When Drugs, Alcohol and Gambling Destroy Families - A Personal Account



I may be the Editor of this blog which brings with it lots of parties and adventures, however there is another side of me that once suffered a terrible trauma.

My brother took his life.

Most of that story is on my other blog 'The Jasmine in the Forest' so I won't talk about it here, however because of my experience with Gary's mental health problems, it lead me to also be the Patron of www.support.org.au - A role that I'm honoured to have. It is because of this role that I was contacted by a young man, "Josh Meg" who impressed me so much with his honesty and story I have decided to share it here. His story is one of drugs, despair, and addictions. It is also the story of his recovery. I hope Josh's story may have a positive impact on those who are affected by addictions or are thinking about taking drugs.....

Photo shared with Josh's Permission...

How old were you when you first started using drugs?

I was 17, consuming two ecstasy pills.

What was going through your mind at the time?

Throughout my life, schooling was a huge struggle for me, diagnosed with ADHD; I tried hiding learning difficulties from teachers, friends and even family. Having difficulties focusing and staying on task including passing a standardised test. Throughout my schooling life, many phone calls were made to my parents due to my poor behaviour, which pushed me to change schools to complete years 11 and 12.

The night commenced with dinner with families and fellow peers of the graduating class of 2010 at my year 12 graduation ceremony. I presented a speech to the graduates and parents, sharing my fond memories of my schooling experiences and concluding with my future endeavours.

With great surprise, later that evening I was presented with the Principal’s Award, which my mum's scream of excitement was embarrassing at the time, it is a moment I will never forget. My schooling brought many tears to my parent’s eyes. However, I never thought I would see my parents so proud of me over something that was so demanding for both myself and them.

Later that night at the after-party was when I decided to take the two ecstasy tablets.

When you first used drugs did you ever imagine you could get addicted?

I was extremely into my sports when growing up; both cricket and rugby league, drugs and alcohol had no place in my life. From a young age, I was very strict on my diet; I would only consume salad, sometimes salad even without dressing. I would go out to a restaurant and order a salad.

At the age of 15 I was struck with the news that I needed a full shoulder reconstruction. The frustration with the surrounding lost opportunities made my world come crashing down.

When I first used drugs at the age of 17 nothing mattered to me anymore, sport was the one thing that meant so much to me. I never thought I would become a drug addict or gambling addict, no doubt I was just looking for something which could give me the same pleasure sport had given me for 17 years. I thought it was just a phase, and I would grow out of it.

What affect did it have on your life?

The stress in the family home began to take its toll, everyone around me had come to be miserable. My sister could not cope with me or my actions anymore, so she made the decision to move out.

The daily escape of life was gone, although I was sitting in my dark bedroom hallucinating, paranoid and scared of my own shadow. I could not handle the guilt, shame, humiliation, loneliness and sadness drug addiction caused. I knew I had a problem, although I was not ready to change; it scared me to lose the one thing I loved more than my family, (cocaine).

I then began seeking help with a gambling counsellor as my compulsive gambling had grown out of control. Doing my full pay in a matter of hours, gambling until I had spent every last dollar, no money to pay bills, maxing out credit cards, even borrowing money. It turned from a weekly routine into daily, each morning waking up to read the form guide, then searching for a tab around work.

When I had lost all my money it was a relief because the gambling disorder caused me serious anxiety and depression, turning me irritable, impatient and agitated. Losing everything to gambling left devastating consequences, feeling helplessness, guilty and depressed even contemplating suicide. I dedicated all my life to bet on race horses, I could not stop thinking about the last time I had gambled, and when the next time would be.

The gambling was always a problem, then when cocaine came into the picture, it was despairing. Guilt-ridden and self-destruction made life unbearable I became demanding, aggressive, resentful and suicidal. The result was horrifying shakes and sweats, while screaming for drugs.

What affect did it have on your family?

My parents were dragged into the circumstances and they quickly became fragile, as mum and dad remained strapped into the emotional rollercoaster ride, through my intimidating, threatening, manipulating behaviours, as their hands were tied together, left feeling helpless.

The agony I put my mum and dad though, watching their own son’s life fade away made me realise that what I was doing to myself, included all the people who love me the most. I just couldn't stop. I just kept hurting people over and over.

I am incredibly lucky to have the supporting family I have, that I took advantage of for so long. Meeting others in the same position, with no family, no support, and fighting an uphill battle alone I discovered how lucky I am, and appreciate the little things that I took for granted for so long.

What was the turning point when you knew you had to get help?

I began to realise I had no control of my life and sought out drug and alcohol counselling, but these once a week meetings were not improving my state of mind. Also the family being ripped apart and me being too selfish to care about my family's finances, relationships or friends. I lived a lie and was in denial.

It was not until I started having days off work, then I certainly knew my life was controlled by something I had no control over. Weeks passed, and I was scared to lose the one thing that had controlled me for so long. I knew I was in need of desperate help, as my family were struggling immensely both mentally, financially, and even beginning to blame themselves. There wasn't much anyone could do until I hit rock bottom, and lost everything around me.

I sat in bed for days always reflecting on my careless mistakes; I was sick of my impulsive behaviours with all the lying, aggression, and manipulation towards others. This was reflecting in frustration and low self-esteem towards every person around me, they all suffered. I had lost all my happiness, excitement, and fun. I just kept trying to escape. When sober, I'd constantly think about the damage I had caused. I was trapped in a cycle with no way out; I had no desire to want to help myself.

Not willing to accept I had a problem and knowing deep-down, for me to stop, I had to want to stop for myself. The only way things could change were for me to want too.

Finally, the day had come, the misery was all too much for me; I was sick of feeling empty and worthless, which brought enormous amounts of guilt and shame. I hated my life and rehab was my chance to get away. I had to stop living in denial and take responsibility, as there were no easy solutions. I was ready for change and entered The Hills Clinic. I was an inpatient for four and a half weeks.

What was the biggest challenge getting and staying sober?

After relatively being reminded that drug addiction is a relapsing disease, like other chronic diseases, such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, reinforcing the fact there is no cure. I think also knowing I am always going to be at risk of relapse, for potentially the rest of my life.

Many people do not understand why or how people become addicted to drugs. Many mistakenly think that with willpower people could stop using drugs by just choosing to.

The biggest challenges I face regularly are the triggers which are strongly associated with hostile memories. Triggers automatically flash a thought, feeling or action which lead to cravings or urges to use

What advice do you have for anyone tempted to take drugs?

I think it is important to discover the reason for taking drugs, notice what seems to be missing in your life at the time.

Environmental factors play a highly influential role in drug-taking, I see it as critical for parents to see it as a health problem rather than inflicting anger and disappointment on their child.

The initial decision to take drugs is often voluntary. If anyone feels tempted to take drugs, it is necessary to discover what is currently missing from your life and develop strategies towards making healthier lifestyle choices. It is easy to take drugs to tolerate emotional discomfort, although it is extremely difficult to resist intense urges to take drugs.

What are your goals for the future now?

I am still in the process of rebuilding all of the damaged relationships in my life. I want to share my experiences through connecting with people who are going through similar situations, letting people know they are not alone, and there is help available. I want to provide relief that there is hope, as the hardest thing is to admit and accept. People often don't seek help about mental health, while some may never find the answers to a better life.

I am very passionate towards listening to others, revealing light at the end of the tunnel; I hope my story can touch others. Life can throw out some tough obstacles at times, but it is how you deal and take on these challenges, that defines you as a person.

I am currently studying my Diploma in Counselling.

Thank you Josh for sharing this with us. To get in touch with Josh please email me and I'll pass on sydney@sydneychic.com.au

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