I t took me a while to remember all that had gone before.
At first all I knew was that I was lying in bed. My mouth was dry, my body covered in sweat, but as I slowly released my eyes from sleep, I could see a sign next to my bed with the words: ‘She believed she could and so she did’. For a moment I didn’t understand what this meant, then the penny dropped.
I was clean.
It was New Year’s Eve 2018, a time when the world goes out to celebrate – to remember all the good things of the year past, and to look forward to a brighter future.
There was nothing in the past year that I wanted to celebrate, but plenty I was determined to remember, even if so much was a blur brought on by my countless, lonesome binges on drugs.
There was anger, violence, abusive relationships that I couldn’t shake free, selfloathing and depression, culminating quite recently in an attempted suicide.
So, 2018 and the couple of years before that were not things I really wanted to remember…
In that three-year period I had attempted suicide three times. The first involved using an extra-long, heavy-duty, bright yellow extension cord to hang myself in my ensuite. I’d decided that instead of a suicide note, I would leave my favourite items on my bed to express who I wanted to be remembered as. I put on my favourite silver diamanté shoes and a beautiful white dress. I wanted to go out in style.
I stabbed a dartboard dart into my heart space to show the heartache I was going through. I was one step closer to ending the pain and one step closer to my death… My best friend at the time was on the other side of Brisbane driving to an appointment, when she had a premonition and turned around and drove to my place, saving me. (Thank you to my Guardian Angels.)
Obviously, my mental health deteriorated as well as my physical health.
physical health. I experienced the condition of pitted edema – visible swelling caused by a build-up of fluid in the tissues. This was a consequence of not drinking enough water and standing for hours and hours with my feet cemented to the floor of my walk-in wardrobe in the midst of drug-induced psychosis. My feet were swollen, heavy weights and this made it very difficult to walk. I hid this by wearing thick, black compression tights under all of my outfits – you can imagine the torture this was in the middle of a hot, humid Queensland summer.
My skin and face aged, becoming dehydrated, and I had a yellow appearance from all the poisons and chemicals in the drugs. It would depend on which batch you got what happened – it was the luck of the draw. One batch would induce facial hair growth, and another batch saw glitter specs emanating from the pores of my skin. My tongue continuously had deep crater-looking holes or giant painful ulcers, to the point that I couldn’t swallow at times. The toxic poison was infecting my blood, my skin, my bones and my teeth, and my hair was brittle and dull.
I experienced frightening amnesia episodes. One particular incident happened at around 5am when I had parked my car in the middle of a shopping centre car park in Redcliffe. I’d fallen asleep in the front seat of the car and awoke to find the police and ambulance behind me, after a concerned citizen had called them. I had absolutely no idea how I got there or even why I was there. Being very quick thinking, I explained to the police that I’d had a bad night and had left my house in a hurry, obviously falling asleep for a short time. The police asked me why my eyes were all glazed over. I lied and told them I’d been crying all night and encouraged them to give me a drink driving test – I knew I’d pass it and it would get them off my back.
This was an example of how survival makes us go back into behaving in an animalistic way. I look back now and think, Holy moly, I had big balls back then!, and I’m shocked that my behaviour potentially could have caused an accident and hurt others on the road. This amnesia episode led to another court fine, and to date, I’m only halfway through paying off my massive SPER debt (State Penalties Enforcement Registry). Yet another court appearance and yes, I did lose my driver’s licence. Thank God that’s all that happened.
One of the most gruesome habits when I was in the grip of the drug was that I would get fixated with my eyes and sit for hours in front of the mirror poking and prodding them with hair pins, safety pins or anything sharp I could get my hands on. I’d do this until they were red and stinging, then they would start weeping and swelling up so that I couldn’t see clearly. I’d have to wear sunglasses day and night, inside and outside, hiding my immense shame of my self-mutilation. To this day, my vision is still affected and is a daily reminder.
Back to New Year’s Eve, 2018 – as I crawled off my mattress on the floor, I was determined to fix this and countless other experiences in my memory. This had to be, so that I would always have the realisation of how low I had sunk and how far I had travelled… and perhaps most importantly, how far I still had to go.
Yes, I was free from active addiction, the endless self-medication and the drugs. But my eyes were soulless, my heart was cold, and I was extremely lonely and isolated – existing, not living.
I was also free from the shackles of domestic violence, the self-loathing and disempowerment. I no longer felt the need to swallow pills by the handful, careless of what they were or what they might do to my body.
