADDICTION START?
I had my own building business for 16 years. I used to be a workaholic. Then when I became a father, I was working less and at home more. The stress of home life got to me.
It went from a work addiction to beer addiction. I got bored with that. Then I tried all sorts of drugs. My favourite was cocaine. I would feel on top of the world. Depending on the quality of the cocaine, it could last hours, or it would last one hour. Then I’d have some more. It made me feel good and not deal with what was going on.
As a tradie, it’s tough.
Having my own business and trying to keep up with the demands of building multi million dollar homes, I used to put myself under so much pressure. Staff would let me down daily. Subbies would let me down daily. It was like, how do I deal with all this?
Plus being the father of two young kids, I had a mortgage, and a wife at the time who was on maternity leave. The pressures where huge back then.
I wasn’t dealing with it, I was pushing it all down inside. I knew I couldn’t change those things, so I just kept pushing through.
But I would take it personally. So to get rid of that pain, I would mask it by drinking or taking drugs.
WHAT TRIGGERED YOUR ADDICTION?
There’s lots of things I’ve learnt about addiction. I was so heavy in my addiction because there was 30 years of resentment towards my father. He left me when I was 11 years old.
Perfectionism. For me it had to be perfect, and I pride myself on that, it’s got to be right, and it’s got to be done right the first time.
That’s something I struggle with not working for myself anymore as a builder, is working for other builders that you get a mix of subbies and they think 5mm is close enough. But for me, that just does my head in.
So I had to recalibrate myself and learn that perfectionism, whilst it’s a good thing to have, it leads me into a place where I would deal with it by turning to the drink.
It doesn’t make sense, but you’re always looking for the easy way out when things get hard. I’d beat myself up over it if it wasn’t right. Sometimes I couldn’t control that.
For me learning these key things as to ‘why’ I was an addict, was the key.
For a lot of addicts it’s something that has happened in childhood – sexual abuse, separated families, people not even knowing who their mother or father is, a death in the family.
Dealing with my dad leaving me, and everything I went through as a teenager. My grandma passed away during my teenage years, she was the one who kept the family together, I don’t deal with death very well, I had a friend’s suicide. And then having to deal with being a husband and a father.
I use the example of an iceberg.
When we see an iceberg, we just see the tip above the water. But it’s 100 times bigger under the water. So what you see here, my face, walking around, all happy and go lucky. What you see is a guy who is building nice homes, apparently making all this money and living the dream, but from the neck down he’s dealing with sorrow, guilt, shame. To mask all that he was taking drugs and drinking.
That’s what people don’t realise, is how much of a depressant alcohol is.
Alcohol is one of the cheapest drugs to buy, you can buy a cheap bottle of wine, or a 6 pack. It’s socially acceptable. But it’s a depressant, you’re never going to feel good from it.
You get drunk, and your body has a chemical imbalance, you fall over, you wake up the next day with a hang over because your body is dehydrated. And then you’re still stuck with dealing with being who you were the day before. And the circle goes around again.
In the early days, drinking alcohol was very much dependant on the people I was hanging around. Being a builder, being in the trade industry, going for beers on a Friday afternoon is an acceptable thing to do.
It goes with the trade, most tradies go to the pub.
I started drinking when I was 21, 22 years old. It started with just a couple of beers after work, with all my friends around. It’s just something that always happened. Guys were always drinking.
Things changed and shifted. Late nights in the city, Friday afternoon knock off and go to the pub and stay out till all hours of the morning.
I couldn’t handle a lot of things when I became a husband and father.
It changed from there.
The alcohol didn’t do it for me anymore, I needed something stronger to bury all the emotions. I turned to gambling. That’s generally how it works. You get bored with one, move to another. Get bored with that, move to another. Then I got into cocaine.
In my heavy drug addiction days on cocaine, I was solo, that was nothing to do with other people, that was just me. My wife didn’t know, my best mate didn’t know. I was very good at hiding my addiction.
