Behind the Face of Addiction

We envision black eyes, aged faces, sobbing families and cries for a new beginning. It is what some fear to admit most, in angst that their lives could crumble, while for others it is the signal for change.

Addiction is among us, in forms that are not obvious to society. If we are uneducated on addiction, how are we able to make the judgement on ‘addicts’?

According to Psychology today, addiction is a “condition that results when a person ingests a substance or engages in an activity that can be pleasurable but the continuation of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary responsibilities and concerns, such as work, relationships or health”.

Addiction is commonly associated with drugs, gambling and alcohol. Although, according to scientific research, it is possible to be addicted to anything, for example work. Individuals can be obsessed with their work to the extent that they begin to suffer from physical and mental exhaustion. Another example is solvents, the inhalation of substances such as glue or paint to give you the feeling of intoxication.

 There are multiple perspectives on the neurological findings of addiction. According to the Institute of Medicine, it suggests that social environmental and psychological factors are contributing aspects to addiction. Each time we do something pleasurable, the human brain is equipped to reward us. Our daily behaviours linked to health and survival releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is one of the chemicals that transmit information from one neuron to the next. How are we affected by dopamine is determined by where it comes from and the role in which it plays when


 releasing and receiving neurons.

 Within the brain, there are two main areas that produce and disseminate dopamine, the Substantia Nigra and the Ventral Tegmental area. Dopamine from the substantia nigra allows us to move and begin speech, where as the ventral tegmental sends dopamine to the brain once we expect or received a reward.

 Dopamine can be triggered by anything that alludes to pleasure and reward; the feeling of ‘high’ is awoken when the dopamine is activated. It is the feeling that prompts individuals to continue to seek this ‘high’ repeatedly, and ultimately leading to addiction.

 It is apparent that there is more beyond the surface of addiction. Understanding the way in which it affects an individual’s mental capacity is integral before assuming the generic perceptions of addicts.

For more information on Dopamine and movement:

Hi, I’m Chris and I’m an Addict.

Investigating the story of a former ice addict, who has now celebrated more than five years of being sober. 

It was his eyes of empathy a smile of sympathy and a humble tone.

“Hi, I’m Chris. And I’m an addict”.

 In a bare room with chairs placed in the shape of a square, sat a young man, whose willingness to reform and succumb to spirituality enlightened an outsider like myself around the life of a former addict

 The foundations of fellowship and the ability to be grateful for each individual day is what brought Chris to restoration.

 A young man from a stable and ‘normal’ family, with a job no one had thought he was able to obtain explains his journey.

 “I used to live in Brisbane, where my addiction first began.

 “But, it wasn’t till I came to Sydney that I first encountered ice.

 “Work gave me time off to get myself together.

 “It wasn’t until I first met Erica that I knew I had a problem.

 “She said to me ‘hey you’re one of us’

 “I needed to seek help, crystal meth anonymous (CMA) was my first step.”

 His chin began to chatter, his voice began to quaver and his empathetic blue eyes shone in the light as tears dampened his eyes.

 “When I was 14, I became a massive pothead.

 “When I was 17, someone offered me a line of cocaine at a party.

 “And from that night, that’s when I kept going back”.

 At such a young age Chris’s addiction caused him to lose his loved ones, and the relationships he had held were gradually destroyed.

 “At the age of 14 I was kicked out of home. I was a pothead and that’s when I started to become a heavy drinker.

 “My relationship with my parents was really rough from a young age.

 “Having said that, they are good people and my sister turned out fine.

 “It was all about me.

 “Relationships with friends, employers, I burnt bridges. Over and over again.”

 He explained that he has lived a cycle of relapse and rehabilitation.

 “The job I got 10 years ago, I had already entered recovery. I already started working on relationships and myself.

 “There was a lot of effort to keep that job over the 10 years, I’m pretty proud of it.

 “At the age of 22 I went to Centrelink to seek help.

“I was unemployed; I was on the dole and selling drugs for a living.

 “I wasn’t a very well young man, I was about 42kg. I was wearing my only shirt and my jeans were hanging off my hips and I had a bumbag around my shoulder.”

 On this day however, he had  neatly groomed grey hair and well-trimmed face, and wore a perfectly ironed polo.

I sat there, staring back at what I had perceived to be an everyday ‘normal’ human, coming and going to work each day and embracing the city life here in Sydney.

I was wrong, his past identity was unravelling in front me. Behind a quaint smile, sat a tarnished individual  laying to bare what he once was.

 He explained, “they took me to a councillor and showed me pamphlets to rehab. And being there that’s when I was introduced to meetings.

 “They put me through a course where I had to write a resume. I was so angry with the guy running the course, he kept hitting me with questions and I kept yelling back and screaming.

 “But then I had a moment of clarity.

“I said this isn’t the person I’ve ever wanted to be and I broke down crying.

 “It was the first time I cried in memory.

 “Up to that time it was me against the world.”