This was the legacy of my last three years – physical, mental and emotional exhaustion as I drove headlong towards a destination that could only be madness and probably death. My heart ached for the loss of those three years, swallowed up in a black hole where my only companions were methamphetamines (commonly known as Ice), shame and humiliation.
The worst thing is that I knew where I was heading, but didn’t care. I felt I was walking around with a sign on my forehead saying, ‘I am a bad person. I am worthless’. So what? It didn’t matter. What did matter was the next bottle of alcohol or the next drug deal and how I would have to beg, borrow and steal to get them.
“After I had sold all my personal valuables, I would then pawn my wedding ring and engagement ring which together cost over $20,000 for a miserable few grand.”
New Year’s Eve is a time to look back, but also forward. We wish for ourselves, often without thinking what it means: ‘A Happy New Year’, but this time for me, it was to have some meaning. For 2019, I was looking forward to better, happier days.
So, how did it all start?
My husband and I owned our own high-end, six-bedroom, architecturally designed home situated on the waterfront esplanade of bayside Brisbane. Life looked so perfect from the outside. I was working as a stylist at a high-society fashion boutique up until the last month of my pregnancy and my husband was a FIFO worker.
During my pregnancy, perinatal depression resulted in me being referred to Belmont Private Hospital as an outpatient. I had no family support in Australia and after the birth of my daughter the postnatal depression hit. I was feeling down and out physically and emotionally, and then my husband said something so shocking… he told me he wasn’t sexually attracted to me anymore, as I had gained a lot of weight from the pregnancy.
After years of bringing up a child mostly on my own, because my husband was away so much for work, I’d been trying to lose weight in many different ways without much success. By 2016 I came to a last resort – a quick-fix way to lose the weight, hard and fast. It seemed like a great idea at the time but little did I know the destruction and danger it would cause. I told myself I was only going to take it until I lost enough weight and rebuilt my confidence. Then I would stop.
I guess that’s how it begins for most people, but there are only two endings for this: either you pull back from the brink – perhaps see the results of this lifestyle from people who have taken a step too far – or you plunge into the abyss.
There was no one there to warn me that the path I was on would lead only to misery, depredation and perhaps worse.
The fun became a habit, a gnawing demand for more. For every morning that I awoke, alone, ashamed and resolving to break away from the life I was destroying, there was an afternoon and evening when I was prepared to break every rule of a civilised existence to debase myself… to do anything in order to get the next fix.
The worst thing was that I knew what was happening, but I felt completely hopeless and helpless, rejected by society, ready to betray those that loved me or might help me in order to find the money that would feed my addiction. To receive the temporary numbness from drugs, I became desperate.
After I’d sold all my personal valuables, I would then pawn my wedding ring and engagement ring, which together cost over $20,000, for a miserable few grand. Then, I would go back and frantically get them out hoping no one would notice, paying a ridiculous amount of fees and interest. I won’t say how many times I did this, and really, I can’t remember.
The lowest point – and to this day I still carry the heavy guilt – was when a drug dealer used my engagement ring as collateral and she never returned it. What could I do? Run to the police? Tell them the truth and get myself into more hot water?
Of course, my downward spiral meant the marriage disintegrated, and I was soon homeless, with me and my daughter sleeping in my car, and on one occasion on the bare floor of an empty house.
Soon I was getting into trouble with really dangerous people. They were fellow addicts and those that feed off them; often they were both – ruthless people who long ago had lost their moral compass, and who lived and behaved like animals. But who am I to criticise? After all, I was one of them now.
In those dark days I was often robbed of what little I had, I was sexually assaulted, threatened with a baseball bat, and on one terrible evening had a gun pointed at me, survived an attempted carjacking, people threatening to kill me or do serious physical damage to me.
Crying and pleading was useless, and anyway I knew no shame. What was happening to me was becoming routine. I had become desensitised to the traumatic experiences that kept on happening and they were only getting worse the longer my substance misuse went on.
Even when they left me alone I was not safe. In one drug-filled session, I can remember trying to get to the toilet. The next thing I knew I was sprawled on the lavatory floor choking in my own blood. I must’ve fallen asleep on the toilet and cracked my skull on the basin as I fell, my jaw clamping shut and almost cutting my tongue off.
