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Michael’s Story – Growing up in Canberra, Australia

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I grew up in Canberra. My Mum and Dad divorced when I was very young. A year old or something like that. My mum brought up my older brother and myself on her own.

IMG_3143 canberra Michael's Story - Growing up in Canberra, Australia IMG 3143She did an amazing job. She had to work hard and sacrifice a lot which she did, but my brother and I never went without and there was always plenty of love in our household.

I think of my childhood as being a happy time. I was always very close to both my Mum and brother. I was always into sports, played football and enjoyed my times with my brother.

I was, however, the troubled one of the two. I was definitely as you would call it “the bad egg”. Always up to mischief at school. Mum would forever be getting phone calls. Even at home, I was more work as Mum has since told me. Always busy. As I went into primary school I was forever getting up to mischief. Nothing serious, but in trouble still the same. I didn’t have a very good attention span- still don’t.

I was also very young when I started to drink a bit of my Mums wine every now and then. I was only in early primary school. At friends parties, I would always be the one who drank too much and ended up vomiting or being brought home by the police.

I’d sneak into the liquor cabinet that was kept aside for family visits, and even at that age eleven, twelve.
I wouldn’t only have a sip or two. I would drink as much as I could until I was head down a toilet vomiting. Even at that age I couldn’t stop at one. IMG_3141 canberra Michael's Story - Growing up in Canberra, Australia IMG 3141

I also picked up my binge drinking game in high school, Started to experiment smoking marijuana as well. Continuously getting into trouble however for minor things.

I was also kicked out of my year ten graduation for being drunk. For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to get stuck into the liquor on my own and go down to the school. I sang advance Australia fair in a typical loud drunk obnoxious way and was told by staff to leave the school. As I got to the front door the teacher handed me my year ten certificate and said “ Have a nice life” and slammed the door shut.Looking back I see now they were all warning signs that showed me where I was heading. All tell tale signs that I have an addictive personality and was heading down a potentially dark and dangerous path if I didn’t change my ways.

However at that age, those types of things don’t enter your mind. I went into college, very quickly girls, partying and friends were the only thing that had my attention.

I stopped playing football, something I had played since I was six years of age.

Seventeen I was mostly attending house parties because I couldn’t get into the night clubs, but I fell into a lifestyle of getting through the week at work and then hitting alcohol very hard over the weekend.

IMG_3140 canberra Michael's Story - Growing up in Canberra, Australia IMG 3140Slowly but surely I started smoking marijuana throughout the day. Every day, in between classes.

When I turned eighteen that opened up a whole new universe for me. Nightclubs. I absolutely loved them. I would be their student night in Canberra which is Thursday, Friday and Saturday working during the week and hitting it very hard on the weekends- and repeat.

One of my friends one night told me that he knew someone who had taken ecstasy, and that’s it’s not a big deal and he had a great night on them if I was keen? Hell yes, of course, I was keen. I had the best night of my life, I felt a million bucks. That was just another addiction I picked up. Now addicted to alcohol, amphetamines and marijuana.

That year 2004-2005 that is all I did continuously got into dangerous situations due to that environment but continued to heed the warnings of others.

I started to drastically lose weight, partly due to ecstasy but due to the fact I had also started to smoke some ice sporadically. My stomach shrunk, I’d have three mouth fulls of a delicious meal and be full.

I was aggressive and often getting into fights in town that would result in me getting locked up. Slowly but surely life started to turn down for me..

I’d drink in excess through the weekends and as the year progressed I started to have an esky in the backseat of my car. Every morning I would fill it with ice and a case of beer. I’d be driving around the roads with a Carlton draught in one hand.
It’s a progressive disease and I was definitely starting to lose control

I was caught speeding 127 in an 80 zone by the police, lost everything but one point. Then one time I told my girlfriend at the time id be right back I had to drive a mate to work. I had been drinking all day, I dropped him off but then had a black out. Somehow someway I ended up on the other side of town driving on the footpath. I was arrested with a bottle wine in my hand. I blew high range .247 and lost myIMG_3133 canberra Michael's Story - Growing up in Canberra, Australia IMG 3133 license for 18 months with a hefty penalty fee.

You never learn when you’re in addiction and young- well I didn’t. A week later I was at the pub with a friend. We were both drunk, but he definitely was stumbling more. I volunteered to drive. Only five minutes to my dads. Just outside of the car park, I saw those blue lights. High range DUI again 1.47. They slapped another 12 months onto my suspension more money and fines and also gave me 220 hours community service to serve.