 Managing his emotion, he uttered, “It’s always been me alone”.

 I could tell his thoughts were coming back to him, as he began to sit up straighter than he had before. A sense of strength settled as he began retelling his past.

 “After I stopped crying, these two little ladies came out of no where and listened to me cry for what felt like hours.

“They picked me up and took me to a counselor  within ten minutes I was on the phone organising arrangements to a rehab.

 “This was the first of my four experiences in different rehabs.

 “I was shocked when I went there, I wasn’t used to living in the daylight or used to the realms of living in a habit of have 3 meals a day and sleeping at night.

 “It was making me angry.

 “I really didn’t take to the rules well. I was supposed to be in there for 9 months, but after 30 days I was asked to leave.

 “There was a bit of an incident…

 “Yeah I wasn’t following the rules.”

His pause spoke louder than any words. He had hit a verbal wall – a point in his life that he was not proud of or willing to speak about. He went on to praise a long-time friend Brad, his sponsor.

 “Asking Brad to be my sponsor was like asking a girl out on a date – having the fear they might say no.

 “Even though I came and went from this fellowship I knew I had to find someone I could rely on and help me do the things I was meant to.

 “When I asked him, he was very standoffish. He said I was a very angry man and he was scared. You’ve met Brad, he’s a sparkly gay boy and I’m not like that.

 “But we went out to lunch the next day and he said if we’re going to do this, you’ve got to do what I say.”

 It seemed Brad was like a security blanket for Chris. A warm hearted soul that was willing to take on board the health and stability of another.

 “Brad told me I had to ring him every day, practise making phone calls and establish a relationship of trust.

 “He wanted me to know that if something went wrong, without hesitation I could pick up the phone and call him.

 “During these phone calls, he got me to write down a gratitude list – five things I was grateful for. Then I had to share that with him every day and this went on for 90 days.

 “This list could be anything, some days I was grateful I was able to pay my rent, grateful for clean dishes and clean water. After a while he started to ask follow up questions and eventually, he too started to share his list with me.”

 The feeling of remorse engulfed him, but the feeling of belonging to like-minded people was stronger and is what gave him a sense of security.

 “It actually worked.

 “It got me into the habit of calling him.

 “I knew my time was worthwhile.

 “After three weeks of saying what I was grateful for I had a major shift in my attitude.

 “I felt gratitude, the biggest thing he did for me was give me a sense of gratitude.

 “I’ve been to other fellowships and other rehabs but I’ve never felt like I ever belonged.

 “You know I’m not covered in tattoos, I’ve got all my teeth, heroin isn’t my story and I’m not the average alcoholic down at the pub.

 “I never felt like I connected”.

 It was then I had realised my own misconceptions about this man. It was the preconceived idea that this man was like what I saw at the pictures, a character created to fit a stereotype of a minority of people, battling a problem or as some at the meeting called a disease.

 An unimaginable circumstance for people I thought were classified as ‘normal’, until I sat across from this young man who had the willingness to talk to me.

 As our chat was drawing to a close, I couldn’t help but ask, do the stereotypes society create about people at these meetings ever have an effect on you?

He chuckled.

 “When you’re in that state, you’re only consumed with yourself and you have no sense of what’s around you.

 “When I was using it was all about me, it was me against the world.

 “I was stereotyped by myself, I didn’t think I was ever going to live a normal life

 “I didn’t care what other people thought, I’m sure they would’ve thought shit about me. It would be pretty hard not too.”

 I could hear the knot grow bigger, and bigger in his throat as he struggled to say his next sentence.

 “I didn’t think I was ever going to stop, I thought I was always going to be an addict. Yeah I wasn’t covered in tattoos but I certainly was a junkie. I thought I was going to die using.”

The room began to hum as the other members of the groups started arriving for the day’s meeting. Our conversation drawing to a close, Chris said being connected to others is what has led him to be the man he is today

 “Being at these meetings I feel connected.

“We are told to believe in spirituality and a higher power, to give ourselves to something higher than humanity.

 “For me the Serenity prayer and the 3rd Step Prayer and two that give me a sense of comfort and reassurance.

 “Honesty, faith, belonging and connection.

 “I come to these meetings for me.

 “And after a while you come to give back, I come to share joy with these people. That really does make life worth living.”

 We envision black eyes, aged faces, sobbing families and cries for a new beginning.

 It wasn’t the person with an incessant twitch, or tattoos and piercings; it wasn’t the bloodshot eyes and trembling hands. And it wasn’t the person screaming ‘I hate the world’ that I was looking at.

 It was the mechanical engineer, dressed in blue board shorts with a Disneyland hoodie and a smile on his face that sat across from me.

 He was what I had never thought an addict would be.

 What we see and what we hear are a societal construction, what we learn and understand uncovers humanity and emotion.

