I've always used recreational drugs. It started when I was 14, smoking weed with the guys at school. I drank from about the same age. But I had a rule -- I was never going to touch heroin, and so I never did.
I could buy a gram of coke on a weekend, chuck it in a drawer, and it'd still be there three months later. On a night out, me and the boys could go through three, four, five different substances. I wouldn't do drugs during the week, it was a Friday, Saturday sort of thing. Maybe a couple of drinks during the week, but I was never a really big drinker anyway.
My life was good. My parents are still together, I have two great siblings, I had private schooling, I'm a well-educated professional. I had a wife and daughter.
I was introduced to ice by someone at work. I was an IT consultant, and I was very well paid. I had a lot of work to do and the person said, 'Hey, try this'. I said no, it wasn't for me. I had some speed to get through the week. But I got about halfway through the week and I said, 'Yeah, hook me up'.
After that, I really didn't look back.
Everything was fine for the next 18 months or two years. I was working, I'd be up pretty much every night doing work. The big thing with ice for me is that it allowed me to stay up. I would do seven, eight days at a trot, with no sleep and very little food.
As a contractor I was being paid by the hour, so it allowed me to do a lot of work. My superiors never asked why I was consistently able to do 60, 70 and even 80-hour weeks.
Unfortunately, ice ticked all the boxes for me. It gives you the dopamine high. I'm the guy who goes skydiving with his mates -- while two hours later everyone's still buzzing it only takes me 20 minutes before I'm saying 'Well, what are we doing next?'. Ice gave me that high on a constant basis.
Everything cruised along, then in the last few months, the bottom fell out of my life. I was getting paranoid, which didn't really help with the work. My work started to drop off because my life became more about scoring. I lost my contract and the same day, my grandfather passed away. I split up with my partner, became estranged from all of my family and lost all of my social networks. I pretty much just needed to go and score on a daily basis.
So then I just started using constantly, huge amounts. Just hanging out with other users. I set myself up with several dealers because I knew I was using more than anyone should.
I developed paranoia. There was a big conspiracy involving my parents, my ex-wife. Everyone was in on it. I pulled apart my computer, iPad, phones, TV, my car, looking for bugs. I stripped the car dash on the side of the road one day because I figured there were bugs in there.
I was pretty much in a constant psychosis, basically seeing, hearing and smelling things that just didn't exist. Once you get to the smelling point of hallucinations, it's pretty much the sharp end of the scale. But I thought because I wasn't the guy throwing chairs at a computer monitor like in the television commercial, I didn't need to get help. I was just cruising along. I didn't need the help.
On the Labor Day weekend of 2014, I was in my car at an airport viewing area, where you can watch the planes. I was sitting there, smoking my pipe. And I started hearing my daughter's voice through my car stereo. It only happened when I had the air conditioning on and the stereo going, and that was my brain's way of making me think the hallucination was real.
Then I started seeing a lot of cars. Now, this is an airport viewing area, there were a lot of people sitting and watching the planes. But for me, they were out to get me. They were there to spy on me. It was part of a big conspiracy. I'd taken apart my phone to look for bugs I thought were in it.
So I left the viewing area, went straight to a police station and told them there were 10 or 15 cars following me. The police didn't know if I was using substances or had mental health issues. But they let me leave and I ended up leaving. I went to my ex-partner's home and broke down, ended up telling her what was going on. I ended up in a psychiatric ward that night.
My family had no idea I was even using. They just thought I was going crazy, they thought it was a mental health problem. They all thought it was schizophrenia. I'd had a long history of mental health issues and I'd had depression in my teens and twenties. I kept the drug use fairly well hidden. It was to the point I had several different dealers so no-one knew exactly how much I was using.
It was actually cheaper for me to go to do rehab than continue using. You're talking $14,900 for 28 days there. I would've gone through $14,900 in 28 days (using ice) without breaking a sweat.
My family showed me different options for treatment, including one in Melbourne, where I'm from. But I told them, if you put me in a rehab in Melbourne, I'm going to jump the fence and score. Studies show 50 percent of people think ice is not hard to get. It's true. You just get your phone out, open a browser, go to (redacted), for sale, type in (redacted), you'll find hundreds of listings of dealers. I knew if I was in a rehab in Australia, I'd be able to score within an hour.
I ended up at The Cabin in Chiang Mai in April 2014. I slept for about a week. And I ate the most amount of food you've ever seen in your life. I hadn't been eating. I think my longest stint was eight days without food, with maybe just a Mars bar or a can of Coke. I'm about 20kg heavier now than I was then. I was just exhausted. My first day at The Cabin, I went around, met a few people, then went to my room and slept for about 12 hours.
Imagine being able to go through life without a conscience, without remorse. While you're using, those things are shut off. You don't feel bad about anything you do once you get to a point. You just shut down those parts of your brain. You can sanction yourself to do whatever you want -- it doesn't matter.
I did get a lot of anxiety after I came off, and that was because, if you go and have a big night on the booze, you don't remember a lot of what happened. But with ice, unfortunately, even though I was in psychosis I can remember everything I ever did. So I've dealt with a lot of remorse and a lot of shame and anxiety coming out of having to realise what I've done.
I did six weeks there at The Cabin and since then I've been clean. I have a fairly strong regime post-Cabin -- I have a psychologist, psychiatrist and a GP I see on a regular basis. The GP is fortnightly, my psychologist and psychiatrists (I see) monthly. I also attend NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings.
I don't work in IT any longer. At the moment I'm a full-time dad and student -- soon I'll be a qualified alcohol and drug counsellor. I've also applied to study psychology. Going back to my old life just wasn't an option.
Out of all of my friends, I only have two guys I speak to from my old life, and even then I don't see them that often because they are still recreational users.
The first time I separated from my wife was because of the addiction, then we gave it another shot, but it all fell apart.
My life these days is pretty good, actually. I don't use drugs. I don't feel the need to. It's been a wholesale change in my life.
It's a difficult world, post-recovery, this is the first time I'm talking publicly with my real name. There are some significant downsides to being a recovering addict. The dating game is difficult, because, what do you say? There's the stigma, especially being an ice addict. People think of those ads as soon as you tell them. It's an interesting world to live in.
I see a lot in the media these days saying who an ice addict is. For me, and for most of the ice addicts I know, it just doesn't ring true.
Everyone has similarities, but not everyone's story's the same.
Melbourne man Jarrod, 36, (surname withheld), is a recovering ice addict who was treated at The Cabin Chiang Mai rehabilitation facility in April 2014. He is two years clean.
This post first appeared on July 13, 2016.