I remember going to court with my Mum behind me watching, the judge said, “If you drive again, let alone you are drunk at the same time. Even if you just drive a car you’re going to Goulburn jail in six months time.

A couple weeks later whilst under the influence of alcohol and marijuana I took my Dads car out while he was out of town. I was drunk and was cruising around town. Obviously the judges warning fell on death ears. I was so lucky I never got picked up then- or hurt someone.

It’s a progressive disease and near the end of the year and into 2006 I definitely lost control

Alcohol and drug abuse had completely absorbed me. First off with the loss of the license, then suddenly always being broke, as I took so many drugs and always had to buy alcohol.

I started to lose friends with a lot of people. They could see who I was turning into. A selfish. Hopeless no hope addict. I can still remember walking the streets of Canberra thinking how did this all happen? How did my life turn like this? I can still feel the pain in my heart now- just by thinking back to then.

I was on the verge of losing my job. I would smoke marijuana all day or walk the streets drinking from a goon bag.

Due to my volatile and aggressive behavior I wasn’t welcome at home. So I would be couch hopping or hoping people would let me stay at theirs. I was a loose cannon, though, I was a thief, I never paid the rent. So for those obvious reasons pretty often I was asked to leave.

IMG_3132 canberra Michael's Story - Growing up in Canberra, Australia IMG 3132I nearly got mugged by a couple guys whilst heavily influenced in town. Just putting myself in real dark, scary environments.

Eventually, I ended up being fired as an enrolled nurse. I had been calling in sick all the time. Coming into work still smelling of alcohol. Or going on my lunch break, and just not returning for the final part of my shift. So it was a fair enough decision on their hands.

So that put me on Centrelink benefits. I used whatever money I could for one thing that gave me some sort of temporary of happiness. Alcohol and drugs. Mostly four-litre goon bags. I’d be downing them as soon as I woke, and then all day.

I would always beg Mum to let me come back, she would at the start but I wouldn’t change. Due to the cost and lack of funds I had started to drink Methylated Spirits. It would make me lose reality and id be happy for half an hour and then I’d pass out. I remember Mum coming home from work once and seeing me passed out with a bottle of metho next to me. That must have been a horrific scene for a mother to see her son in.

Alcohol and drugs changed me. Every good value was replaced with something bad. Growing up I had always been a thoughtful caring guy. Warm hearted, pretty much a softie. As an addict, I was replaced with just pure fire. I was so angry. I was so angry at everyone and everything. How did my life end up like this? I knew it was spiraling bad, but I just couldn’t stop. Being clean gave me the shakes, anxiety and the sweats. I needed anything. I’d sniff petrol, drink Listerine, aftershave for the ethanol. Anything. I’d do it. I once even skulled some turpentine and orange juice hoping I would get some sort of high. All I did was get poisoned and vomit out fire. Leaving me jaundice and laying down all afternoon.

It didn’t stop me going out that night though and drinking two bottles of cooking sherry wine at a party. Crazy.

I was always blowing up at my mum and damaging her house. Walking down her hallway punching holes to the left to the right. Police were forever taking me away cuffed up.

I was eventually once again not welcomed there. So I spent weeks couch hopping. I was often told to leave after a day or two due to my behaviour

After all these losses, I had one good thing left. Only one thing left that gave me any feelings of happiness. My girlfriend Lauren. Even though my behaviour contradicts it I really did love her.

Originally whenI first met her parents we got on well. But that was at the start when I was just starting to go deeper into addiction. Her family had learnt about my behavior and addictions over time, they knew I was spiraling like a plane shot down. They didn’t want their youngest child to go down with me. I didn’t have a car so could hardly see her, It made everything so hard.

I remember calling her my angel on earth because out of all the darkness, and sadness I felt every day. If I saw her, all that pain went away.

After a while though she was left with no option but to break up with me. Looking back now I’m surprised she hung around for so long and I can understand why her family wasn’t too fond of me. IMG_3146 canberra Michael's Story - Growing up in Canberra, Australia IMG 3146

So I started to drink more. Methylated spirits, four-litre goon bags every day. Drugs. Smoking ice when I could, copious amounts of marijuana. Just chasing anything that would help me escape reality. I was extremely depressed. Only twenty-one and sitting on a park bench on my own just in hysterics. Crying. Wishing I could turn back the clock. I was so shocked that when I was 17 even though I was dabbling in drugs and alcohol, I was on track in life. Things were going well! How can alcohol and drugs destroy everything so quickly?

