Hi there, my name is Antonio. I am a 27 year old recovering addict.

Damn that sounds great to identify like that!

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to write something like this, to tell my story. I guess I was afraid that some people might judge me.

I’m a survivor of abuse and rape.  I’ve been homeless and I’ve contracted HIV. I lost jobs and my home and I’ve done sex work just to make ends meet.

But it didn’t all start out this way. Maybe I should start at the beginning?

And please stay tuned because there IS a happy ending!

I don’t believe I was born an addict. My drinking started at about 14 years of age as a way to forget what I’d been through.

By 14 years old I was already a child abuse and rape survivor.

By 16 years old I was told to leave home. Nobody in my family wanted me in their life.

Leaving home at that age resulted in me being homeless. I spent months living on the street going to internet cafes to get cold drinks and a roof over my head.

One of these nights I met someone who I thought would be a part of my life for a very long time. This person had a dark side but I still loved him.

Isn’t that what you do when you love someone? You love them back?

This person did some terrible things to me. He bashed me and turned my life upside down.

We moved apart for some time but I took him back and the abuse continued.

I had a phone call from my mother asking me to move back home with her and I brought him.  I thought the bashing would stop but it kept on going and got even worse.

My mother was even bashed by him and all I did was just watch, I couldn’t move.

Since that day I still can’t forgive myself for what happened as I know I should have done something to keep my mother safe.

The time came for him to leave but guess what? I went after him and moved back in with him. The whole cycle repeated all over again.

Eventually I cut contact with him and started dating someone else. At this point I had moved in with him but it too wasn’t a great relationship.

We had our ups and downs, and it was about this time I started to learn more about drugs, especially pills.

Both of us were sleeping around with other guys, till it was time for us to go our own ways and that’s when I met someone who to this day I call my best mate.

He had taken me in under his wing and looked after me. He even taught me how to drive.

I was only 21 years old by this stage. But now it was me who had a dark side – the drinking and taking pills was started to get out of control.

One day he took me to see my local GP who told me that I needed to stop taking pills and drinking, even if it meant moving away from Brisbane.

I agreed with him and decided to move down to Sydney where I could restart my life, get a job to pay the bills. But it all started again.

I downloaded an app on my phone and went out clubbing. I met someone who, once again, I thought I would love to spend my life with and call him my husband someday.

After a short time into our relationship we started trying out some new party goods I hadn’t heard of before – it was called crystal.

Things got out of hand so very quickly. One led to another and then another and that’s when crystal became a part of my life. At first I was just smoking it.

A couple of months later, on a day trip to the Blue Mountains my best mate warned me “I think something terrible is happening to you Antonio”.

It made me think ‘not again, I thought I’d gone past that life for good’. My mate booked me in for a check-up with the GP who ordered a blood test.

My results came back. It was worst day of my life. I was told I have HIV.

My best mate was with me that day and we had found out it was my partner who had given me HIV.

Over the following weeks and months I started injecting ice and ketamine.

I thought isn’t dying of an overdose better then dying of AIDS? I don’t want to have red spots all over my body from AIDS!

My life was again turned upside down.

Well one thing led to another and soon after my diagnosis I began escorting.

With the escorting I started taking even more drugs. My life was shit and couldn’t get over that I now had HIV.

I was still only 21 years old when I started living with HIV and thought people would judge me. I didn’t want to be on this earth anymore.

By 22 years old I had lost my job and my home and returned to living on the streets until my older brother found out and asked me to move in with him.

I was still using and due to this was regularly forgetting to take my HIV meds. But I still kept using drugs anyway.

This continued for about a year.

I was 23 years old when my brother took me to the hospital and I was told if I didn’t give up drugs and start taking my meds, I’d be dead by the end of the year.

For a couple of months I stopped taking drugs by myself but it didn’t last long.

Again I met up with the wrong people who just didn’t care about me. They just wanted to use me.

The cycle repeated itself, I ended up homeless again, moving between boarding houses and kept on picking up again.

I used and used and used and used some more until one early morning I got out my phone and searched for a 12 Step program that would help me. I decided it was the CMA Redfern Monday meeting I would go along to first.