HOW OFTEN DID YOU DO COCAINE?
It would start at 4.30am before work to get to work. I would try and set myself a goal to get to smoko without any. Some days I did, some days I didn’t. It was like, ok, I’ll just go have another line, and another line, and another line.
Then at the end of the day, I’d get a beer out of the fridge at the back of the car.
I used to say I was going to the office, but that was the pub. The office was my pub. I know that’s common for a lot of tradies. They call the pub their office.
And then I’d go home to the wife and kids.
HOW DID YOU STOP?
My breaking point was when I had a massive 2 day bender.
It was a Friday night. I had a session with a couple of the guys. I was sitting at a boat ramp down the road from my place, just not knowing what I was doing, or what was going on.
And that was the point where I thought, I’m done. I’ve only got to go home and create some massive lie, and then I’ve got to remember what that lie was.
I just had enough. I didn’t want to go home.
I stayed up til 6.30am in the morning, and rung my brother and told him I needed his help. I told him what I had been doing and that I needed help. I was done with all the lies and manipulating people. I was at my breaking point.
Within half an hour, I had a good mate meet me somewhere. I had hundred’s of missed calls from my wife. Just her panic, I couldn’t imagine what I was putting her through. But in addiction, we’re manipulators, we’re liars, we’re selfish, we don’t care about anyone else. But I think the guilt got to me. That was my breaking point.
I then went home, got the kids out of the house, and spoke with my wife and explained to her what had really been going on.
She was in complete shock. She knew I was having a couple of beers at the pub, but had no idea what else I was doing.
I tried a 28 day, 3 step rehabilitation program. But it didn’t work for me.
Within days of leaving that program I was back drinking and drugging and things went down hill from there.
My wife came into work carrying our then 4 month old baby and asked me to move out.
At that point, my life spiralled out of control.
I was homeless.
I was living and sleeping in my car in the back of a pub for two weeks showering in the creek down the road.
After the bank repossessed my car and excavator, I then moved into my pop up caravan in a friend’s back yard, no power no toilet or shower.
I would basically get up, go to the pub and get drunk, drug, go home, pass out and do it again and again.
I went from owning my own home, to living in a little caravan in my mates backyard.
I couldn’t hold down a job so I was on the dole for the first time in my life. I was at the lowest point of my life and contemplated suicide daily.
I honestly thought the only way out of the big dark hole of addiction I was in was to kill myself.
I decided to reach out again and ask for help.
I googled rehabs in Sydney. One80tc was the first place that came up.
One80tc is a drug and alcohol rehab for men 18-35, based at Yarramundi in the lower Blue Mountains.
At this time I was 40 years old and worried they wouldn’t take me but I still made the call.
It was the best decision I ever made.
I spoke to a gentleman and told him my story and it was at this point he said, “mate, drinking and using the amount you are, you should be dead.”
Like most rehabs, you get told there’s a big waiting list – which there is out there. That waiting list was 6-8 weeks, and I guess they test you with your commitment to your recovery. I had to call everyday to prove that I wanted to go.
I got accepted within 2 weeks. It was 13th April, 2015.
I spent 5 months in the program on 30 acres in the Blue Mountains. The program saved my life.
I lived onsite. No mobile phones. The first 2 weeks there’s no communication. After that you can start making calls. Parents have priority call every night. Then you have to get through 5 weeks in the program to get a day leave. 7 weeks in the program to get a weekend leave. Then one weekend leave a month, then bi-weekly.
It made all the difference. It gave me time to be still and get to know me as a person, and who I am, and what it is that I really want.
I got to deal with and work on the issues from my childhood that I had pushed down so deep I thought I’d forgotten about them.
Working on these issues meant that my two kids would have their dad around clean and sober, and not still in addiction or dead.
The day I left, I was lucky to fall into a job that day.
I’VE LOST EVERYTHING
I was doing cocaine without worrying about the consequences.
