A Street Cat Named Fred

As a kid, I wasn't sure what I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be happy and I knew I wanted to feel like I belonged. Drugs made me feel both.

My parents divorced when I was young. My Dad, a wealthy businessman, moved interstate to start a new life while I was raised by my Mum. I hated my Dad for a very long time. His role in my life was to use his power and money to make it look like he cared.

Dad paid for my education at an elite private school. You often hear stories that drugs are rife in some private schools, and this was very true of the school I went to. Still, no matter how many drugs were or weren’t available at school I was looking for something to fill the void of my absentee father so if it wasn’t drugs, it would have been something else.

I never felt like I fitted into the world, particularly at school. The kids were all from wealthy families with brand name everything and upmarket cars while I lived with my single mother who at times struggled to put food on the table and my half-sister. I didn’t have the latest of anything and I didn’t have a car. Mum and Dad came to an agreement years before that he would pay for my education and that was it. He didn’t support me in any other way and I guess back then it was acceptable. He was seen to be helping raise me and he was praised for it.

I was 14 years old when I first dabbled in drugs. Not one to do anything small, I went straight to hard drugs. At the time, I didn’t realise I was suffering from OCD, depression and anxiety. It wouldn’t be later in life while seeking help for my addictions that I would be diagnosed. All I knew is that drugs helped me escape. They made me happy, they gave me a sense of freedom I couldn’t find in anything else. I wasn’t one of these kids who tried drugs to fit in. I tried drugs because I was curious and then found they gave me freedom from my thoughts.

Today I am 44 years old. I don’t remember my late teens, I don’t know what I did in my 20’s – it’s blacked out, and my 30’s were rough. It is only now that I’m settled in life do I see how much time I have wasted and how much of life I have missed. Sometimes I would like this time back. Particularly now as I’m in the beginning of a new relationship – my first ever relationship and I would love to experience this as a younger person. It is challenging to deal with sometimes. I feel 20, I act 20, but I am mid-life.

It is an overwhelming feeling. I’ve missed almost half of my life. That’s not to say I haven’t done anything. Somehow I managed to complete a Masters degree in business (while high on drugs).

As I introduce myself to you as a feature writer for That Noise Is Mine, I decided not to discuss my drug addiction in detail, I’m not going to explain what I was addicted to. Instead, I am going to talk about my attempts to sort my life out and how I eventually overcame my addiction to live a healthy life. There is no glory in drug addiction, however, there is great glory in beating the odds!

During my teens, 20s and early 30s, my Mum tried everything she could to try and help me. I didn’t want to be supported, and I didn’t want help. Drugs made me feel alive – why would I give them up? There were times where I was sober for a couple of months here or there but it never lasted.

My first real attempt at recovery came early in 2012.  About a month earlier, on 14 December 2011, my Mum received a knock at her door. A woman stood there with a child who looked about 2 years old, she claimed the child was mine.

I didn’t remember the woman. And the absolute shame I felt was enough to shake me from my drug-induced state.

The child’s mother, also a drug addict, was not able to care for the child full time and was looking to me to help care for him while she sorted her life out.

What? How could I care for a child? I was technically homeless at the time – I couldn’t even care for myself.

Immediately, without knowing for sure if the child was mine, my mother took myself, the woman and the child in. This was the type of lady my Mum was, she would help anyone regardless of the situation. Mum passed away suddenly almost 12 months ago, and I miss this unconditional support and love she provided.

On Christmas Eve 2011, the woman didn’t return home. She had abandoned her child and me. I wasn’t sure what had happened to her but had heard through acquaintances that she couldn’t handle the life Mum was offering us.

Early 2012 I entered an exclusive drug rehab centre. Paid for by Dad. 60 days later I was out and clean. Naïvely, I thought that was it, I’d beaten drug addiction and now my life would start. Of course, those who have battled addiction before will know that is not the case! During this first rehab stint, I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and OCD. I received meds and therapy to treat these conditions. It made my recovery easier because I knew the reasoning behind why I did certain behaviours and had medication to help me deal with this. Many emotional issues were tackled and I understood why I turned to drugs. I really thought, coming out, that I would never turn to drugs again.

When I returned home, I stayed with Mum, and she showed me how to be a parent. I had no idea what to do, she guided me every step of the way. Showing me not only how to take care of myself but also my child. I had a DNA test by that stage to confirm he was my son. It wasn’t like the movie “Big Daddy” it was bloody hard, it took a while to feel a connection to this little boy. Eventually, something clicked, and this little lad became my life. We stayed with Mum the entire time. It was the lad and me against the world, we were buddies. I was showing him life and how to do things. He was showing me how to live. I had settled and was working part-time.

Mid 2013, my lad’s mother returned to take him back. I’d formed such a bond with this little dude I couldn’t bear to live without him but didn’t know my rights, so handed him over trusting that I would still get to see him every fortnight. His mother disappeared with my son. It wasn’t until 3 years later that I would find him.

Losing my son sent me into a spiral of depression. It wasn’t long before I turned to drugs for comfort. I lost my job. I left Mums house in favour of life on the streets. Every day, even in my drug-induced state, I thought about my son. Every kid I saw I would stare at hoping it would be him.

I was in pain, and the only way I knew how to deal with it was to numb pain with drugs.

On New Year’s Eve 2015, I made a resolution to clean up my act, find my son and fight for custody. He gave me purpose and not having a relationship with my father made me want to be more to my son. I had to find him and get him back.

Again, in the new year of 2016, I entered the same exclusive rehab facility funded by Dad and after 60 days was released back into the community. During this time, I reconnected with my Dad but I was still harbouring a lot of resentment towards him, I’m not proud to admit, but I needed his money to find a lawyer to help find my son, and he had the money to help me fight. I stayed with him for a few months while I adjusted to life without drugs. I got to know him but could never understand why he abandoned me. I was about to fight like hell to get my kid back, how could he leave and not ever think about me or try to see me.

The resentment I felt was affecting my recovery and I decided to return home to Mum. Dad did what he does best and supported me financially but not emotionally. I consulted a lawyer to find and fight for my son.

Around the same time, I met a woman. And this is when everything changed.

I’d never had a girlfriend before. I’d had many random women, I couldn’t even tell you who or how many but this woman was different.

She stuck with me, helped me and saw something in me no one ever saw. She stayed through so much crap. And I really couldn’t understand why. I still can’t understand why.

She was the first person in my life other than my Mum and my sister to really take an in interest in me. We both fought very different battles in our teens and 20s (hers was not drugs), and we bonded over vast chunks of our lives is missing.

Stupid things that others in their 20s did, we both missed out on. It was odd to find someone else who had also experienced life like that.

She gave my life a new meaning. And while we were never romantically involved at that stage, I’d wake up in the morning and rather than wanting to take a hit of drugs, I’d want to talk to her. I didn’t want to be high on drugs because I wanted to be able to speak with her and remember things we did and things we said.

Finally, things were looking up. I was high on life and not drugs and finally felt that life was going to be different from here……..

Keep following me here on That Noise Is Mine to read the rest of my story in coming months.

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