“I consider myself pretty nice, laid-back, chilled person but on the gear, there were times when I became – for lack of a a better word – a psycho.”
Those words are from Olivia, from Melbourne. She has a cropped blonde bob, wears glasses and speaks of the past with the candour of someone who appears unaffected by it.
But Olivia is on the other side of an all-consuming addiction to ice that enveloped every part of her existence. Her relationships, her job, her savings. You name it, ice affected it.
On Wednesday night’s episode of You Can’t Ask That on ABC, Olivia was one of many former – and current – ice users who discussed the extreme highs and bottomless lows that came part and parcel with their involvement with the drug. And in doing their very best to break down the stigma that comes with drug use and addiction, Olivia broke one of the biggest stereotypes of them all: that all addicts are “junkie scum” with a “scabby face” and “no teeth”.
Because Olivia is just like you or me.
“I didn’t know much about ice, I was pretty naive as a drug taker. My friends were doing it,” she told the program.
“They pulled out a pipe [one night] and they seemed to be having fun, so I just did it.”
When it comes to our narrative around addicts and particularly our ‘War on Drugs’, so many of our conversations focus on what happens during the addiction and the plight of those after.
But what about the lead-up? What about the myriad of very real reasons people feel the need to jump on board, escaping a reality that feels frenzied and full and all too much?
Olivia refers to the drug as a “happy band aid”.
“I was broken. I have been a self-harmer for as long as I can remember so I suppose I just switched. I stopped harming and took drugs up,” she said.
It made her feel powerful. Confident. A little horny.
Sex while on the drug, she says, was unlike anything else.
"Every single endorphin is electrified and it's just out of this world amazing.
"It was the one thing my ego held onto [when she went to quit]. I kept wondering, 'but what about the sex?'"
But for all the euphoric highs came the gripping lows.
"You try to outrun the comedown, so you keep taking ice. You don't think you can survive without it.
"It was like replacing coffee. You would wake up in the morning and you'd have a pipe. You'd have another during the day, another before dinner and one before bed."
Olivia met someone, and they began taking the drug on a weekly basis. If a "point" equates to one-tenth of a gram and costs about $80 a pop, she says she was taking anywhere between three points and a gram of ice a week. Do the maths and you can understand why she says her "fairly decent" savings account was wiped out during her time using.
She pushed away her family, she was so thin you could "see all her bones". And although we have a habit of grouping addicts together in one great, rather demeaning generalisation, she doesn't consider herself "junkie scum". For one, she did not steal money.
"I'm sure according to the rest of the population I am one.
"But what is a junkie?"
In admitting her memory is "probably very screwed" because of all her using, when asked whether she'd ever take the drug again she is steadfast and stubborn.
"Not on your life."
You can catch the entire episode of You Can't Ask That on iView.
If you or a loved one is fighting drug addiction, Mamamia urges you to contact Reach Out, here.