Preferred Name: Bobby
Bobby is single, lives on his own and wasn’t working at the time of the interview. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian German’: he and his mother were born in Australia, and his father was born in Germany.
In his late teens Bobby smoked cannabis and took speed with friends, and in his early twenties he started taking heroin regularly. A few years later he decided to reduce his heroin consumption and started opioid pharmacotherapy treatment (methadone maintenance treatment or MMT). He remained on treatment until he was in his late thirties. He says that the death of a good friend prompted him to stop MMT and isolate himself from friends to avoid increasing his heroin use. However, a serious accident led him to return to MMT for a short time to help with pain management, and he now takes heroin occasionally for pain relief.
In his late twenties Bobby’s relationship with his wife ended, his father died, and he lost contact with the rest of his family. He went through periods of homelessness during which he took heroin and speed. He says taking these drugs helped him to give him ‘shelter’ from his environment and cope with his situation. A couple of years later, after a good friend died, Bobby began to feel that he’d been living in a ‘drug haze’ for a long time. He decided to stop MMT but found the withdrawal process difficult with no family support. He says he went ‘into lockdown’ and isolated himself in an effort to avoid taking drugs. He now says that he ‘overdid’ the isolation because he has since found it hard to reconnect with ‘mainstream society and people’.
When he was in his mid-twenties he decided to go on MMT to help him reduce his heroin consumption. He says that when he had methadone he felt like he was ‘in a dream’ in a way that didn’t feel ‘right’. Nevertheless he continued on MMT for nearly twenty years, taking heroin occasionally.
Several years after he stopped MMT, in his late forties, Bobby had an accident while repairing the roof of his house and was taken to hospital with serious injuries. He says he was refused opioid pain medication because of his history of heroin consumption and MMT. On discharge from hospital he was prescribed another pain medication (Lyrica®/pregabalin) but stopped taking it due to ‘strange’ visual side effects. Shortly after this he resumed MMT hoping it would help him manage his ongoing pain, but stopped after a few months because he didn’t find it helpful. He now takes heroin occasionally for pain relief but avoids doing so regularly because it keeps him awake at night.
As a result of his injuries Bobby developed a number of health issues and now has difficulty keeping fit and active. He says that because of this he’s unsure of what the future holds for him. At the time of the interview he was on a waiting list for surgery that he hoped would improve his range of movement so that in the future he can get fit and play music again.
Bobby (M, 49, not working due to illness, heroin and alcohol) had surgery for accident-related injuries and says he wasn’t given adequate pain relief.
I tried to fix the roof and the next thing I know I’m gone [fell off]. And they’re pressing bones in left, right and centre in the hospital, and not using many painkillers, because they knew [I had been on] methadone [in the past] and so they didn’t want to get me re-hooked [on opioids…] So they were really stingy with the painkillers, and you can’t imagine how much it hurts if somebody is pushing in bones left, right, and centre. And I don’t know what they used, because you can’t do anything […] you’re paralysed […] The first thing I did [after leaving hospital was go back] on the methadone […] I’ve got nerve pain now but [methadone] doesn’t help for nerve pain, and nothing works drug-wise. Heroin still works […] but it’s not like they’re going to make exception for me and prescribe heroin in pill form […If I could, I would take] diamorphine (heroin) […] purely for the pain. I reckon it would be much better […The pain clinic] only see me once in a blue moon. They put me on […] Lyrica (pregabalin, medication for nerve pain or epilepsy) and I’ve been taking that [but I get…] side effects with bright lights and everything shining […The doctor at the pain clinic] said, ‘I’m not supposed to prescribe you any opiate-related [medication’…] But it would help me a lot, just once in a blue moon, to have the pain relief.
Bobby says his mother judges him for taking drugs and refuses to let him stay with her when he visits from out of town.
My mother is still around but I can sense the discrimination from my own mother. Like, last time when I had my accident, I went [interstate to visit her] in hospital. So I got all the way [there] and […] I’m her son and I needed somewhere to sleep, and my own mother doesn’t want me to sleep at her place. That says a hell of a lot. That means my mother has written me off. My father would never have done that. He would’ve said, ‘Come on’, you know. My mother is [colder] in that regard. I’ve even told her like, ‘There are no drugs’ and everything, but her actions speak louder. So you can lose your own mother because she has got preconceptions about drug use.
Bobby stresses the importance of having support from family when trying to reduce consumption.
Recovery is really good, but you have to have the family standing by you and […] I didn’t have any of that. No family sort of approached me. You have to have the family. If you don’t have the family and you’re on your own, you know like, you become a dark horse like on a chessboard. So if you have family that loves you and gives you all the support – if I [had] had that, I would’ve been off [heroin] by the age of 20 or 30, but I’m off it now […] I’ve recovered, but I’ve been so long away in the drug haze. Like, I’m fully recovered now but where do you start if you’ve basically been 20 years in a drug haze? How do you reconnect with mainstream society and people? I can talk to you now person-to-person, but it’s really hard to re-engage, especially if you have no family ties.