Peer support worker profile: Eddie
12 years ago, Peer Support Worker Eddie quit smoking marijuana and changed his life. He shares his story.
Content warning: this article discusses the challenges and achievements of making changes to alcohol and drug use, which includes some mention of suicidal thoughts. If this is a concern for you, you may want to skip this article. If you find yourself distressed lots of support is available on the forums, webchat or you can call a service – in a crisis please call 000.
At Counselling Online, we know it can be intimidating to approach a total stranger about what’s going on in your life. Meet one of our peer workers — Eddie — and learn more about his story. You can catch up with our peer workers in the Counselling Online forums.
Eddie's story: Addiction is a human experience
My parents met while they were detoxing. Addiction runs throughout my family in various ways. From a young age I was terrified of using any substances. I grew up around people in recovery and always got the message that substance use ended in the worst possible places.
As a child, I saw the world through a lens that it appeared most children didn’t. Not much was censored for me. This got me in a lot of trouble at school and in a lot of embarrassing, uncomfortable situations with peers where I’d be talking about things that other kids didn’t know anything about.
I was severely bullied throughout the final two years of primary school and the first two years of high school. The experience traumatised me greatly, but I didn’t have the language to articulate it at the time. All I knew is that the way I was treated affirmed all of the negative beliefs I already had about myself. This caused me to end up in a place where I was miserable most of the time. I hated school and had frequent thoughts of taking my life.
I then met a group of friends who I felt didn’t judge me. They actually wanted to hang out with me and didn’t treat me the way that I felt everybody else did. I felt accepted for the first time.
This group of friends just so happened to drink and smoke pot on the weekends and after school. At first, I didn’t want to participate because of how I grew up. I was still terrified of using any substances.
Eventually, I decided to try. The first time I smoked a joint I got this feeling like all my problems just washed away and I felt comfortable in my own skin for the first time. I started to wonder what I was so afraid of all this time. It felt like I’d found what I needed to feel ok in the world.
After that, I tried to relive what it felt like the first time I used but the longer I used for, the harder it was to achieve and the less often I would achieve it. It got to the point where I was smoking so many bongs every day that my body started to reject it. I was physically unable to smoke anymore and felt barely any effect from the drugs.
The last two years of my addiction was a vicious cycle of attempting multiple detoxes — both on my own and with professional help — trying to control or manage my substance use in different ways with different cocktails of drugs, but no matter what I did, I would always end up in the same place of desperation and despair. Every time was worse than the last.
My addiction lasted five years and at the age of 18 it became clear without a shadow of a doubt that I could not successfully or safely use any mood- or mind-altering substance.
This was a scary place to be because drugs were my solution, they were how I had fun, how I relaxed, how I socialised, how I did everything. My entire identity was wrapped up in substance use in one way or another.
The only way that I was able to get through this was by getting support from 12 step groups in the community, being guided by people who had lived through what I was going through and who had found a new way to live.
Now I am over 12 years clean and work in the AOD sector in multiple roles where I get to use my lived experience to help others seeking recovery and get to develop and support the lived experience workforce. I have lived many of my dreams as a musician, have been able to visit incredible parts of the world, have been in and out of love and have lived an incredibly multi-faceted, exciting, interesting and full life. When I was in addiction, everything was mundane and miserable but I was deluded that it was fun and exciting. Maybe for a period of time it was but it took everything it gave me and more.
I’m a father, a son, a friend and contributing member of society. I have learned to love and respect myself in a way I never thought possible.
I am happy and content most of the time and live a life completely free from the destitution I once experienced.
I believe that recovery is always possible and my hope is that by sharing this story it can shed light on the human experience of addiction, reduce stigma and show what is possible with the right support.
Names have been changed to protect privacy.