Last week Ben Cousins lost it again, and again people shared the story using terms like ‘legend’ & ‘my hero’. Throughout my life I’ve been affected by drug addiction. I myself have never been addicted to drugs but from the day I was born my mother has battled with drug addiction. In turn, this has affected every facet of my life.
Growing up in my family home ‘drugs’ was never a dirty word. It seemed something my parents prepared us for rather than trying to steer us away. Growing up I was constantly surrounded by drugs and not just one drug but multiple. The first time I did marijuana and speed I had it given to me by my own mother in our family home. The thing about addicts is they aren’t addicted to one drug they are addicted to everything. For my mum if it wasn’t alcohol it was speed & heroin and if it wasn’t speed & heroin it was prescription medication; she wasn’t specific.
In the first few years of my life we were constantly shipped off to my grandparents while my mother battled her addiction problems. Eventually she seemed to have a grip on it, and it seemed as though it had been a short-term adolescence problem. She cleaned her act up, met my stepfather and we moved to a small country town, Broadford to get away from the temptation. Life was relatively normal; mum played sport, got a job, coached my sisters netball team and was heavily involved with the parent clubs and other community groups. But before long my mum found a new vice, and alcohol became a major problem in our family. Two to three times a week my parents would drink till they were black out drunk. I remember as a kid walking home from a friends house or footy training and wishing that when I turned the corner on the home stretch I didn’t hear Bon Jovi roaring from our living room. If I did I knew what I was in for and that it was ‘a fend for yourself’ type situation that night. From a young age my sister, brother and I learnt to take care of ourselves, which obviously had negatives we were able to find some positives. We had no rules, we could go to bed when we wanted, stay out late and basically do what we wanted when we wanted. As a kid that was a dream come true.
Throughout my early childhood, my parents would occasionally clean up and attend AA meetings anywhere from one to six months at a time. And when they did we would get a glimpse of what normal life looked like. I think that was the hardest part to be honest. If they had been fuck ups the whole time we wouldn’t have realized what we missed out on but those short stints showed us a glimmer of hope. We would go on holidays, spend weekends adventuring neighboring parks, go fishing amongst other awesome family activities. Then they would decide to reward themselves with a few beers and the shit storm would come in like a hurricane. Feeding ourselves canned spaghetti, taking ourselves to bed and being kept up all night by pointless arguments that would sometimes end up in violence. There are certain memories that stick by me in what I like to call the ‘alcohol phase’. The strongest being this: when I was 14 my parents had allowed me to pick what I wanted to do for my birthday. At the time I had a girlfriend and I decided I wanted to do something pretty low key; get pizzas and watch movies at home. But stupidly I asked them not to drink. That was a big mistake. Alcoholics don’t like people shining light on their problem. And I learnt this first hand. I hired the movies I wanted, but I never had a chance to watch them. Alongside those movies my parents had bought a slab and before we knew it they were black out drunk in the lounge room again. The thing about addiction is the people living vicariously through it very quickly learn that embarrassment is something you just deal with and learn to forget about.
Around that same time my mother had a bad back injury at work. This is when things really began to heat up. Mum had to leave work, which gave her lots more spare time. Which meant the drinking increased but this all seemed like child’s play to what was to come next. Because of her severe back pain my mother was prescribed a drug called oxycontin. Oxycontin is basically a legal version of heroin, and before long my mum was severely addicted to it. Doctors warned her of the dangers but she definitely didn’t help the process. I have memories from a young age being bribed with video games to mind the door while she shot it up in her bedroom. At the time my stepfather had started to work nightshift to make up the money we lost from mum losing her job, but when he found out what was going on, it was too late. Every night was then spent with my parents fighting until 3-4am in the morning; him refusing my mum the drug and her begging for it. I would go to school exhausted most days, and it wasn’t exactly something you wanted to share with your friends. We had this rule in our family ‘what happens in the family stays in the family’, which basically was a way to teach us kids to not speak out or tell anyone about their alcohol and drug problems.
At one point my mothers drug problem got so bad my stepdad gave up, I have no idea when that moment was but he had been worn down. I think our whole family had just come to accept it. At 15 I was drinking three times a week and smoking marijuana every other night at home. I was never discouraged to do this, and I believe the reason was because it was normalised in a weird sick way. Around this time was when my parents drug use was stepped up a notch. My mother had somehow decided it was time to start experimenting with speed and ice. I’ve aggressively been against ice fairly vocally for years and up until now with basically no explanation (other then the stuff is disgusting) but I can say first hand the drug rapes and pillages peoples lives. My parents started to do ice and speed around the time I was 16 and within three years we had lost our family home, my step father passed away & my mother was so mentally ill that still to this day she hasn’t recovered from it. And that’s not to mention the mental turmoil the rest of my family have experienced from everything that came with it. That’s the part people forget to talk about with addiction; the families it affects and tears apart. Being a drug user or an addict doesn’t just destroy your life, it destroys everyone who is around you. Drug addiction is a team sport, it’s not just about you its about every person who cares about you.
I’m now 29 and my mother still struggles with drug dependence. On the rare occasion we do hear from her more often than not it is because the police are looking for her. Although she has the opportunity to live in a house with three meals cooked for her a day but instead she lives on the streets collecting rubbish in her trolley, because she no longer has control of her life; the drugs do.
So when I see people calling Ben Cousins a legend for ‘directing traffic’ it infuriates me because I know first hand that the drugs also control Ben Cousins and I know what his family would be going through. The thing with people like Ben Cousins & my mother is they don’t choose to do the things they do and be the people they are, they are literally controlled by addiction and addiction controls the path they are on. It’s not awesome, it’s not hilarious, it’s a serious issue that affects millions of people around the world and normalising it and celebrating it is literally the worst thing we can do.
My mum didn’t start off homeless and collecting trash in a trolley whilst off her face on drugs. She was a daughter, a mother and a good person who played sport, worked full time, was involved in parent clubs and coached sports teams. It’s easier to separate someone like her from yourself and your drug use but at the end of the day if you're doing drugs it could end up being you.
This isn’t a cry for attention or a way to make people feel bad for me. At the end of the day everyone has hurdles in their life and what makes a successful person is how they deal with them. My intention for people reading this is to both relate and realise you’re not alone, or to see that no matter how bad your situation you have the power to over come it, break the chain and create your own positive story.
To read more about my story please click here