31-year-old Melissa* grew up in with financial wealth in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs and went to an all-girls private school. Melissa was presented with every opportunity that money could buy – from a material perspective, Melissa had it all but addiction and mental illness struck her family.
Melissa’s world was lacking because she grew up in a volatile environment where she says her emotional needs as a child were secondary to her mother’s needs. Sadly, Melissa’s mother was an alcoholic and suffered from mental illness.
“Because of mum’s mental health and addiction issues, my needs got swept under the rug for a while. From a young age, I struggled with drug use and self-harm. I also suffered from an eating disorder from age 12, which went right through my adolescence and into my 20s. Money doesn’t make any difference – addiction and mental illness doesn’t discriminate – my family were impacted by both.”
Melissa first experimented with prescription pills at the age of 10 and tried alcohol for the first time when she was 12. By 17, Melissa was a black-out drinker, had developed pancreatitis, and experienced psychosis. Her seventeenth year was spent in and out of hospital getting treatment. Even though it seemed like the odds were stacked against Melissa, from a young age, she knew that she wanted a different life from addiction. Melissa had the foresight to admit herself into a private detox clinic in Sydney’s Northern Beaches at age 18. While Melissa was still using drugs, through the experience, she learned that she had experienced trauma and began to understand what this meant.
Melissa’s drug and alcohol consumption continued to increase for the next two decades during stints living in Europe and the United States.
“Over time, mum deteriorated, and my drug use increased. I lived in London for a while when I was 18 and increased my drug use and partying. Much later, I moved to America and joined the superyacht industry in Miami. My drug use increased again a and I got mixed up with some bad people.”
Unbeknownst to Melissa at the time, she was being groomed to become a drug mule. It was a dire situation that Melissa needed to extricate herself from. With the support of Melissa’s then-boss, she returned to Australia to complete several residential detox programs.
In 2017, Melissa completed The Buttery’s Therapeutic Community (TC) program and lived in a Buttery transition house before moving out into her own home in the Byron Bay region. The experience assisted Melissa in stopping using drugs and to manage her eating disorder.
These days, drug use is a black and white matter for Melissa. Melissa has not used drugs or alcohol in four years since completing the Buttery’s TC program.
“I want to one day in the future start a family and become a mum. I also don’t ever want my children to go through what I did as a child. Drug use is black and white for me now.”
“Someone once told me that using is just one piece of the pie. I would not have that one piece of the pie if it meant I had to forego the rest! Recovery has given me everything that life has on offer and more. I wouldn’t give that up for anything!”
Melissa’s future looks exceptionally bright. She is currently running her own business and works part-time in financial planning. Melissa also works at several detox centres as a chef carer.
“My experience at The Buttery was completely life-changing. I am so grateful for the expertise and care I received during my time there. I encourage anyone struggling with addiction or mental health issues to reach out to The Buttery.”
*Name changed for privacy. Photo is for illustrative purposes only.