When did your drug use start?  (How old were you?)

I first began to smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol at the age of 16 and I first smoked marijuana at age 18.

What was the trigger/s?(What was happening in your world at the time? Who were the people around you?)

I was pretty shy, had changed schools and had made only a few close friends. I guess I just wanted to fit in and began to follow the crowd. The daring side of this behaviour seemed like a bit of fun.

What, if any, warning signs or prompts did you get and ignored when you started? What lead you to ignoring the warnings?

I honestly can’t remember any particular warning signs. We had no school drug & alcohol education when I was young. I’m not blaming anyone for this, it just wasn’t considered necessary back then. I gradually slid down the slippery slope into the drug world and just lost touch with reality. The drug world had become my new reality.

What have you lost as the result of your drug use?

In 1982 I contracted Hepatitis B and suffered severe complications. My antibodies attacked my organs rather than the disease. I ended up in the Alfred hospital Coronary Care Unit with acute heart & kidney failure. I was given less than 2 hours to live. I was 25 years old. Miraculously I survived but spent almost five months in hospital. As a result of my drug use and related illness, I have been left with damage to both kidneys and from the age of 25 have required medication, which has its side effects. I have not touched an illicit drug since.

Against all medical expectation I was blessed with three amazing children, but not without some complications. One of my children has a mild disability, most likely due to me going into kidney failure 6 weeks early when I was carrying him.

My ex-husband also battled heroin addiction for many years after that time until I said “enough” and ended our marriage. Addiction is a horrendous soul and life destroying problem.

What have you learnt?

Drugs destroy lives!

But I have also learnt that there is hope, and life beyond drug addiction. One of the big lessons I have learnt from my journey is that young people need to have a dream/vision/goal in their lives in order to avoid heading down the path of drugs and alcohol. Having a plan for the future gives a person’s life purpose and hope. Without some sort of vision or goal it is so easy to just drift along and get swayed by the crowd. I had no dream. I went to school, got a job and partied.

Why don’t you go back to using drugs?

Although I was tempted many times to use drugs again, with others around me still using, I have had three main reasons for abstaining.

Firstly, being left with kidney damage caused me to really think about the possibility of death as a result of using drugs again. (It is amazing that even with people all around them dying from drug O.D.s, drug addicts rarely think it will happen to them.)

Secondly, my illness brought me back to reality and I soon began to recognise the destruction and devastation of drug and alcohol addiction across our society and across the world.

Thirdly, I now see that the people who most want people, young and old, to use drugs and drink alcohol are the drug lords and dealers of this world and the liquor industry. It is all about money to them. This causes me to feel outraged.

Finish this sentence: I wish I never…

I wish I never used illicit drugs of any kind. I have had a pretty tough life, as a direct consequence of the decisions I made as a teenager. Those decisions have affected the whole of my life.

Not only have I personally suffered, physically, emotionally and financially, but I have also seen so much of the destruction of both drug and alcohol addiction across our society.

I now speak in schools with a passionate drug & alcohol message in an attempt to warn as many youth as possible, of the dangers of heading down the path of drug & alcohol use.

Kerryn R

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