Preferred Name: Brad
Brad has worked in the public service and health sectors, but wasn’t working at the time of the interview. He’s single and lives with friends. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’: he was born in Australia, as were his parents.
Brad was prescribed a ‘mild’ stimulant by his doctor in his late teens and says he subsequently developed an ‘interest in stimulants’. In his twenties he began taking speed and drinking alcohol when going out with friends, and continued to do so regularly throughout his thirties and forties. At times he took speed every day, and began taking benzodiazepines to help him manage ‘coming down’. Now in his fifties, Brad has ‘cut down’ his alcohol and speed consumption, but still says he’s ‘an alcoholic’ and has a ‘habit’ for speed. He plans to continue to drink alcohol regularly, and take speed occasionally with friends.
Brad continued to take speed and drink alcohol regularly throughout his thirties and forties. Now in his fifties, he still drinks regularly and considers himself ‘an alcoholic’. While he says he still has a ‘habit’ for speed, he doesn’t ‘have the same thirst’ for it that he had in his younger years and now mainly takes it when spending time with friends. Reflecting on his history of speed use, he says he most values the ‘social side’ of it, and the ‘communion’ that comes with the ‘fairly intensive shared experience’ of taking speed with friends. What he finds most difficult is feeling that he needs to be ‘secretive’ about his consumption because of the ‘preconceptions’ people hold about ‘the kind of person you are’ if you take drugs. He expressed particular concerns about the impact disclosing his consumption could have on his working life. In the future Brad plans to find a job in the health sector in which he can make use of his knowledge and experiences to help others.
According to Brad (M, 50, unemployed, speed), addiction refers to ‘repeated choices’ or habits that can be varied when they’re no longer enjoyable.
Anything that you like doing and want [to] do again, is probably what most people think of as an addiction. You know, it’s just a habit to my mind. It’s anything. Everything’s, you know, [a habit]. We are all creatures of habit and you choose your habits and that’s the one I chose amongst many others […Addiction] is a word for habit, right. And in my experience […] it’s always a choice, even when it’s not. There have been times where if I haven’t had [speed] wow, what do you know, you wake up the next morning and you’re still going, in some form or another. So, you know, it’s just a habit and […] like I’ve said before, habits are just repeated choices […] You just forget that you are making a choice, but it’s always there. And I chose to [take speed] in the beginning, so, you know, I’ve got friends who have stopped for the same reasons. You know, you just get tired of it.
Over the years Brad has spent a lot of money on speed, alcohol and benzodiazepines, but says this is his choice.
[My consumption now is] kind of self-limited. I mean I just, you know, I don’t want it. I could go out and do it now, but I don’t want to, or I can see that I won’t have any money for anything else […] If you want to go out and spend your money on a house or a car, it’s not frivolous. I mean, in my lifetime I have easily spent [the cost of] a house […] I made that choice. But the day-to-day thing, it’s pretty hard, you know, when all of you’ve got is the clothes you are wearing. Of course to my mind, the damage, the money side of it is the killer […] Look, there’s probably, you know, as with most things, I can regret [the expense]. You know, I shouldn’t have bought it then. I should have spent the money on something else. [It] probably would’ve worked out better. But then there have been times in life where money hasn’t been an issue, you know, for quite a few years. I mean, you know, I had access [to] money […] I’ve had various jobs and been a manager and all this kind of stuff […] You can argue that […] I would have had more money to spend on other things, but that’s discretionary income. It’s up to me what I spend it on and it didn’t interfere with the rest of it: I’ve always been able to […] pay the rent, you know.
Brad is concerned that he will be marginalised if others become aware of his consumption, but says not telling others affects his intimate relationships.
I don’t know about everyone, but in my case […] there’s always a secret, you know. If you come out and you are very open about [your drug use] you are marginalised completely […] I mean people will talk anyway and assume things anyway and that’s fine, that’s their thing. So that, to me, is probably the main drawback [of drug consumption…] And if you’re in relationships, like, you know, intimate relationships, they need to be based on trust. The whole point of the thing is to be open. To open yourself [up] and that’s always a very interesting thing to try and negotiate […] You make mistakes. You know, things stuff up. You know there’s that thing of hubris, false self-confidence, that you think you can control everything and then you find out that you’ve just been kidding yourself. That’s one of those things that’s very easy to do […] but it’s kind of heightened with speed if you are using it all the time […] It just introduces an element which probably makes [intimate relationships] a lot harder, so […] in my case, I tend to avoid situations like that, or not to avoid, but be very wary […of] intimate relationships.
For Brad, taking speed with friends promotes a sense of togetherness, or as he puts it, ‘communion’.
I value the people, you know, my closest friends […] We have shared interests in all sorts of ways, one of them being, you know, that kind of communion [of taking speed together]. You know, you can call it community in some ways. There’s that old joke that [speed] breaks down all kinds of barriers. If you’ve got a shared interest in that, you can sit around talking […] With a lot of people I know that do it, I’ve known for years, decades. You know, they are still my friends, my closest friends who I’ve probably known for 30 years, and we’ve done it on and off together and I’m still in touch with them. So I value that [social…] side of it […] Listening [to each other is] a big part of it. I mean, it’s weird that there’s a whole thing about talking [on speed]. You know, the standard speed freak thing. But, you know, there’s also that thing of listening.
[Taking speed] is a very social activity. It’s like sitting around having coffees and talking […] Sometimes you seem to have a better handle on your own feelings and expressing them to someone else. And, you know, that’s happened recently. And that’s good in my book. And that’s always been a part of it.