A Decade of Dope Done and Dusted

By Mike Welsh

A friend of mine recently celebrated a relatively unusual anniversary. Not your regular red letter day which routinely rolls around, but a very significant milestone.

One year off the weed.  It had been a year since she quit smoking dope.   A destructive habit which saw her smoke marijuana every single day for the best part of the past decade.

And it wasn’t a choice made from a point of health or finances or maturity. It was simply a matter of life or death.

An impressive landmark reached by a gutsy young woman not yet 30 years of age.

But don’t dare express sympathy for her because she no longer sees herself as a victim. It was her call and her call alone to stop.  She didn’t want to die. Her call to no longer be a victim. No more “poor me”.

And it’s this mentality which inspires her to stay clean. While she acknowledged the “awesome” support network in her corner in a Facebook post announcing  the “anniversary“  she proudly claims her own determination as the major reason for reaching a year without reaching for bong to blank out a  bleak existence.

Her father had left home when she was two, a decade later when not even a teenager she was parenting her unpredictable and unreliable mother who was abusing alcohol, prescription drugs, and was briefly hooked on heroin. She’d witnessed her mother attempt self-harm. She saw her mother OD.

Her resolution brought to an end a decade of daily dope smoking, a habit which at its peak involved consuming between 30 to 50 cones a day. A decade which included reckless behaviour, dark depression, frequent and complete mental breakdown and strong suicidal thoughts.

“I would find myself driving and thinking what if I just drove into a tree or just walked in front of a truck and these thoughts became more regular leading up to what I call hitting rock bottom.

Finally one night these thoughts scared the living shit out of me, it was like it had come down to a matter of life and death”.

Two years ago, the death of the man who raised her hurled her headlong into a much darker place with more weed the only way to “deal” with life. But it was also the beginning of her life changing decision to stop.

She thought she had a fair understanding of what was involved in getting clean and was prepared to endure it but quickly discovered the relentless flood of pain which came with purging her body of the destructive dope.

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“As I had not been without weed for a day since I was 16 my body went into shock, I had sweats, vomiting, shakes, could not sleep or eat and my anxiety went into overdrive, at times I could see my own heart palpitating through my skin beating so fast I actually thought I was going to die. It was all this which made me realise how dependent my own body had become on this drug”.

During the months following her  “drawing a line in the sand” on her destructive lifestyle,  her determination to stay clean was rattled with yet another family death (her father who left when she was two and with whom she’d just reconnected) and  being surrounded by mates who still smoked weed.

A psychologist has helped my brave friend work through the issues she once used weed to forget.

Her anxiety is still something that comes and goes.  She still has bad days but they are now vastly outnumbered by the good.

And she has developed a good relationship with her mother who has been clean for more than a decade.

Clive Palmer Hang Ups

By Mike Welsh

clice PIC March 4

PUP leader Clive Palmer’s big mouth has dropped him in the poo gain. The mining magnate  put his fat foot in it today with a comment that Prime Minister Tony Abbott “commit suicide”

At a  press conference Mr Palmer said: “There’s a million students going to tertiary education in this country. There’s a million more that’s about to go, and a million more that’s just left.

“So commit suicide Tony Abbott, you know.”

Questioned by reporters whether this was an appropriate thing to say Mr Palmer said: “It’s political suicide to go against the will of the Australian people.”

I put in a call to Clive which went to voicemail but the big fella rang back and we had this exchange on my 2HC Coffs Harbour Radio program.

When the Whistle is blown on Bullying

I’VE been been bullied once, that I can recall. An overweight redhead, that perennial schoolyard victim, chose to pass some of the action down the line to a smaller kid… me.

I punched him in the face, got strapped and was never bullied again.

But you can’t punch the bully in the face anymore. So what to do?

The more I know of this destructive human trait, the less encouraged I am of a solution.

The Sydney “Telegraph” recently featured a 40-year-old man who’d been bullied at school. He gave horrendous examples of the abuse he copped in the yards of several schools he was forced to attend.

The ensuing years proved to be problematic, with relationship breakdowns and an inability to hold down regular employment.

There was a positive outcome though, several of his peers, including his own brother, read the article and were shocked to learn of his suffering. Furthermore, several of them got in contact to apologise. They were unaware of the suffering they’d inflicted.

Over my 11 years on the 2CC Drive Show, I have become educated on the long-term and permanent damage done by bullying, including workplace bullying and it seems to me that we don’t mature much once we’re out of the schoolyard.

I assured scores of victims of workplace bullying (largely within the ACT Public Service) that I could protect them should they choose to go to air. But it turns out, I couldn’t in many cases. Whistleblowers are often bullied again.

The standard management approach of “is that really bullying?” or” is he/she just too sensitive?” is wearing thin. Or the old fallback: “Better watch your step, lest you wreck your career”.

If you’re in the foetal position at 3am terrified at the prospect of going back into the battle zone… more than likely, it’s bullying.

If your day brightens up 100 per cent the moment you arrive and discover Bully is off for the day…. more than likely, there’s a bullying problem.

I also urged those who contacted me to get together in numbers But  safety and power in numbers is not always a guarantee. The strategy is to worm out the ring leaders of the “revolt” and put pressure on them. A group of six becomes two, split the two and you may just have “made this thing go away”.

One worker, a big, strong man standing 6’3” told me he was fearful of returning to work in the yard where he’d been bullied.

A woman told me that while she won her case, she would not recommend going down that road, it’s far too painful.

Another woman, who had the guts to make a written complaint, told me that by coffee time, the entire office – including the bully knew. The bullying then intensified.

The ACT Government was lauded on the introduction of a whistleblowing policy which loosely allowed a public servant to go outside (to media) with their bullying and allied issues, if they were dissatisfied with the “usual procedure”. The problem is “usual procedure” usually means their card is marked.

This “innovative” whistleblower policy failed a public servant with whom I’d been speaking earlier this year. After returning from six weeks off air,  I texted her to reconnect. She told me it was “too late”, she was “on the roof”, which I took for a euphemism for getting to the end of her rope.

But she was, in fact, on the roof and ready to jump.

She came down and was admitted to psychiatric ward. Three days later, she took a call from her superior wanting to know why she’d missed work!

Another time, I received a letter from five staff of an ACT Department confirming that what I was saying was one hundred per cent correct. One quote – “So much suffering. So much stress. We wait for suicides, because that is what will happen” – was frightening.

I once tweeted the word “suicide” to shame the Government on bullying. Chief Minister Katy Gallagher tweeted it wasn’t the forum for such a serious issue. What then my Chief Minister is the forum? Or do we wait until after the suicides to formulate another policy?