“I was at a crossroad: I could have played the game and done all the right things, but instead I chose to take a good hard look at myself and make a change.”
Kieran, Sydney Australia
I never thought I’d become a drug addict. I came from a good, working-class family who never did drugs and who had always warned me of the dangers of drugs after my uncle died of an overdose. But life has a way of derailing you — and mine was derailed at the age of 13. One minute, I was a normal kid – riding bikes and playing video games and then almost overnight after setting up a Facebook account everything changed.
As I scrolled through other kids’ posts, I began to realise how different I was. I started feeling very anxious. I hated being skinny. I didn’t like looking at myself in the mirror or getting photos taken. On the outside, I had friends, and everything seemed okay, but on the inside, I felt very disconnected and sad. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom playing Xbox — just trying to escape my reality. Then I looked for other forms of escape. Some days, after school, I’d go to my grandparent’s house when they weren’t home and steal their alcohol. When I was 14, one of my uncles suggested I try pot.
Initially, the drugs made me feel better about myself, but I got to the stage where the weed wasn’t enough, so got hooked on speed. I justified my addiction by thinking to myself: I drank alcohol and smoked weed and I’m still going to my school so it’s okay. When I took drugs, I felt euphoric and comfortable in my own skin — but I had no idea what lay ahead. One afternoon, I was with my uncle and he suggested I try Ice. It was so much more potent and addictive. On weekends, when I took Ice, I felt amazing and during the week when I came down from the high, I’d feel like crap and my thoughts would spiral into self-hatred. In year 10, my life was out of control. My grades were down. I was fighting at school and with my family. I eventually left school and got an apprenticeship as a chef. Now I had a way to finance the habit. But it didn’t take long before the drugs I turned to when I was feeling bad, turned on me.
The drugs made me feel anxious, insecure and paranoid. I would be driving at night and constantly checking my rear vision mirror. I was convinced people were following me. In a crowd, I was sure people were looking at me or talking about me. I thought the answer to all my insecurity was more drugs. It was insatiable. I was earning $750 a week and spending $1000 a week of my addiction. I was trapped. I had broken every promise I had ever made to myself about never taking drugs. One night, it all hit me. I was in the bedroom at a friend’s house when I realised, I was headed down the same path as my uncle. I sat on the edge of the bed and wept. A few days later, I called my mum: “Mum … I need help. I need to go to rehab.” She had heard about a rehabilitation program called one80tc and made all the necessary arrangements.
On a chilly morning in April of 2015, mum and dad drove me down a dirt road in the middle of the bush and dropped me off at the facility. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. The team had created an atmosphere of value, acceptance and belonging. I was overwhelmed. Three months into the program I was in a good place. My mind was clear, and I had become a Christian. I thought I was ready to go back out into the world and kick some goals. Everyone at one80tc told me not to leave, but I ignored them. A week later, I was back on ICE and living with my drug dealer.
With no job to support my habit. I turned to crime. After one attempted robbery, I got arrested and thrown into prison. I was only 19. During this time, Gary, one of the after-care workers from on80tc had been trying to reach out to me. He’d leave voicemail messages and send me texts like: “Thinking of you mate.” He was relentless, but I didn’t want a bar of it. I was embarrassed about using again. Out of the blue one day, Gary showed up at Silverwater Prison. He didn’t come to lecture me. His only motivation was to love on me and give me some hope. It was a stark contrast to prison, and it was his unconditional love that softened my heart.
A few months later, I was transferred to Bathurst jail and on the day of my sentencing, my lawyer arrived with some bad news: “You’re going to get 2 – 3 years mate.” Then he slapped a letter up on the glass from on80tc that read: “If the judge is willing, we’d be more than happy to have Kieran back in the program to finish what he started.” I was being thrown a lifeline. I went back into the program a little embarrassed, but the guys were like: “Oh my God Kieran, it’s so good to see you back.” Now I was at a crossroad: I could have played the game and done all the right things, but instead I chose to take a good hard look at myself and make a change.
After 12 months, I graduated and joined one80tc as an intern, I got my qualifications and then when my mentor, Gary retired, I got his job. Now at 24, it’s my turn to walk alongside these courageous men and support them in their darkest hour. Over the years, I have clung to so many scriptures, but the one that stands out is John 13:35: By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another. I have learnt that by showing love and doing stuff with no agenda, these guys get to know the love of God. Today, I have a sense of purpose. Yeah, I’m still a skinny guy, but I’m comfortable with that now.
Over the past decade, Hillsong Church has contributed millions of dollars towards the work of on80tc: a residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre. Since 1977, more than 5000 men and women have been helped through their life-changing programs.
For more information on the work of one80tc go to: one80tc.org