By Casey Neill
“Never accept it as your life.”
This was reformed ice user James O’Keefe’s advice to young people struggling with drug addiction.
The Warragul 28-year-old turned to Hallam’s Youth YOU Program four months ago to get clean.
When he was 21, he weighed 55 kilograms and was high four or five days a week. He’d get paid on Thursdays.
“I was broke on Friday and my account was overdrawn on Saturday,” he said.
James gave up drugs, but then split with his partner of five years and fell back into old habits.
“I knew that what I was doing was no good for me,” he said.
An old school friend had completed the Youth YOU Program, developed by former drug addict Glenn Munso. It involves gym sessions and mentoring, plus online advice.
James bought Glenn’s book, Drugs Do Not Discriminate.
“I tried to read it quite a few times but I couldn’t get through the pages, and I felt guilty reading the book while I was using,” James said.
“I decided to get clean.
“For about three days, I had a really foggy brain.
“I couldn’t accomplish anything I wanted to do.”
James reached out to Glenn for advice during a live feed on his Facebook.
“I’d been in the house for days,” he said.
“It got me out of the house to run six laps of the oval.”
He moved back to Melbourne from Queensland, joined the program “and I’ve been coming three or four times a week ever since, for four months”.
“I walk three kilometres to the train station, then I take an hour train to work,” he said.
“I work my 10-hour shift and then I come to the gym and I do mentoring class on Tuesday and I do the same thing on a Saturday.
“I’ve lived my whole live with my bank account overdrawn.
“Now I have savings, now I have nice clothes. I can eat out, I can do those things now.
“When you’re on drugs you don’t do that, you can’t do it.”
Seeing results in the gym has kept James motivated.
“I’ve put on 10 kilograms in four months,” he said.
“That was a one-year goal for me.”
His top piece of advice to others struggling with addiction was to start their day with a good choice.
“It doesn’t have to be major – just a glass of water,” he said.
“That good choice will snowball into more good choices.
“Seek out help, don’t stop trying to get clean.”
Glenn has been touring Australia to promote his book and will reach Dandenong on 14 September.
He said the audiences included families who didn’t know how to help a loved one, drug addicts seeking help, and kids “to show them the realness of what’s going on in their society, and educate them about drugs”.
“A lot of people talk about the problem,” he said.
“It’s more showing people the solution – giving people hope, inspiration and showing them that that label doesn’t define the rest of their future.”