Narooma man Aaron Pinney's journey from ice addiction to rehabilitation

REACH OUT: Aaron Pinney went through hell and back using ice for five years, reaching a peak during the bushfires. Now eight months clean, he has urged others to reach out.

REACH OUT: Aaron Pinney went through hell and back using ice for five years, reaching a peak during the bushfires. Now eight months clean, he has urged others to reach out.

Aaron Pinney returned to the South Coast hoping to escape the drug that was destroying his life, only to find it only got worse.

It was when the fires hit at the start of the year near Tilba that his life became "unmanageable".

His workplace at the time shut down due to the blaze and he evacuated.

"I started using again pretty hard as they (the fires) started," Mr Pinney said. "I injected too. First thing would be, if I had none, was to get some. Then it would be four or five days later I fall asleep, sleep, get up then do the same thing."

He was using every day, barely sleeping and at the point "where I couldn't even manage myself": "Looking back now, I was a mess. And it happened so quick".

Mr Pinney had been living at Wagga Wagga, where he was introduced to recreational drugs at 24-years old, then moved to Canberra for work: "Going from the bush to the city, I knew what weed was, but that's about it".

In Canberra, he was introduced to ecstasy, then eventually ice. "It was just weekends," he said.

"Then Monday, to get over the weekend; then Tuesday, to get over the Monday; then it was every day."

A chef of 15 years, Mr Pinney said it was common to meet other users in the hospitality industry, especially in the 20s age group.

"I moved jobs to try get away from it, but everywhere you went it sort of followed," he said.

He then met a woman who would become his fiancé and the mother of his daughter, and she would not put up with it.

"I quit cold turkey when we first met," he said.

"I knew she was against it, so I just stopped. Then we moved back to Wagga, (I) fell into the wrong crowd, started using again and she found out, then left me."

The pain was unbearable and he didn't know how to cope: "It was a big bender, (I) just partied for 12 months".

He saw a lot of drug-related violence, and experienced a few close calls himself. He counted his blessings he wasn't spending the rest of his life in jail, like others were.

"I was pretty lucky. I didn't go down that path, but was around a lot of it," he said.

"I got set up one day and got bashed by 10 blokes - knives at my throat. They tried to keep me hostage, but I managed to get out.

"I have mates who have been stabbed. I had a best mate who got shot in the knee in Wagga."

He was angry, felt guilty and ashamed: "I lost everything: I lost my daughter, my house."

Mr Pinney had family connections at Narooma, so he moved, hoping for a fresh start. "I came down to get away from it," he said. "I thought it wouldn't be around. But it's around, even the small towns between here and Bega."

His brother was in rehab at the time and "hassled" him every day to also get help.

In a stroke of luck, he was accepted to the William Booth House rehabilitation program in Sydney in March. Usually it's at least a six-month wait, but he was there within four days.

He went to Sydney on his own, still in denial, but thought he'd stay for a month to "get everyone off my back". "I felt I still didn't have a problem and I wasn't going to stay there that long," he said.

"But after a month, seeing other people who had been there eight months and hearing their story, I thought maybe there is hope. Maybe life is better without drugs."

For the first two weeks, coming off the drug meant he didn't sleep a wink.

He had no responsibilities and was taught strategies to live without drugs and to deal with cravings.

He confronted trauma he had suffered, and realised he was not alone.

"I thought I was the only one who had been through what I had," he said.

"To hear other people with similar stories made it easier."

Mr Pinney spent seven months in the program, leaving in September.

"I took it pretty seriously," he said.

He left with another woman he met doing the program - "which isn't suggested".

But when that relationship broke down, he didn't know where to go.

With family close by, he returned to Narooma.

"I was scared coming back to where I was at my worst," Mr Pinney said.

"I'd worked at a few places, burnt my bridges."

He connected with a mentor through the "Ice - Turning Family Pain into Power" Facebook page, run by Michelle Preston and Donna Falconer.

The mentor introduced him to new friends who didn't use drugs, and drove him to support meetings when needed.

Now, Mr Pinney is ready to help others as much as he can.

"If I can help one person give up or improve their life, I'll be happy," he said.

"I'm not ashamed of what I did. We don't want to be addicts. We're addicts for a reason. There are reasons why we use.

"For me, it was a breakup with my fiancé. I used just to mask those feelings.

"A lot of people are the same, or they've been born into that lifestyle and don't know any different."

He said rehabilitation beds were needed in the Eurobodalla Shire and Narcotics Anonymous Australia meetings at Narooma.

"I travelled to Ulladulla and Nowra to do meetings twice a week, because there's none here," he said.

He said it was important to have options available for when a user put their hand up.

"Being an addict, when you want help, you want it now," Mr Pinney said.

"If you can't have it now, chances are tomorrow 'don't worry about it'.

"You have to want to do it, otherwise it just doesn't work.

"If there are more services around, there's an option. But if it's not there, then it's not in their mind."

Mr Pinney's advice to others who felt stuck was to reach out.

"As hard as it is, especially being blokes, just talk," he said.

"It's not weak to speak. I'm eight months clean next week. It's the first time in five years I've been this clean, and I was using every day. Life's better without it."

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This story 'Not weak to speak': Coast man who was addicted to ice urges others to reach out first appeared on Bay Post-Moruya Examiner.


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