Billy: the addiction’s doing push-ups



Billy* got out of rehab 19 December.


Christmas was at mum’s, but he decided he wasn’t ready. There would be alcohol and he wouldn’t be able to resist.


Recovery is about honesty.


Billy’s poison is ice, but grog is a drug, and the Disease doesn’t discriminate.


He’ll be ready next year. Stronger.


Christmas Day was spent in the Transition House – home for the next three months – in the safe, watchful embrace of his new friends, new family. Fifteen men who have lived similar lives. Men who look after each other, offer support, call bullshit when they see it. There were presents and food, but no temptation.


The women’s house is across the road. Residents are allowed to mix, but not permitted to be alone with a member of the opposite sex. Relationships are not encouraged; they complicate recovery. If one relapses, the other usually follows.


Billy dropped into work on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. One hundred and two days clean and counting. He’s put on 10 kgs. When he lifts his t-shirt to wipe sweat from his brow, he reveals little love handles popping out the top of his shorts.


There’s more freedom in transition. Billy can come and go as he pleases, as long as he makes midnight curfew. He can use his phone, he has money.


But freedom invites opportunity for relapse, so his time is deliberately kept busy.


Each day, all residents have to get themselves across the city to the program’s head office for check-in. There are daily honesty sessions and house meetings where everyone gets a job: put out chairs, serve biscuits and tea, clean up used mugs and plates.


Keep busy. Be accountable. Responsible.


Billy attends NA. He meets his sponsor for the first time next week– a Crows man, like Billy – which will allow him to move to Step 4 of the 12 Step Program. Billy taps at his phone and brings up the 12 Steps and reads clearly and eloquently to myself and colleague, Nick*. We’re stunned; this from a young man who was functionally illiterate just a few months back.


Billy is the converted. Born again, completely committed to the program and recovery.


Not going back there, mate. Never. As they say in rehab, the other options are jail, institutions, death. Fuck that.


Back there means wanting to fall asleep and never wake up. Planning your own funeral in your head. Who would be there, who would speak, who would carry his coffin.


Or hiding from your dealer when you owe him money. And from case workers, and real estate agents when you can’t pay rent.


Hiding. Always hiding.


It also means falling back into the wrong crowd. Billy has had to ditch some dodgy mates.


The program is based in spirituality and requires belief in a higher power. Most choose God. Initially, Billy drew faith from his own determination and inner belief, but has recently called on the memory of his late father, who passed away when he was a young boy.


Billy prays daily and sees as proof someone up there is looking out for him as the fact his place in both rehab and transition have been granted free of charge, due to a bit of luck and as reward for dedication to recovery. The program is privately run and the combined cost for both places is usually over $40,000.


Billy knows he will never be cured. This is his journey. And it’s post-transition, when addicts re-enter the world, most relapse.


When confidence becomes complacency and an addict thinks they can miss one meeting, have one drink, one hit, the downward spiral into blackness begins over.


An addict is only one step ahead of addiction. It’s always following. Waiting. Lurking.


Only three in twenty stay clean.


The addiction is doing push-ups. Getting stronger. So, I must be even stronger, Billy says.


Be always vigilant, always alert.


At the end of my shift, I give Billy a lift to the station. The streets of Broadmeadows are empty and the police station is peaceful. The calm before the storm.


We shake hands and wish each other well for 2017.


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  1. Beautifully told AS; and beautifully lived Billy. Spot on – on all fronts.
    I often ask myself why I keep going to regular meetings when it is a lot of years since I did serious damage to myself and others. I sometimes kid myself its to help others, but this week we had a bloke come back who had rebuilt his life but stopped coming for a couple of years. A shell of a man. Not just the financial damage, but the loss of family, health and self esteem.
    As Billy says “it doesn’t go away it waits in the corner doing push ups for you to weaken”.
    Some resources for anyone struggling themselves or with a friend or family member. Dr Stafford at Royal Perth has the best insights into addiction of any doctor I have read/heard. Written about alcohol but broadly applicable. Not just for the information about Baclofen – which can be useful – but there is no magic pill for rebuilding broken lives – just honesty, patience and persistence.

  2. John Butler says

    Happy New Year Billy.

    And to you too, AS.

  3. Earl O'Neill says

    I’ve been to a few AA meetings. Hated them, like Catholic church, full of self satisfied judgement.
    If it works for others, I wish you the best.

  4. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Beautiful stuff Starkers. Wishing Billy a crystal clear 2017 and well beyond.

  5. Thanks, Starkers.
    Best of luck to Billy for the future.

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