A Mothers Life Left in Shambles

Exploring the life of an individual living with an alcohol addiction.
The following is based on this brave individual’s own personal diary entries and anonymous interviews.
It entails the battle they fight and how this addiction has affected themselve and those around them.

It’s my struggle to find happiness. It’s my struggle to find self-worth.

 Nothing brings me happiness anymore, my husband, my family. I sit here contemplating all the perfect things in my life; I work somewhere I’ve always dreamt of. I have the home that we built from blood sweat and tears, and two children who adore me.

 Where have I gone wrong, what is wrong with me? Will I never find happiness again?

 My head lays heavy as I try to roll myself out of the pile of green and gold bile that puddles beneath me.

 Did it happen again last night? What did I drink this time? How did I get home?

 I peel myself off the couch in angst that my children are going to run down the stairs any moment to witness their mother in shambles. I can’t give an explanation for my red eyes and the black bags that hang beneath. Or the scratch marks up my arms and the lipstick smeared across my face.

 What would I say to them?

 Your mother is a piece of shit, an alcoholic who has found no happiness in her life?


 I rush to the bathroom to shower myself, to cover the evidence of my hidden agenda. I clean the evidence of last night ever happening, and once that’s done. I sit at the kitchen table for my kids to run down the stairs and ask me, mummy, why were you working late again last night?

 “Mummy just had some problems at work my darlings, let me cook you some breakfast”, I tell them. My heart aches.

 I know I am a failure, but where did it all go wrong?

My husband comes down the stairs, no eye contact, and no smile, nothing. He pours himself a cup of black coffee that I had been brewing for him this morning, no thank you, no good morning. One by one, he kisses the children on the head and says “Good morning kids, who’s excited for school today?”

 He gazes at me; I know he knows what happened again last night. He shrugs me off as if I’m nothing as if I’m just a worthless houseo with no morals in life. Someone who drinks his or her life away, has self-worth, when will he ever love me again. When will he touch me again?

 Wouldn’t you think if he knew I had a problem, he would run to my aid? Why won’t he love me? Support me? Do our wedding vows mean nothing to him?

As I follow him into the bathroom he looks at me. A flurry of questions. “When will you ever stop? When will you stop ripping this family apart? How much longer do I have to lie to our children? When can I say to them that mummy has a problem but she’s ready to get help? When will this day ever come?”

 The tears stream down my face, as my body curls into a frail ball. “I know I’m a mess, but what have you ever done for me?”

 My anger kicks in and I raise my voice, I clench my fist in a horrifying anger and scream, “WHERE IS YOUR SUPPORT?  WHY HAVE YOU NEVER LOVED ME”?

 “If I find you in the same state tomorrow morning –  a mess and a poor excuse for a mother – I’m taking the children.”

 He left for work and he took the children to school.

 What would I do if I ever lost my children?

 I caked the makeup on my face, to hide the broken women inside. With a cup of coffee in hand, I drove myself to work that day not knowing what tonight was going to hold in store for me.

My boss greeted me as I walked through the office doors, “wow you’re looking vibrant today,” she said.

 Little did she know…

 I went about my day as per usual. But today we were celebrating our win of a new major client.

 Lunchtime came, walking towards the meeting room I heard cork of a bottle pop and hit the wall. Cheers sounded through the room, but I stood there in fear as my boss handed me a glass of the best Don Perignon was handed to me.

 The feeling of the cold, crisp champagne touching my lips and swimming over my tastebuds triggered my endorphins. It was then that my happiness set in.

 I laughed; I talked and even danced in the meeting room that afternoon. It was the feeling of acceptance that made me feel happy, I felt like I belonged and I wanted to make that feeling stay.

 5:30 pm came, and my work colleagues were heading down the road for yet another celebratory drink. One said to me, “hey you coming?”

 My instinct told not to, but I gave into my impulse.

 It was so wrong but like they say, it felt so right. Alcohol gives me a sense of fulfilment; it gives me the feeling my husband used to give me. I want more and I kept going.

 I’m happy and I never want this feeling to leave.

 10:30 pm appeared on my watch, and a notification popped up on my phone. My nightmare had come true, “you’ve lost us.”

 I dropped and shattered the last glass of champagne, and my heart felted heavy. The room began to spin, as I heard “you’ve f***ed up for the last time.”

 I blanked. I remember nothing.

 The last thing I remember is waking up on my couch, lying in a puddle of gold bile. With a note in my hand that read, “you’ve lost us, forever now.”

 I couldn’t breathe.

 2 months on and I’m numb, I haven’t gone and sought help yet. I think now I’ve come to being okay with my kids and husband living away from me. That’s probably the best option right now.

 I will find help. I will help myself.

 But where do I start?


Stories of addiction and suffering for not only mums or parents but for all should not go unheard. Individuals have the right to express themselves and seek help in an environment where they will not be judged. If you are wanting to better your life or seek assistance, or want to tell your story. Contact your national hotline where there are workers ready to help you through your journey and fight the battle of alcoholism.

You are not alone.