HARD ROAD: Greg has lifted himself out of the spiral that was only going to end in one of two ways.
HARD ROAD: Greg has lifted himself out of the spiral that was only going to end in one of two ways. Jonno Colfs

Back from the brink of jail or even worse, death

WHILE deep in the throes of addiction, one Southern Downs man found himself battling for his freedom and later, his life.

Greg, who has asked to be known by only his first name, knows what it is like to hit rock bottom.

When he started experimenting with drugs and alcohol as a teenager, he had no idea about the tumultuous and destructive path he was about to start travelling.

At his worst moments he pulled a knife on a shop attendant, and later had such violent symptoms of alcoholism it almost killed him.

Greg said he began drinking and smoking marijuana at just 14.

"I discovered drinking was a great way to remove my shyness and be myself," he said.

"I did Grade 11 and 12 p****d and stoned. It was a battle but I passed."

After school Greg enrolled at USQ studying horticulture, but lasted only six months.

"One morning I had no weed, no wine, I'd already drunk a cask full, and no cigarettes.

"I grabbed a balaclava and a knife and convinced a mate to drive me to a small convenience store.

"But the owner behind the counter had a machete, so I dropped the knife and he and two other customers fought me to the ground.

"I narrowly avoided jail but had to spend 12 months providing blood and urine samples to them.

"When the 12 months was up, I got straight back into the old ways."

Over the next 16 years, the alcohol abuse worsened and the run-ins with the law continued

Greg said he isn't sure why he found himself in the grips of addiction.

"There's no reason behind it, psychologists have tried to find out why but I had a great childhood," he said.

"I was a simply a shy kid, and at a small school I didn't really notice that.

"But when it came time for high school in Warwick, I didn't how to act, I didn't know how to integrate or make friends.

"It was like being thrown in the deep end and not knowing how to swim."

In 2013, now aged in his mid-30s, Greg required emergency gastric banding surgery on his throat due to years of chronic drinking, and he finally decided he needed help.

"I vomited up about 3.5 litres of blood," he said.

"My oesophagus had basically been torn apart by the constant drinking of cheap wine and straight spirits.

"They put rubber bands around the veins in my throat.

"I gave up drinking for three months after that and decided I needed to change things."

It was then Greg met Julia Keogh from Partners in Recovery and with her help, began to turn his life around.

"She's been amazing," he said.

"She got me talking, seeing doctors, psychologists and other help.

"It didn't have an immediate effect, I still continued to do what I'd always done - punishing my body, killing myself slowly."

Greg said over time it all slowly began to help.

"My health was really starting to decline and what people said began to sink in," he said.

In September 2015 Greg was charged with his fourth high-range drink driving offence and his solicitor advised him to enter rehab, or face jail.

Some of Greg's offences over the years included;

  • 5 x drug production charges (marijuana)
  • 8 x possession charges
  • 6 x possession of a utensil charges
  • 4 x high range drink driving - with Blood Alcohol Content readings of .11, .24, .33 and .16

"My health was gone at that point. I had trouble walking, my nerves were shot, liver was barely functioning and body was shutting down," he said.

"I was near death when I went to detox at Warwick Hospital. Two weeks I spent there, the doctors and nurses were fantastic."

Despite the hardships, Greg said he was on his way to a happier and healthier life.

"It's been a massive battle for me," he said.

"I did it for myself and I am so glad I did. Going into rehab was scarier than going into court for the armed robbery.

"I'm happy with my life. I enjoy getting up in the morning and not having to wonder where the first drink is coming from."
If you or someone you know needs help with substance abuse issues, phone Lifeline on 131<TH>114.

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