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Jakeb’s Story

Jakeb Byfield

Jakeb is the youngest-ever graduate of the recovery program run by Fresh Start, a not-for-profit organisation that helps drug users and their families recover from drug dependence. Jakeb shares his story of how he overcame addiction and pursued a new life for himself studying psychology:

I’ve used everything except heroin, but mostly acid and pot. Started young – alcohol when I was 12 and narcotics when I was 13.

I think I knew subconsciously the whole way through using that I had a problem, but it wasn’t until I was arrested that it really hit me. Being put in handcuffs and walked through a stranger’s house will do that to you, I guess.

I was in a car at the beach, chopping up pot, a small amount I had left from the portions I was selling. Out of nowhere, a cop car pulled up. When the police came to the car window I just handed them the pot – they were pretty surprised by that. Then I remembered the acid tabs and money in the car, which were in a container to the left of me, so I shoved them down my pants.

They told me I had to get out of the car and retrieve the stuff. I did this, but when they weren’t really looking, I grabbed my phone and wallet from the surface of my boot and just legged it. I would later be charged with Evading Arrest, on top of the various charges including Trespassing.

But I didn’t get far through a backyard. For the first time in seven years of drug addiction, I felt powerless, and broke down in hysterics.

That’s when I was arrested and led out through the woman’s house in handcuffs. It was surreal because I knew a different version of me would’ve actually been welcomed to this house. That’s the thing though – I’m never going to know what my life would’ve been like if I hadn’t taken drugs. At times, it can be a really extreme sense of regret for a path not taken.

I was released from the police station at around midnight and had lost everything I worked hard for. No phone and no money, and especially no drugs! I was thinking of the ‘friends’ I could call to help me and realised there wasn’t anyone who would give a damn, and I deserved it. I’d already lost my family and my real friends and I hadn’t even cared. I cared now.

I was desperate. I wanted to kill myself. After a couple of failed attempts, I ended up at my grandparents’ house but they were away on holiday. I fell asleep on their tiny little patio couch huddled under a table cloth, feeling sorry for myself. I finally started thinking “Do I really want to be this person?!”

After a tearful and fractured sleep, I got to my parents’ house. My 14-year-old sister answered the door. I was in hysterics as my emotions were coming back. It was horrible, but I’m glad she saw what drugs can do, that you lose your sanity. When my parents came back, my somewhat-settled sense of shame once again erupted into full hysterics. I felt like I didn’t deserve their help, they couldn’t understand why I was refusing to enter what was once my family home. It was the shame, and my fractured sense of belongingness.

I passed out from exhaustion, from all the crying, from just being broken beyond the capability of a sober man. Mum looked after me for a week before making appointments and taking me to see Dr George O’Neil from Fresh Start. He gave me the naltrexone treatment so I could start my recovery. Thanks to a bizarre twist of fate, it was actually the second time I’d met him – he did my IVF back when he was an obstetrician so I guess I unofficially met him then!

I’ve got no doubt that if it wasn’t for being arrested I’d still be out there doing drugs. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me, but it was also the best.

The Fresh Start program wasn’t just about learning to live without the drugs. It was also about changing what we are by trying to connect with who we are. The longer I looked at who I was, the more I knew what I wanted or more accurately what I didn’t want.

I’ve also learned to be honest with myself. Admitting my cravings aren’t an issue – denying them is – because suppressing my emotions will make me want to use. Half of staying sober is being able to fight the battle when it comes. The other half is avoiding the battle altogether.

Now that I’ve graduated from the program I’m studying psychology and really enjoying learning about things I’m interested in. Next I want to do Honours and then Masters. Maybe I’ll decide to do medicine, like George has suggested, I could then become a psychiatrist.

I’m currently volunteering at Fresh Start’s Northam Recovery Centre, where I was treated, but I want to be on staff and intend to work as a qualified psychologist there. At the moment I kind of counsel unofficially and provide support where I can.

I’ve come through drug addiction so I know what it’s like, and I can help the residents through that insight. I want to use what I’ve been through to help others, to teach them to find their happiness. I don’t want to lead the horse to water, I want to give the horse a map!

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