Sharmila is a thirty-two year old former heroin addict from Sydney, Australia. She has been struggling with her addiction for thirteen years. In and out of rehabilitation centres, the longest Sharmila had ever stayed sober prior to coming to New Life was four hours – the length of time it took her to get from rehab to her dealer. Speaking to our life coach, Sabrina, she shares her experience with us.
What was your drug addiction like?
Sharmila: My drug addiction has been intense, pretty much since the very beginning. I started pretty late. I was a late drug user. I was nineteen when I had my first bong and I was an addict pretty much from the start. I smoked pot religiously for four years. I was just a normal pot user. It was when I started using heroin that my life went down pretty quickly. It took me two weeks to graduate from snorting heroin to needles, and what followed was pretty much standard. I got a [criminal] record because of my drug use. I lost friends, finances, family, trust. Still to this day, I don’t have the trust back from my family or friends that I’ve lost. I did things that I thought I never would do, like prostitution, stealing, sharing needles. I got Hep C through my own stupidity, sharing a needle with a guy I knew who had Hep C, because I didn’t care. I told myself lies saying that I cleaned it with bleach and all that. They were just lies, and I got Hep C and then was all surprised that I got it, which is the stupidity that comes with drug addiction. Thirteen years of my life has been absolute hell. I have lost my twenties to my addiction. I have lost a piece of my soul. I have lost my respect for myself through my addiction. I feel as though I am not the person I was supposed to be. My addiction has taken everything from me.
When did you first go to rehab?
Sharmila: I was twenty-two or twenty-three when I went to my first rehab.
How many rehabs have you been to?
Sharmila: I’ve been to almost ten. This will be my eleventh rehab.
And how long would you stay sober after the rehab?
Sharmila: The longest I ever stayed sober was four hours, and that’s because that’s how long it took me to get me from my rehab to my dealer.
Had you decided that you were going to relapse before you even left the rehab?
Sharmila: Yes, every single time.
Do you feel differently now staying at New Life?
Sharmila: Yes. I’m amazed at the work that I’m willing to do for myself here. Usually I will say what I think that the people want me to hear, not believing it myself. But I really…I do the work here and I listen to my life coach Sabrina [laughs]. I listen to her, I listen to her advice, and I implement her advice into my daily life. So yeah, I do feel different.
What other tools do you feel that you’ve learnt here? What are the workshops like?
Sharmila: The workshops here are absolutely amazing. I’m actually really glad that I get to do the workshops. My favourite workshops are the conflict workshops that Sabrina does. I like stirring the pot and I like getting to the guts of something and I feel that when I do the conflict workshops, it stirs up a lot, even in me. I feel like I’ve been ten rounds with Mohammed Ali afterwards. It’ll take me a few days to get in everything that’s been said, but I feel better afterwards because I’ve learnt something about it and that’s what I need. I need to learn something. And like I said, I’ve been in and out of rehabs, I know the talk, in and out of rooms and knowing the talk and actually believing it, believing that change can happen, I even see it with the way I deal with people right now. Conflicts that I have now where I would have plotted revenge against them, now I will go up and I will actually say sorry. And that is a feat in itself, and that’s what I get from the workshops – relapse prevention, what the triggers are. I really like it.
And what about yoga and meditation?
Sharmila: I don’t like yoga! I tried it last week, I flunked this week! I don’t know, I’ve got this thing against yoga. But meditation…I hated meditation before and I still…my mind is very, very busy and I find it hard to not…I know you can’t not think, but to calm my mind enough to slow it down. But I’m noticing that I’m able to stay longer and longer in a sort-of meditative state. So yeah, it’s working for me. And I think that’s where the practice, to keep doing it, comes in.
And when you’d come to New Life you initially planned on staying for a month and a half and you’re thinking now of extending your stay, why is that?
Sharmila: Because of the changes that I see in me. And I feel safe here, and I feel very understood, and I don’t want to leave here just because I have to, I want to leave here on my own decision – knowing that I’m strong enough to actually go back home.
Do you feel hopeful for the future?
Sharmila: I don’t want to say I’m so hopeful for the future because I’m still a bit of a pessimistic. But I do feel a lot more hopeful than when I went through the doors. I feel hopeful that I’m capable of sobriety and that I’m able to live a sober life. I have so much fun here. I enjoy it.
What would you tell other addicts who are thinking about coming here?
Sharmila: I would say: do it. I would say, you know, you’ve got nothing else to lose, and everything to gain by coming here. For me, I have just sat in rooms and counseling sessions and just listened to people tell me how good sobriety is, and [that] I am deserving of sobriety – and not believing it. And to be sitting here saying, “I’m sixty days [sober] tomorrow”, and these sixty days have flown by, [in contrast to] where it has just dragged every single time. I’m not even counting the days of my being sober. Usually that’s what I do. So, I’d say, seriously, if you want this, and this is something you really want, and you really want to find out who you are, I’d say, give New Life a go. I’ve done it all, and this so far is actually what seems to be working.