At Christmas 2017 in Brisbane, I attended a Salvation Army detox and rehab centre. While I was in detox I found a book on Angels, and when I was transferred to the rehab centre, I took the book with me. I was told to spend my time and energy reading God’s Gospel and to put Him and not my angel book as a priority, so it was confiscated from me.
In the midst of all this I was still trying to care for my little girl, whose name is Angel. Despite all she was going through, she still seemed to want me as her mother. Over the three-year period, Angel attended seven different day-care centres and later kindergartens. I knew her life was one continuous, bewildering whirl which should not be happening to anyone, least of all a child.
Of course I was getting into trouble with child protection services and of course there were court appearances, some of which I even managed to attend, but I knew that this could lead only to one outcome — the loss of my daughter. I couldn’t bear for that to happen, despite all I was doing to her and myself. I’d had a happy childhood growing up in New Zealand, but my own selfish actions were robbing Angel of a chance to enjoy the same. So this gnawing thought forced me onto the path to redemption.
Also, I have to say that while I have never been a person for formal religion, I sensed that when I finally made a commitment to repair my life, I knew internally I had a higher power and Angels walking beside me.
They say God helps those who help themselves, and I believe there was something in that for me. I believed in me! I’m like a cat with nine lives, so as a human being it’s not possible to have survived my horrible experiences without the unconditional love and guidance from the Divine and the Angelic team I had – unbeknownst to me – supporting me, and guiding me in the right direction.
Free from self-medication.
Free from the hell I had been trapped in.
Free from abuse.
I just know that without it, I might not have been able to make the journey back.
So in March 2019, I quit the toxic Brisbane scene, made my way to the Sunshine Coast and reconnected with my husband, who had been on his own difficult journey and had come out the other side.
After only a few months of being clean, I received an amazing gift and a very unexpected surprise – I found out I was pregnant. So at 40 years of age, I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy whom we called RJ (named after my husband’s best friend who tragically passed away in a car accident a few years ago).
After losing everything in the way of reputation, properties, assets and possessions, we have finally settled into a modest but beautiful rental home in Buderim. I am currently training and studying at TAFE to become a ‘Lived Experience Worker’: Certificate IV in Peer Support Work in Mental Health. My intention is to encourage others that if you have hope and faith, anything is possible. This journey of recovery and discovery will be life-long but I am creating the life I desire. You can make your dreams come true.
My self-care these days includes Reiki, Soul Sister Circle, meditation, women’s spiritual retreats, having an attitude of gratitude, psychic development workshops, Angels communication course, essential oils, and positive affirmation cards. These have played a major role in my healing and support network.
If you just believe in yourself and have the right support and unconditional love you will find your resilience. With empathy and compassion anything is possible. I mean, look at me – I’m a great example!
Let me say that while all this sounds like a happy ending, the jury is out, and will probably stay out for the rest of my life. My former lifestyle meant that I had acquired what in the dental profession is called ‘Meth Mouth’, with teeth so discoloured that I couldn’t crack a smile without being terribly self-conscious.
Imagine being a mother to a little girl who smiles at you, craving her mum’s love, and you cannot smile back to show how proud of her you are… unable to smile and show her you’re happy to see her because you’re terrified she will see the truth. This was more painful and heartbreaking than the torturous events I had survived. Fortunately, dental specialists were able to fix this over time (another extremely painful experience).
A much greater hurdle has been the frequent bouts of depression and anxiety I still live with daily. It’s a feeling that the world is crowding in on me, crushing me, and that I’m standing on the edge of a cliff from which it would be all too easy to fall. Just as a soldier carries the scars of past conflicts into old age, my mental scars from addiction and DV abuse will never completely fade away, just simply heal over.
I now have my gorgeous family – a little girl who, despite all she has been through, is growing into a confident, loving, and outgoing person. Plus, a beautiful boy, now thriving into an exuberant toddler stage.
Today I choose courage over comfort and have a voice for my choice – to not only survive, but to thrive. I believe my life interruptions and challenges were given to me because God and the Angels knew I could conquer them. This has now led me to help women in their later stages of life through my lived experience to be the role model they need. And believe me – you can’t get this training in a textbook.
Addicts find God because they have met the devil in active addiction and hell is on Earth. However, there is heaven on Earth the day you realise you’ve been in denial and you surrender to your higher power, admitting you are powerless over this dis-ease of self-medication and substance misuse.
I have made it to the other side. I am bruised but not broken. The best days still lie ahead. I am not a victim, I am a survivor.
It doesn’t matter what age you are – recovery is possible.