Preferred Name: Zoe
Zoe is studying for a qualification in the health sector. She’s in a relationship, and lives with her four children. She describes her ethnic background as ‘Australian’: she was born in Australia, as were her parents.
When Zoe was in her late twenties, she began taking ice occasionally when enjoying a night out with friends on weekends. Over the next year, she started taking it more often, until it became part of her daily routine. She’s completed a home detox, attended a residential withdrawal unit, and had alcohol and other drug counselling. At the time of the interview, she hadn’t had ice in three months, and has no plans to resume taking it.
Over the next year her use increased from ‘intermittent’ to weekly, and then daily. When her children returned from staying with their father, she says she felt ‘exhausted’ and just ‘want[ed] to sleep’. Taking ice gave her the energy ‘to keep going through the day’ and do ‘everyday things’, and it became ‘part of [her] daily routine’. However, Zoe found taking ice daily ‘really expensive’ so she began dealing it, but soon stopped after being caught and charged by the police.
After a while Zoe says she felt like she ‘couldn’t get out of bed and function without [ice]’, and thought she might be ‘addicted’. She told her doctor and after doing some internet research on treatment options, she decided to detox at home, with the help of her mother who came to stay with her. For the next three months Zoe didn’t take ice but then, after a friend offered it to her, she resumed taking it daily. To fund her consumption, she resumed dealing and was again caught by the police and charged. Her children were removed from her care and, eager to regain custody, she resolved to stop taking ice. She completed a seven-day detox at a residential withdrawal unit and started attending alcohol and other drug counselling. At the time of the interview, she hadn’t taken ice for three months.
Zoe is now in a new relationship, and her children have been placed back in her care. She’s also studying, and is ‘look[ing] forward to getting a career and helping other people’. She doesn’t intend to resume taking ice, and instead plans to spend her free time gardening and exercising.
For Zoe (F, 30, studying, ice), addiction is an incurable condition and getting better means giving up drugs permanently. (Played by an actor)
Everybody has a pre-drug history and then addicts have a drug history. And it’s re-learning how to function and live daily life, and balance everything, without using drugs and without having to feel empowered by an artificial substance […] I do know how easy it is to relapse and, even now, I do have some days where I just think, ‘I just want to numb everything. It would be so easy. I know where this person lives, I could go just see them [and get drugs]’. And to me, that’s almost a relapse in itself, just thinking about it. It’s the recovery side of it that stops you from actually going and following through with that. So relapse and recovery, I guess you’re walking a tightrope with them, day in and day out. And I don’t think you can actually put a timeline on being in recovery, like, [on when you will have] recovered. That’s why I said at the start of this, I’m always going to consider myself an addict, because I was addicted to [ice]. I know that I could very easily go and get addicted to it again. So to me […] I’m always going to be an addict, whether I’m using or not.
With the support of her family, Zoe stopped taking ice for a few months and continues to rely on their support when she finds it hard to cope. (Played by an actor)
I had a three-month stint, close to 12 months ago now, where I was able to get off it with the help of my family. And [I] did that alone, cold turkey at home. And that was just agonising, horrible and at that three-month spot, I relapsed.
As I said, I have got a support network with my family and friends so that if I am struggling on a particular day or around a particular subject, I’ll just give them a call […] My mum is there for me […] And talking, even doing this [interview] helps […] To get it out, and go, ‘Hey, I know, I stuffed up.’ But admitting that as well, that’s pretty hard.
Losing custody of her children prompted Zoe to seek advice from an AOD service, which recommended she attend counselling and a residential detox. (Played by an actor)
I started dealing [drugs] again. Then I got busted again, and then I actually decided, no, this is it. I had my kids taken off me and I went, ‘No, I need to pull my head in, I need to get my life back on track, I want my kids back’ […So the decision to seek treatment] began with my children being taken off me. And that just absolutely tore me apart inside […] It felt like a part of me had actually been ripped away and I went, ‘What can I do, and what do I need to do to get them back?’ And I very quickly realised the first thing that needs to go is the drug use. So that’s when I actually [contacted the intake and assessment service] which is the first point of contact […] You’ve got to have an assessment through them […] and they […] put you in touch with the other services […They] put me in touch with my drug and alcohol counsellor and they also offered me the detox through [the unit] so I got my name put down on that [and then…] I went into detox.
Zoe recommends making information on treatment services more accessible, and speeding up intake and assessment times for people seeking treatment. (Played by an actor)
[I wasn’t given] a lot [of treatment options] to be honest. It was the detox and that was about it […] Nobody really wants to give you a lot of information to begin with when you’re on the drug. If you try a little bit and you hit dead ends, you just stop. So you have to be really pushed or it has to sometimes be court appointed […] for you to fully get engaged with those services […] For me personally, I wish there was a lot more of that [information] in the community, because to start with I had absolutely no idea where to go, where to start.
[…They also need to reduce] the long waiting lists […] Like, even just to have your first initial assessment, I think that was about three or four weeks that I was on a waiting list for that, and then it was, I think, another six weeks on the waiting list to get into the detox […] I mean, it’s a lengthy process, so it would be good to see more funding put back into [alcohol and other drug services…] to get things rolling a lot quicker, rather than going, ‘Ah, yeah, okay, so you’ve taken that first step, you want to get off drugs, so we’ll see you in three months’ time when we’ll have another look at it’, you know. To me, that seems extremely insufficient.
Zoe says that exercise such as walking or gardening ‘releases endorphins’ and helps reduce her desire for ice. (Played by an actor)
When I feel, if I’ve got a craving coming on or things are starting to become overwhelming, I’ll actually go and exercise. Like, even if it’s just a walk around the block or something, to get those endorphins going, which in the end can actually give you a very similar kind of rush as being high, because releasing those natural endorphins is ultimately, what ice kind of does. It releases that serotonin level in your brain to make you feel happy and wonderful and great, which, guess what, so does exercise [laugh]. So I have those steps in place. I also enjoy my gardening, and so sometimes I’ll get out there and prune the rose bushes right back if I’m really craving or something. My cravings are far and few between now, which is really good.
Zoe says that persistence, encouragement from others and setting goals can aid recovery. (Played by an actor)
I guess it’s important for every individual to realise that they are individual. Their [experience of] addiction is going to be […different] to the next person’s. Their choice and path, and road to recovery, if that’s what they want to do, is going to be individual, and it’s going to be different. You can’t just put six people in a room and treat them all the same. They’re all going to have different outcomes, even if they do have the same treatment. [I’d also say to people], ‘try, try, try again […] If at first you don’t succeed, just keep trying’. [It’s important to give] encouragement [to] people. That’s probably what got me through a lot of this […] was the encouragement and having a focus. Although it was horrible and it tore my heart out and nearly killed me [having my children removed from my care], I had a focus. I had a focus to get clean to get them back, and so I guess if you want to start the path to recovery, then pick a goal, no matter how big or small. Pick a goal and if you achieve that, pick a new one. Stay on course, and keep making your goals bigger and better.