I was left on the street so just aimlessly wandered around. Such a depressing place to be in. With all the time in the world to haunt you about what you have lost. Since then, I’ve explained that feeling to others. It felt like a knife was in my heart every waking moment.

I was only 22 yrs and the moment that made me change was a combination of everything I lost and the overwhelming sadness I felt.
I had been sleeping on the street when my probation and parole officer called me and said if you get on the bus Goulburn men’s hostel will take you for free for the first three nights. That was good enough for me. So off I went to Goulburn.

After those three nights of grace, the hostel asked for payment…I said see ya later. I’d rather drink and be homeless then have a bed and no alcohol.

I was on the street of Goulburn I was drinking methylated spirits. It was about two am, freezing cold and I was under a bridge. I could see the highway and kept seeing these big trucks flying along. Part of me really wanted to run right in front of them. I was sick of feeling such sadness and pain. I missed the ones who left me. I missed everything good in my life.

IMG_3144 canberra Michael's Story - Growing up in Canberra, Australia IMG 3144I didn’t have the guts to go through with it, I always had a flicker of hope that one day life would be good again.

I returned to Canberra. My mum said I was welcome to return home if I booked myself into rehab, which I did. I booked myself into Lake Macquaries Salvation Army Miracle Haven in 2007.

It’s an extremely depressing place to be in life. Being only 22 years old and leaving society to go into a drug and alcohol rehab. Driving four and half hours away from the people I know to go into rehab.

However, the workers welcomed me with open arms and love. Tough love at times but that’s what I needed.

Had a couple slip ups I had three admissions into the rehab which equaled two and a half years in there. That’s a long time to spend in a rehab! My third admission and the third time lucky I was there for eighteen months.

But it’s what I needed to get my life back on track. The fellas you meet in there. Become brothers at the time. You all help fight for each other and support one another. None of the guys were evil guys or bad guys. Just people who had become addicts and made some bad choices in life.

I have the Miracle Haven Salvation Army Rehab as the place that saved my life. I was destined to die early or commit a crime and I’d be locked up for good. All the workers, peers and, of course, my beautiful family. I know I walked the walk, but they pointed me in the right direction.

I have just passed seven years Clean. In that time, I’ve managed to save enough to get a deposit for my own home. Been living in that since 2011.

I have worked for over five years. Back working as a nurse at a psychiatric hospital. Also in my third year of university studies.
I have travelled to Tokyo for work and fun. I’m playing football again. I see my family often and would say I’m now trusted and valued.

I always remind myself of this. When I first went into rehab there were two other guys my age who I got along with. We became roomies at rehab and hung out the whole time. One guy left rehab and continued taking drugs. He is now in his second year of maximum jail at Goulburn for armed robberies he gets out in 2017. The other guy. Ran off from an NA meeting. Got some heroin. Took some valium then went into a bathroom at kings cross and shot up that heroin. He died with the needle still in his arm. In 2007, I was in the exact same position of life of those two. The only difference between myself and them. I got clean. It’s a brutal reminder to me about the dangers awaiting in addiction.

It hasn’t been all easy, though. Life is hard. Not as hard as it used to be but its still a grind at times.

I’ve had people do wrong by me and been dishonest. I’ve had to battle my mind at times, but I’ve remained strong. Even though I’m clean now it’s not over. It will never be over. I’ll always have to be vigilant and strong. IMG_3145 canberra Michael's Story - Growing up in Canberra, Australia IMG 3145

I have met some true good friends up here at Newcastle. Friends who know my story and encourage me to continue striving for goals.

I’m forever grateful to them. I’m playing football again for Hamilton Azzurri with some great mates.

My mum today is worry free. Which I feel is the biggest blessing of them all. My biggest supporter and my best friend. I certainly made her work as a parent in more ways than one. I think she knows how sorry I am and how much I love her.

She was my main supported whilst in rehab. Every Thursday night we had the chapel for an hour. My Mum used to drive from Canberra after work. Drive four and half hours. See me, and bring me lots of lollies, chips and half of Woolworths. Spend time with me for an hour or so, then drive back to Canberra for work the next day. That is love. I am forever in debt, and will always understand I caused her utter grief for a long time. I’ve said sorry to her so many times. The only way I can show her that I am is by my actions now.

I am vocal in sharing my story. Have been on TV, radio and print. I am all about sharing hope. Pointing people in the right direction. Recovery is possible.

Today I am seven years clean and sober. I have goals. I have dreams but most of all, I am free.
Michael Peattie

Twitter: @peatts

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