It has left me with a company debt of $265,000 and a personal debt of $26,000.
I’ve lost real estate.
I’ve lost my family.
I’ve lost the family home.
I’ve watched my 4WD and excavator get towed away by the bank.
I’ve sold tools that I’ve had for 20 years.
I’ve had to sold a lot of my gear to pay debts.
I’m stuck with huge debts.
I have to declare bankruptcy, which comes with a 3 years blacklist which means I can’t get a car worth more than $7,600 and no income over $65,000.
I’m 42 now, living back at home with my mum.
This time 3 years ago I had a 3 bedroom house with water views, in a beautiful home on the central coast.
For not putting my hand up and saying, someone help me.
These are the carry on effects of addiction that I have to face.
These are the consequences of my actions.
It can happen to anyone.
WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST LESSON FROM THIS EXPERIENCE
Just ask for help. There’s no shame in asking for help.
I wished I had of asked for help a lot sooner because living the way I was, losing everything that I’ve lost, is not worth any drug.
Whether it’s marijuana, coke, speed, ecstasy, even alcohol. For 15 minutes of fun, or a couple hours of fame, none of that is worth it.
I now race mountain bikes and if I have to walk up a hill, I will! I’m not an elite athlete, so if I have to walk up a hill I will! I don’t have any shame any more.
Guys that are using drugs at work, to get through long work days, it’s just a waste of money. It doesn’t change anything. The drug destroys you, the person you are, for money, which is just a materialistic thing.
People may disagree with that. But I used to think I had to work my backside off to have money to be happy, to pay all the bills, being the father of two.
I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
I live very tightly these days.
I’ve got a $1,000 shit box car! I’ve had to spend a couple of thousand to get it driving well and reliable. It might not be a ranger, but I own it!
I’m so much happier spiritually in my body and my mind. I enjoy every day. I don’t wake up with a hangover, I don’t have to question what did I do last night, who have I pissed off, or what lies do I have to tell to get out of trouble today.
I’m happy that I don’t have to worry about people knocking on my door. I don’t have the stress anymore. I’m working for someone else now. I worked for myself for 16 years. With all the stress that comes with that, I just don’t have that anymore. No more midnight emails, getting calls that staff are coming in sick.
WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR LIFE RIGHT NOW?
My health. My mental health. It’s huge.
I spent almost 5 years on anti depressants. The chemical imbalance in my body, snorting an accelerant, which leads to depression, and the come downs and the alcohol.
I went on multi vitamins in rehab. I stopped all my antidepressants I was on.
I love now waking up being clean, and stress free. Being transparent with everybody now. I choose not to lie again. I never want that feeling again.
It’s tough, it’s not easy. I’m not cured. I have to work on my addiction every day. And that’s something I have to deal with for the rest of my life.
Today, like tomorrow, I choose not to drink or to drug. That’s the easiest decision I have to make.
I don’t get temptations. The hardest part is the triggers that I have to deal with.
Triggers for me are screaming kids, stress at work, an idiot on the road who has taken off.
It’s how I deal with the triggers. For me now, I have tools in place. When I get those urges, it could be so easy.
At day 453, I started a new job, and my car broke down.
I had a lot going on in my personal life at that time. That was just perfect! First day starting a job and my car breaks down!
Two and half hours on the side of the road. I finally got my car towed to a garage. I had a break down. I remember leaning on the back of my car, my head resting in my knees, just crying. My brother was with me at the time. He said are you ok? I said yeah, I’m just so glad I’m here. Today for the first time, I feel that I’m ahead.
It was so nice to have him there. It’s so important for me to have those support people around me.
I’m now over 500 days clean and enjoy a fit and healthy lifestyle.
I am employed fulltime as a carpenter and I recently stepped up into a foreman’s role.
I get to talk to my kids every day and see them whenever I want.
I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
If you have a story you want to share, please contact selina@IamDF.com