I grew up in a typical Aussie home in the ’80s. Big sprawling house. All the neighbourhood kids hanging out together. My three sisters and twin brother playing at the pools in the summer. Family trips to Bright. I had a great family life and a fabulous childhood.
Until I was 7, when my mum left.
In my early-teens, some issues started to emerge for me – even though I looked masculine, that’s not what was inside me. I’ve always had a feminine side.
I was nervous about being around people and fitting in, so when I started going to parties, I found that alcohol could be the lubricant for confidence. But instead of fitting in, I would end up the joke of the party. Once, my brother shaved off my eyebrows when I was passed out!
My drinking accelerated after I finished school, and this was the start of 30 years of alcoholism.
There were a few years in my late 20’s when I felt I was getting my life together. I met a woman, and we had a child together. I went to University to study and was drinking only on the weekends.
But this didn’t last long and soon I was alone, lonely and miserable – and drinking every night. Twice, I lost my license and had to explain to my daughter what the ghastly interlock device on my car was. She was too young to understand, but I was so humiliated.
The first time I tried to take my life, I was admitted to a psychiatric unit and was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Thirty years of alcohol abuse really pickled me. But I didn’t stop. Until one evening when providence intervened, and I thought: ‘Why am I drinking this? This is foul. What am I doing?’ And from that moment on, I never drank again.
Unfortunately, I replaced alcohol with drugs to fill the void, and that didn’t turn out so well for me. The drugs interfered with my Schizophrenia medication, so I decided to stop taking the meds. I began to hallucinate, I was paranoid, I wasn’t showering, I wasn’t eating, and my apartment had a cockroach infestation. I barricaded myself at home and thought there was a death squad out to kill me. I was frightened and couldn’t trust anyone.
I had hit rock bottom. My dad came, and so did the Crisis Assessment Team. Enough was enough.
Now, I am on the right medications every day, which means I can speak fluently without any voices in my head. I have the ResetLife Program at First Step, which helps me keep accountable to my own abstinence journey. And a long list of people to call for support.
ResetLife taught me about the physiological side of drug abuse. That my brain tried to keep me in addiction, but the longer I was into recovery, the more the logical brain took over and I could rationally consider, ‘Why would I want to take drugs when everything is working right now? Why would I want to take drugs when all of my relationships have recovered?’
All of my important relationships have rebounded.
I have reconnected with my mum. My sisters are more active in my life. My dad continues to be my rock. But most importantly, the relationship with my daughter has flourished. It’s incredible! She is the pride of my life. She accepts me for who I am, and we spend hours on long walks where she shares her stories with me. I feel so privileged that she trusts me! And so lucky to have great people in my life supporting and mentoring me.
I feel so good.
And now I want to get back into society – to work, study and volunteer. My graphic art has been a constant outlet over these years, but I really love writing so am looking at doing a writing and editing course. And I want to get involved within my local LBGT community so I can give back there too.
Everyone who sees me says, ‘You look so much better’. I have recovered.
Mandy - ResetLife client