Ice addict speaks of lessons learned

Eighteen months ago, Guy Kelly told the Naracoorte Herald about his Ice addiction.

The comments he made about his battles with the highly addictive drug and its prevalence in regional areas are still as pertinent now as they were then. We’re featuring the story again to remind everyone of the human face behind the battle.

An unfortunate footnote to the story is that just a few months after he spoke to the Herald, the facility he was attending for his addiction, Karaobran New Life Centre, near Naracoorte, was forced to close with financial troubles.

Here is his story as he told it to Herald reporter Conor McLeod in April, 2015:

Not many people are able to realise that they're in too deep once an "Ice" addiction takes root.

For Port Lincoln local Guy Kelly, it took a near death experience to convince him that things had gotten completely out of his control.

"All I remember is at about 3am I was standing outside of a club in Adelaide when I just fell over. That's all I remember, just standing there and falling over and waking up at half ten the next morning in the emergency ward (of the Royal Adelaide Hospital).

"I woke up in the IC unit with ECG stickers all over me and drips in my arms, just with no idea what had happened to me. I didn't even hang around to talk to a doctor I just got outta there, I was out of my mind."

Guy's story, sadly, is becoming more common. With the rising rates of ice addiction among Australia's young people, many are coming to realise just how dangerous the drug can be.

Statistics have proven that it is among the most addictive drugs on the market - in most cases, one taste and you're hooked.

Unlike a lot of people faced with the addiction, Guy was able to escape the cycle.

Currently a student at Karobran New Life Centre at Joanna, near Naracoorte, Guy is undergoing rehabilitation with a group of men from all walks of life and with all types of addictions. He was willing to share his ice experiences with the Herald in the hope of putting a human face on the tragedy of drug addiction.

Growing up in Port Lincoln, Guy saw first-hand how easily available the drug is.

"You go to the smallest country town and it's there, it's unreal," he said.

"Wherever I went it was only a stone's throw away, you only needed to ask two or three people. If you were walking on the street and you knew someone they'd just say 'Yep I'll give someone a call for you', it was that easy.

"I don't know about this region but in Lincoln it just came straight across from Adelaide.

"I'd already been doing ecstasy and all the party drugs beforehand, and to start off with when I tried ice I thought 'Nah, it's not for me'.

"And because I thought that I decided (three months later) that I could try it again and it still wouldn't be for me, but that second time it just grabbed me."

Guy was only 19 when he moved out of home and started living with some mates who had ties to bikies.

"It started a downward spiral, I lost my job, lost my family and just had no money. I was working in the mines before that, so when I lost that work I didn't really know what to do and just started using pretty heavily."

The effects were both physical and mental.

"I'd eat the amount of food about the size of a tennis ball per day and just couldn't keep that down. I just never felt like was the last thing on my mind.

"And when you start coming down you start getting stomach cramps so you just go and get more drugs so you don't have to feel like that.

"At the same time I had a mate who was up for 24 days straight without sleeping, he was never the same and he's never been the same since, it just messed his brain up."

Luckily Guy was able to realise what was happening to him, although it did take that near death experience to do it.

"After that I was like 'This has gotta stop or it's gonna end up really bad'. So I called up mum and she came over from Lincoln and found this place (Karobran)."

Breaking his routine and getting away from the negative influences in his life has had a profound effect on Guy.

"Ever since I walked in here I felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Everything just felt right, good.

"I got in here and got my head clear and now I'm thinking straight. I do the lessons and it all helps.

"I had no self worth when I was using, it was like if I die then I die, who cares, no big deal, I'm a user, I'm always gonna be a user and I can live with that.

"It's just a sad thing to say about yourself.

"But you come here and get the counselling and have chats with the other guys and realise you can do anything you set your mind to."

Now Guy is on the mend, looking at moving out of Karobran and building on his life over the next few months.

"(Karobran) has an awesome brotherhood, that'll be the hardest thing to leave behind when I go.

"You have your good days and your bad days but that's what this place is good for, dealing with them sober and not running off and getting drugs to help deal with it, it helps a lot."

Having goals is a large part of that next step in the recovery, and Guy is now looking to help those who are in similar situations he was in.

"I've got goals and things I want to do in life now. I want to be a youth leader, helping kids out, just something to plod away and work at.

"I picked up an amazing girlfriend just before I came in here and I'm going back out to live with her family. She and her mum are social workers so that's a great situation."

When asked about how the ice issue could be better combated, particularly in terms of prevention, Guy has the first hand experience that is vital in the national effort.

"The police go and talk to the kids at high schools, telling them not to do drugs, and you sit there and you're like 'Yeah whatever, you're a copper it's just your job', but I never got told any of the stories I've heard now.

"All the things that I've done, you never have someone standing in front of you going; I overdosed, I died on the ground and was revived, I'm lucky to be standing here right now.

"Or the people who struggle for money that much that they go and do armed robberies and end up in jail for five years, or some of the guys here...they've gone to so many funerals.

"I think these are the things they need to be telling all these people. They don't need to hear statistics and stuff like that, you need people there going this is what can happen, it's not worth it, if not for yourselves then for your families. You're going to be putting them through hell."

On the subject of family, it was clear that Guy couldn't underestimate the value that he placed on having his back in his life.

"It only took me three months to lose my family. They just said 'No you can't come around to the house, you're too much of a hazard to your brothers and to us.You bring trouble here, you're always off your head, we don't want you around us'.

"It's only since I started coming to rehab that I got that relationship back with my family. There's some guys that will never get that relationship back with their parents.

"Having to go through that, losing my family again, if I went back and relapsed I can't say whether my family would ever be there for me again.

"So it's just not worth it, there's too much riding on it. There was too much riding on it before but I was too off my head to see that, but now I've learnt."

Despite his experiences, Guy is positive that anyone can make the same change that he has.

"It's a big thing to get over but you can do it, anyone can do it, it is possible.

"It's just wanting to, that's the only thing. It's realising that there's never gonna be a moment where you're going uphill, you might level out for a bit but then you're just going to be going down and down.

"You're gonna lose your teeth, your body will wither away and it's not pretty; mentally, physically, every different way it is going to get you.

"You just need to find that thing to hold on to, something or someone you need to change for; your family, kids, anything. There's always something there that's worth more than the drugs.

"You just need to have that moment of soberness to work it all out."

Click here to read about the closure of Karobran in July, 2015