My name is Joel and this is my recovery story. After completing my Higher School Certificate at the age of 17 in 2012, I pretty much spent the next six months playing Xbox with my friends. Around the time I turned 18 one of my mates encouraged me to smoke some marijuana with him. While I’d never done this before, I loved how pot made me feel, so when the opportunity came to have some more a month or so later, I immediately said yes. This quickly became an everyday routine, even though at times it made me feel terrible. I continued to smoke pot anyway, and I soon built up a tolerance.
This same mate introduced me to a new circle of friends who I could use drugs with, and I took all sorts of things with them. I would also mix pot with every new drug I tried. Eventually I had a crazy bad addiction to marijuana where I’d have to use it every couple of hours. I’d spend all my time just hanging out with my mates in my parent’s garage listening to music and getting high all day. I didn’t see it as a bad thing at the time, but now I know that drugs can give you mental health issues.
The main problem with pot was that it made me feel so lazy and unmotivated, even more than usual! I believe pot played a big role in my mental health issues, especially as I was smoking enormous amounts every day. There were other stressful things happening, too. As my depression and trust issues got worse, I just wanted to be alone. I isolated myself for months. I managed to quit using all drugs by cutting off all contact with any friends who used. Although I wasn’t on pot anymore, I started to smoke a lot more cigarettes. I also ate a lot more and gained weight.
My mental health issues began to make me think my family were trying to annoy me on purpose. One day I lost control of my temper in response to this and smashed my parent’s glass sliding door. I was asked to move out, and I went to live with my grandparents. Although I hadn’t used any drugs for almost a year by this point, soon this the cycle began again. After a month or so of using drugs again, including prescription drugs I once again lost control of my temper and destroyed everything in my room. My grandparents were forced to call the police.
The police placed me in the mental health unit at Nepean hospital, and this turned out to be a very positive thing. I finally started to get better. I met some awesome people while I was there, including someone who is now one of my best mates. I obviously couldn’t use any drugs in the mental health unit, but I was surprised to find that I didn’t crave for them anyway.
When I moved out of the hospital after three months I chose to live at Brumby House, a youth service run by Flourish Australia. I soon made a few close mates around my age and spent lots of time with them. To live at Brumby House you need to do activities according to your schedule each weekday. In my case, I attended weekly appointments with a psychologist, and I also took part in groups where we learned about things like life skills, history, bullying, and the effects of drugs, among other things. I also increased my physical and mental health by attending the gym, going for long walks and swimming.
The young people who live at Brumby get to choose a special activity on Saturdays. This can be anything we want, like going to Wet ‘n’ Wild or the movies. It gets us out of the house and helps us bond as friends. This supports us mentally, allowing us to recover more each day.
I loved living at Brumby House. With the encouragement of the staff, I’ve learned how to look after myself, such as how to cook, clean, do laundry and use public transport. I can go out anywhere now without being anxious or stressed out, and I haven’t badly lost control of my temper in more than a year. Their drug-and-alcohol program showed me how to have fun with friends without being under the influence. I’m happily drug-free, and I like my life this way. I still have a social drink occasionally, but that’s about it.
As my depression and anxiety are getting better, now I’m attending fortnightly appointments with my job provider. My life is slowly but surely heading in the right direction, and it feels good to have everything back on track. I’ve got a few good friends now, and I’m happy with how everything is. I’m recovering very well from my not-so-good-past.