After the meeting I was worried people there would judge me because I was an addict who was still using so I tried to stop.

But by the next Monday night meeting I was only a day and half clean. I didn’t know what I was going to say or if people would judge me or even if I would stay the whole time.

I was asked to share at that meeting and straight after I walked outside and started to cry. I thought people were judging me, didn’t like me and didn’t care what I had shared about.

But a member in that meeting came out and spoke to me. They gave me a hug and said “come back in honey you belong in this room”.

I did that.  I went back into that meeting and noticed it was helping me.

I kept going to the CMA meetings and I got almost 90 days clean but for some reason I decided it wasn’t for me.

I still had the thoughts that people were judging me and didn’t care about me, so I went back out and got on and life got bad again.

I decided to go to a different 12 step program and try my luck there which also helped me but not as much. I lasted 30 days and left.

I came back to CMA and reached 30 days, then went out. Came back again and reached 90 days then left. I came back and this time I reached 8 and half months clean. I was 25 at that stage.

This was until I was asked to do a story about my HIV for a Worlds AIDS day event. It brought up so many issues from my past life and I busted soon after.

But I didn’t give up on doing CMA. I kept coming back.

On the morning of 9 October 2016 I said to myself I can’t keep on living a life like this.

From that day on I started a really great sober life free of all drugs.

I deleted people’s numbers who didn’t care about me and got involved in the program.

I put my hand up and offered to do service at CMA. At first it started with making sure there was tea and coffee and eventually I ended up becoming the secretary of one of the meetings.

I was still having thoughts of using and things were still tough at times but I was informed that if I put my effort in to the program and kept coming to meetings my life would get much easier.

And that was the truth!

I attended more meetings and I asked others in the program for help. I had everyone coming up to me and asking for my number and saying that if I ever need to just talk or need a shoulder to cry on they will only be a phone call away.

I did just that. Eventually my 1 year birthday arrived and I had seen by then that life is much better clean than using drugs.

Every day and night can be bright if I just put my effort in and get the courage to ask for someone in the fellowship for help.

I even asked someone to be my sponsor and worked the 12 steps!

Today, at this very minute, I am 1 year, 4 months and 14 days clean. And I can say I love this sober life for sure.

Recovery has shown me how to live a sober life, free. While at the same time helped me grow as a person living with HIV.

The biggest part of being clean and sober for me is remembering to take my meds and understanding the type of person I am today. An added gift of freedom from addiction!

These programs do work and to tell you the truth, I’m glad I’m an addict, a recovering addict.

Thank you, my sober life has saved me.
<p style=”text-align: center;”><strong>Online Meetings Saved My Recovery
</strong></p>
As a recovering crystal meth addict, Covid 19 presented a unique challenge: how do I hold on to my recovery without physical meetings?

Life during lockdown felt a lot like my old life in addiction: endless days spent home alone. I was having flashbacks and nightmares that I picked up meth again – a drug that destroyed my life. Despite being in recovery almost 4 years, I needed meetings more than ever.

When I found out that ‘the rooms’ were closing due to the pandemic, I became fearful. I was worried that I would relapse.

When CMA announced that they were commencing online meetings, relief washed over me.&nbsp; In fact I did a star-jump in my living room! I instantly felt more stable.

Whilst a virtual meeting was a new concept to me, I began to see the unique benefits on offer. It did not matter where I was or the time of day, there was always a meeting I could attend somewhere in the world!

Connecting with fellow addicts gives me the tools I need to deal with triggers and thoughts of using meth.&nbsp; I receive a message of strength and hope whenever I go to a meeting and I soon realised that online meetings offer me the exact same benefits as face-to-face.

If you are a newcomer reading this story and concerned about doing an online meeting, trust me when I say this: we are all on this journey together and you are not alone!

Online meetings saved my recovery and I hope to continue ‘zooming in’ even after physical meetings resume. The online rooms are a great way to start a life free from crystal meth.

I am forever grateful for my recovery and the family I have found in CMA – Antonio.