'I’d see demonic figures, or bugs crawling out from under my skin'

Shannon started drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis at 11, by age 15 she was injecting ice. Over the next 20 years, she went to hell and back. Warning, this story contains mentions of sexual assault, domestic violence and self-harm.

Drugs and alcohol gave me instant relief to problems I was experiencing. There was physical and sexual abuse in my early years – my parents weren’t really around, my dad wasn’t emotionally available, and my mum worked night shift. I was a depressed child, but I had no voice, I couldn’t speak up even though at times I felt like I was screaming on the inside.

"Family history of addiction and abuse"

There's a family history of addiction and abuse.

It’s stemmed down from generation to generation. When I look back now, I always felt there was turmoil in me…. I didn’t feel right within my own skin. Sometimes I wonder if I was just born an addict.

I’d wag school, or turn up at school and drink alcohol some lunchtimes, then I’d leave and go hang out with my friends. At night I’d sneak out the window, and get high with my friends who were a lot older than me … my parents never knew.

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"Finally, I couldn’t feel any pain"

By 15 I was injecting methamphetamine (ice).

I wasn’t scared, I was curious and wanted to be a part of what my brother’s friends were doing. The drugs gave me a feeling of euphoria, it was the best feeling I’d ever had in my whole life. Finally, I couldn’t feel any pain.

I was working in a pharmacy at 16 and I told a workmate I was injecting ice. She was horrified, but it was my normal – part of the world I was living in. I didn’t know any different and was surprised she was so shocked. Over time I was using an array of different substances; ecstasy, cannabis, butane, anything I could get my hands on.

I left home at 16, and was in a relationship with a violent man. In the first few weeks we were together, he head butted me and knocked me out, I went to a domestic violence refuge, but I ended up going back to him.

I was full of guilt and shame, even after reaching out to the Department of Health & Human Services, I wasn’t offered the support I needed.

I’d use fake Id and go to nightclubs

One night at a nightclub I was drugged and gang raped. I don’t really remember all the details of what happened, but sometimes I get flashbacks. I turned to heroin after that and stopped drinking. I blamed myself because I was out drinking. After that I’d inject ice and heroin together, and I was also using Xanax.

Positive, or authoritative, parents value mutual respect and being a good listener.

I ended up going back to my boyfriend and fell pregnant to him when I was 18. I stopped using during my pregnancy and went into detox at 19 after my baby was born. Later she was removed from my care. I continued relapsing for 16 years, and I ended up in 10 residential detoxes. I couldn’t hold down a regular job. I worked as a stripper and a drug dealer. From age 20 I was trafficking drugs and I ended up manufacturing amphetamines.

Image: iStock.

My baby was removed from my care. Image: iStock.

My life was completely out of control

I was suicidal many times over those years. I didn’t know how to live. I have had three other children, and I was not able to stop using when I was pregnant, I would at times be crying and using – not wanting to but not being able to stop…

A lot of those years are a blur … I used for over 20 years. On ice I would sometimes stay awake for two weeks and I went into psychosis many times. I was extremely paranoid, I’d have visual hallucinations, see demonic figures, or bugs crawling out from under my skin. Even after I became clean, it took a long time to realise the impact of the drugs, when I was in psychosis, I couldn’t distinguish between fiction or reality – it was my reality, it was real to me.

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The drugs ripped my life apart. Sometimes I’d just walk the streets and end up in really dangerous situations. I’ve had people pull guns on me, one night I ended up out on the street after an argument with my brother, no shoes, no phone and a man said he’d help me. He took me to his place and locked me in. I ended up escaping out a window. I shudder now to think what he had planned for me.

Image: iStock.

"The drugs ripped my life apart." Stock image used for illustrative purposes. iStock.

I know I’m a survivor

When I look back it doesn’t matter what life throws at me today, I’ll survive. Two of my children live with me now and I’ve managed to get myself clean for them, I’ve been sober and drug free for five years.

I’ve turned my life around completely, gone on to study and I work to help others who have been to the same dark places I’ve seen. When I have bad days now, I reach out to others. I’ve been in therapy for years, and I’ve met some amazing people along the way who have supported me and have been able to love me back to life.

Take charge. Children crave limits, which help them understand and manage an often confusing world. Show your love by setting boundaries so your kids can explore and discover their passions safely.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please know that there is hope.

For help contact DayHab 1800 329 422 or www.dayhab.com.au

Image: Kidspot.