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I’ve been 10 years sober

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Addicts need tough love

“I started experimenting with marijuana in my late teens and self-medicating with it in my mid-20s to try to cope with a high-pressure sales job. I progressed to speed, ecstasy and hallucinogens, before moving onto ice. I had some frightening psychotic episodes along the way.

“For a long time, my parents, who had no experience with people taking drugs, did everything they could to help me – paying fines, letting me stay with them and lending me money.

“They did some courses for families of people with addiction and learnt they’d been enabling me. They kicked me out of home and stopped paying my fines. I was living in a decrepit garage, it was disgusting. That’s where addiction led me, and I think finding rock bottom propelled me hard enough onto this path [of recovery].

“I hear of families pushing their kids or partners into rehab, but in my experience the person has to have had enough. I sometimes tell [families] that they have to force a ‘rock bottom’, saying, ‘If you want to keep using and drinking, you go do that, but we can’t support you any more. You go run your own race’.

“It’s really tough to do because no one wants to see a loved one in pain but the truth is, by enabling the addict they are only hurting themselves more, and the chances of recovery are a lot slimmer than if the person has had enough and wants to do the work themselves.”

Purpose keeps you clean

“When I’m talking to people at rehab now, I’m planting the seeds of, ‘Let’s find some passions, some hobbies, some purpose’ because that’s the stuff that’s really going to help them long term. Some people want to learn an instrument, some people want to travel, some people want to get a jet ski – it’s about finding whatever’s going to get you out of bed.

Simon Hughes and his father David Hughes posing for a photo in 2015.Credit: Chris Hopkins

“For me, I love electronic music, so I volunteer at PBS community radio so I get to play music without being in nightclubs. I run a comedy club, I have a mushroom farm, I’m part of a community garden and I’m studying my masters in counselling. I’ve got purpose and I’ve found what really fills my cup. I practise a lot of gratitude every morning and night – I’ve got a loving partner, a loving family, I have comedians I once idolised performing in my comedy rooms and I give back to society. Remembering this always combats any resentments you have – you can’t relapse on an attitude of gratitude.”

Everyone needs a safe space

“Addiction knows no boundaries, it doesn’t care who you are, what area you live or what school or uni you went to. It affects everyone from school teachers to lawyers to nurses to pilots to that person you see on a park bench. I think we’ve got to be real with kids about drugs – just telling them they’re ‘bad’ is not going to stop people from doing them, and reduces the chance that they will reach out for help if they need it. When I do talks at schools, I say, ‘Yes, the drugs will do what your friends say they will. But the problem is, the longer that you do them, the more chance you’ve got of running into unwanted pregnancies, overdoses, arrests and crimes’.

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“Kids have told us, ‘My friend passed out from drinking but we didn’t want to call the ambulance because we thought the cops would come and get him in trouble’. We’re like, ‘No, no no. Please call the ambulance and if it keeps happening to that same friend, get him to reach out because obviously something’s not right’. I tell my family and friends who have teenagers and adult children, ‘You need to let them know that if there’s a problem, they can come and talk to you’.”


It’s a sad journey

“My 10-year anniversary is also tinged with sadness because I’ve lost a lot of friends along the way to overdose and suicide. A close friend who I studied counselling with was the poster boy for the rehab centre his family had started, but was prescribed opiate medication and a couple of weeks later was gone.

“It’s so sad that this thing can take such a driving seat in our lives, and drive everything else out of it. It scares me, but empowers me to go, ‘No, I won’t be having a sneaky red wine with dinner’. I’ve seen [relapse] too many times and I know that no one is immune.”

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Addicts need tough love

“I started experimenting with marijuana in my late teens and self-medicating with it in my mid-20s to try to cope with a high-pressure sales job. I progressed to speed, ecstasy and hallucinogens, before moving onto ice. I had some frightening psychotic episodes along the way.

“For a long time, my parents, who had no experience with people taking drugs, did everything they could to help me – paying fines, letting me stay with them and lending me money.

“They did some courses for families of people with addiction and learnt they’d been enabling me. They kicked me out of home and stopped paying my fines. I was living in a decrepit garage, it was disgusting. That’s where addiction led me, and I think finding rock bottom propelled me hard enough onto this path [of recovery].

“I hear of families pushing their kids or partners into rehab, but in my experience the person has to have had enough. I sometimes tell [families] that they have to force a ‘rock bottom’, saying, ‘If you want to keep using and drinking, you go do that, but we can’t support you any more. You go run your own race’.

“It’s really tough to do because no one wants to see a loved one in pain but the truth is, by enabling the addict they are only hurting themselves more, and the chances of recovery are a lot slimmer than if the person has had enough and wants to do the work themselves.”

Purpose keeps you clean

“When I’m talking to people at rehab now, I’m planting the seeds of, ‘Let’s find some passions, some hobbies, some purpose’ because that’s the stuff that’s really going to help them long term. Some people want to learn an instrument, some people want to travel, some people want to get a jet ski – it’s about finding whatever’s going to get you out of bed.

Simon Hughes and his father David Hughes posing for a photo in 2015.

Simon Hughes and his father David Hughes posing for a photo in 2015.Credit: Chris Hopkins

“For me, I love electronic music, so I volunteer at PBS community radio so I get to play music without being in nightclubs. I run a comedy club, I have a mushroom farm, I’m part of a community garden and I’m studying my masters in counselling. I’ve got purpose and I’ve found what really fills my cup. I practise a lot of gratitude every morning and night – I’ve got a loving partner, a loving family, I have comedians I once idolised performing in my comedy rooms and I give back to society. Remembering this always combats any resentments you have – you can’t relapse on an attitude of gratitude.”

Everyone needs a safe space

“Addiction knows no boundaries, it doesn’t care who you are, what area you live or what school or uni you went to. It affects everyone from school teachers to lawyers to nurses to pilots to that person you see on a park bench. I think we’ve got to be real with kids about drugs – just telling them they’re ‘bad’ is not going to stop people from doing them, and reduces the chance that they will reach out for help if they need it. When I do talks at schools, I say, ‘Yes, the drugs will do what your friends say they will. But the problem is, the longer that you do them, the more chance you’ve got of running into unwanted pregnancies, overdoses, arrests and crimes’.

Loading

“Kids have told us, ‘My friend passed out from drinking but we didn’t want to call the ambulance because we thought the cops would come and get him in trouble’. We’re like, ‘No, no no. Please call the ambulance and if it keeps happening to that same friend, get him to reach out because obviously something’s not right’. I tell my family and friends who have teenagers and adult children, ‘You need to let them know that if there’s a problem, they can come and talk to you’.”


It’s a sad journey

“My 10-year anniversary is also tinged with sadness because I’ve lost a lot of friends along the way to overdose and suicide. A close friend who I studied counselling with was the poster boy for the rehab centre his family had started, but was prescribed opiate medication and a couple of weeks later was gone.

“It’s so sad that this thing can take such a driving seat in our lives, and drive everything else out of it. It scares me, but empowers me to go, ‘No, I won’t be having a sneaky red wine with dinner’. I’ve seen [relapse] too many times and I know that no one is immune.”

Make the most of your health, relationships, fitness and nutrition with our Live Well newsletter. Get it in your inbox every Monday.

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