Photograph by Sean Davey
I grew up in the country — in Benalla, Victoria. It was pretty good growing up. I have two elder sisters and an older brother. My oldest sister lives here in Canberra – I see her each week, go out and visit my nieces and nephew. My brother is a jockey in Wodonga, and my other sister lives over in Wales.
From school I did a retail certificate at Coles, then I quit there and started building wall frames and trusses. I moved to the Gold Coast, doing the same thing, then came back home and was doing panelbeating.
Things weren’t working out very well. I tried marijuana and I didn’t like it, but then I tried it again and knew that I was hooked. Then amphetamines. It got out of control over about five years. I lost my job, lost my place where I was staying, and had to move back in to Mum and Dad’s.
I was in a drug-induced psychosis, getting messages and hearing paranoid things, I thought people were talking about me. Paranoid schizophrenia.
I moved up here 10 years ago to go to rehab, when I was about 24. I came out and I started using again. After my relapse, I just needed money for drugs and I robbed a chemist. It’s taken me a while to get over it; it still plays on my mind why I did such a thing.
So I went to prison for armed robbery, 13 months at AMC – the Alexander Maconochie Centre [in the ACT]. Most of the people I knew used, but after being in jail I got a new place where I could live. I went back to rehab and since then I haven’t used. I’ve now been clean for two-and-a-bit years.
I got onto these meds that are really good. I can say I’m about 80% now. My psych talks with me, sees how I’m going and what’s happening, sees if I need to adjust my medication. I’m a lot better now than I was three or four years ago.
The Big Issue has filled a void. It gives me something to do during the day, and I earn a bit of money. I’d work all seven days, and I saved up for an electric pushbike. I seem to like the job, it’s done a lot for me. Improved my people skills. I meet new faces and have a chat. I like it.
I sell in Civic on Saturdays, but I mainly sell at ANU, between 11 and 2, lunchtime. It’s in the uni grounds, Union Court. It’s been good, and I know a few people by face, and by name. I have a quick chat to them, see what they’re doing, what they’re studying, how the day’s gone.
I want to do a painting course: art. Watercolours, learn the skills. I used to draw a lot when I was younger, and I can copy really well. I might have a retail job coming up in August, I’ll do that part time and The Big Issue part time.
It’s all possible. I’m drug free, thinking clear again.
interview by Peter Ascot photograph by Sean Davey
This article first appeared in Ed#488 of The Big Issue.