Matt's story: breaking free of drugs and homelessness
My name is Matt*, I’m 18 years old and this is my story. I’ve lived in parks, squats and refuges for more than a third of my life. I didn’t care where I slept as long as I was high or drunk.
I was surrounded by drug use as a child. I never knew my real father and both my mother and stepfather had drug habits. When I was first offered marijuana, how could I say “no”?
I first smoked marijuana when I was 12. It had become a daily habit by the time I was 13. When Mum and Dad found out, they were angry and confronted me about it. They’d abused drugs in the past and were currently in rehabilitation themselves. I thought they would understand. I was wrong!
It seemed clear that they didn’t want me around, so I thought, “Forget it! I don’t need you guys anyway!”
I left home and started living on the streets.
Unsurprisingly, my addiction got worse. I went to sleep every night not knowing if I would wake up having been robbed, bashed - or worse, not wake up at all.
While it was easy to make friends on the street, I couldn’t trust them though. They were homeless addicts like me. If they needed money for food or their next hit they’d rob me, no questions asked. I didn’t blame them. I would’ve done the same thing. They were desperate days.
I tried the local refuges but it didn’t work out. I was offered beds in dormitories – it’s hard enough sleeping on the streets, let alone in a room surrounded by desperate people in the same situation. Among the large groups of people seeking help, I failed to make connections. The refuges were full of kids like me anyway. I’d say 90 per cent of them abused drugs and 90 per cent of them didn’t want help.
I was hungry and angry. My constant search for my next high drove me to crime. I pushed my luck once too often and the cops caught me and my best mate.
It wasn’t a real gun, it was a replica. But I’ll face the courts later this year charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Following my arrest, I spent four and half months in a youth correction facility. This experience, combined with the news of a mate being stabbed on the street, was enough for me to never want to return.
Wesley Mission open their doors and I can’t thank them enough for that. I’ve been here for two months now – the longest I’ve voluntarily stayed in one place for six years. I have my own space and they’re working with me on my drug addiction and co-dependency problems.
I’m happy to say that I’m already making progress, I can now finally admit I do have a drug problem – it’s something I’ve always denied.
Remember those young people I spoke about in the refuges? I want to let them know there are services available to help them; I want to show them that I overcame my addiction which means they can do it too; and I want them to know they can escape their demons.
Whatever happens, I will do anything to stop myself going back to where I have come from. I will break my addiction, get a job and rebuild my life.