What It’s Really Like To Go Through & Recover From Ice Dependency, From Someone Who’s Done It

This article originally appeared in VICE Australia.

Lawry was 25 when he began smoking crystal methamphetamine (ice). What started out as a “casual” thing on weekends to heighten his nights out, soon turned into injecting numerous times a day to, in his words, “just feel normal”.

In the early days of his experience with ice, Lawry described himself as high-functioning, able to juggle a marriage, children, and a good career as a diesel fitter – even passing medicals at work. He’d have periods where he was able to stay away from ice, but one day, on a drive to work, a motorcyclist lost control and crashed into his car.

Lawry administered first aid, but the accident proved fatal.

He turned to ice to help with the nightmares when he slept, and the constant replaying of the accident in his mind when he was awake. But when Lawry lost his job, he proceeded to isolate himself for a year and a half, not knowing what to do; stuck in a perpetual cycle of drug use just to make it through to the next day.

Eventually, with the help of family, friends, and drug support services, Lawry was able to get back on track and recover. He’s now 37-years-old and hasn’t used for two and a half years.

We sat down with him to learn more about what it’s like to recover from his dependence on ice.

PTV: Hey Lawry, can you describe the moment you decided it was time to start your recovery journey?

Lawry: The turning point for me was when I found myself using ice against my will. The drug had complete control – I was locked in my room, at home in the dark alone, crying, thinking there has to be a better way – something I can do to stop the pain without using drugs. My life was a shattered mess, I couldn’t take care of myself, let alone my children who are everything to me. And yet, even for them, I couldn’t stop.

Unfortunately, those closest to me, who loved me the most, couldn’t break through to me. They tried everything and I still couldn’t stop. It wasn’t until a friend who I have known for years but hadn’t seen for so long asked to visit. I was afraid and ashamed to let her see what I had become, but we talked and I told her the truth – that I had lost myself and didn’t know how to come back. We spoke about going to rehab and that planted a seed that maybe I could get help.

How’d you go about accessing help once that seed was planted?

I was very uneducated in the sense of finding help. I mainly got online and searched for good rehabs.

What was rehab like?

I had run myself into the ground so badly and felt so broken that, I have to admit, when I turned up to rehab, I almost dropped to my knees – I was so overwhelmed because I had finally found the help I was begging for. There were rough days though, don’t get me wrong – days where my mind would try to creep in and convince me I didn’t need to be there; that I could do it on my own and just leave. But the best thing about being there was learning skills and getting tools to identify these things, and to be told I’m not special and leaving early would have disastrous consequences.

I was extremely fortunate to have support from staff who had lived experience and could coach me through the lowest of low days, teaching me to connect with others and to not entertain thoughts of using; to get out of my head and open up about what I felt, to motivate me when I had no motivation, and to interact with me when I was hating on everything.

What surprised you about rehab and the support offered?

I had some of the best laughs that I have had in so long. To be amongst people who share similar experiences was comforting. I no longer had to hide what I was and people around me understood, so I could let my guard down and it was very refreshing. It created a connection to people I wouldn’t have thought I would connect with and that built trust to allow others to help with the hard times, even outside of rehab now I have friends still who, at a moment’s notice, I can reach out to.

That’s really great to hear. What was the most critical factor for you in your recovery journey?

Connection. Hands down. My family now is stronger than ever and that’s all through connection. And also connecting with others who have experienced similar things in life – it makes you feel a part of something more than just yourself.

Having support through rehab was also an absolutely critical part of my recovery. Without it, I don’t think I could have done as well as I have. Having support in rehab, it honestly felt like joining a family who only had the best intentions for you, and you find that if that’s what you surround yourself with, it’s much easier to stay on the right path.

What was the hardest part of your recovery?

The hardest part was the initial surrender to the fact that I was a drug addict and that I had a problem. Once I did that, recovery became much easier. I had it in my head that it was everyone else who had the problem; that if they left me alone I would be okay. But I was obviously wrong.

Did you feel at times like you weren’t going to recover? How did you keep going?

Yes, there were times when I wanted to give up, or times I felt were too much for me to handle, but thankfully in those times, I was able to implement the skills and tools given to me to work through. The hardest thing happened early in my recovery, I received a phone call concerning my oldest daughter – I was told she was in the hospital and had tried to take her own life. My brother had taken his own life when I was 20 years old, and it had destroyed me, so to have that happen again shook me to my core.

The moment I walked into the hospital and saw my daughter triggered me to want to run from an overwhelming feeling inside, but I had been given the gift of recovery and was able to overcome it and be a present father in troubling times and I’m so grateful for that.

What would you recommend someone do if they want to seek help for their ice dependency?

Honestly, for me the best way to take the first step of recovery is to attend an N.A (narcotics anonymous) meeting and to make first contact. Even if you feel you can’t talk to anyone close to you, it is very low-key in the sense that you can just sit in the back and listen – no one will know outside of that meeting. And it will open your eyes when you start to hear similarities in other people, you start to feel a sense of belonging.

How do you stay strong in recovery, what motivates you to stay on the path?

My family and my children, and not being afraid to reach out and ask for help when I do struggle. I have my 11-year-old daughter living with me full-time now which validates everything I have been able to achieve whilst in recovery. I have so much more to give to my children as a present father. But I also make sure to always be grateful, humble and honest. Today I am able to appreciate the smallest moments, and to be thankful I am alive to enjoy them.

How do you feel now that you’re no longer using ice?

Today I feel free from the obsession of addiction, I am no longer emotionally or spiritually bankrupt. I am no longer waging war on myself. Mentally, physically, spiritually, I am freed.

If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s drug use, contact the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (Adis), a free 24 hour, 7 day anonymous and confidential service on 1800 177 833. Family Drug Support also provides help for people impacted by the alcohol or other drug use of a family member. Phone 24 hours, 7 days a week on 1300 368 186. Alternatively, visit qld.gov.au/icehelp for information.