TWO YEARS CLEAN: Former ice addict revisits dark past
PATRICK Smith still carries the marks from his years of drug abuse on his arm.
However, it's not needle scars from his time injecting ice but a simple two-word tattoo that has become his mantra after becoming clean and sober: "never again".
It has been two years and seven months since Patrick gave up dealing in, and taking, drugs.
"I'm never again going to let a drug control my life," he said.
"I used to be a bad gambler, so I got 'Poverty is a Choice' tattooed when I quit gambling and I'd never quit anything before I quit gambling. Everything I did I got addicted to, no matter what it was, but I managed to break the pokies so I thought if I could do that I could do something else, and that gave me encouragement to give up drugs.
"Before that I had given up on ever getting clean and getting off drugs. I just assumed I would be on them for the rest of my life until I burned out and died. At the end of the day I hit a brick wall, and you've got to hit rock bottom before you can get back up."
For Patrick, rock bottom was when he planned to commit suicide from an overdose, but the thought of his mother finding his body was enough to change his mind. It was that, as well as the escalating violence in his life, which included being threatened with a shotgun, that drove him to quit.
Since then, Patrick pledged to give up his ice addiction, which at its worst saw him inject up to a gram a day and not sleep for days on end.
After six months kicking his habit in the Clarence Valley, Patrick moved north to Townsville almost two years ago to distance himself from his drug-dependent past.
Despite some initial hurdles, Patrick said he is the best he has been in years.
"I thought it'd be easier to leave town because there wouldn't be any drugs, but the minute I got to Townsville, first person I met offered me ice, and I've been offered ice about 10 times while I've been up there," he said.
"Changing towns I thought would make everything easier, but it didn't. It doesn't matter where you go in Australia, ice is everywhere. You can't get away from it, it's prolific.
"I just don't want anything to do with it any more. I'm clean, and I'm not going to f--- it up again. I'm the heaviest I've ever been, I'm in good shape and I'm healthy, I've got a good job, earning the best money I've ever earned so I'm pretty happy with that.
"After a year clean I thought I was doing well, and after two years I know that I'm doing really well. I wasn't doing as well as I thought after one year now that I'm at my second year. I'm 45 now, and I never thought that I'd be where I am today, and have what I've got now. I never thought I'd be working again, but it's been great to have a job.
"I've got a nice car, a new wardrobe, new teeth, so I'm happy."
Patrick is back in Grafton for the first time in two years, and said he had some doubts about returning.
"My mum is the reason I'm back," he said.
"Since I've been here I haven't been outgoing, I've just been at home but I've only come here to see mum.
"I've got family here but I don't really want to rub them the wrong way while I'm here, but this is bigger than them, ice isn't something that will go away overnight."
Patrick said he hopes he can be an example of what is possible after giving up drugs.
"I want people to know it is possible to get clean, and be happy," he said.
"I was so involved in ice that I had no idea there were other people out there that aren't users. It's a whole new world I'm in now, and that's exciting for me."
Among the people Patrick wanted to thank was Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan, who helped Patrick through kicking his addiction.
"Kevin did a lot for me and really helped keep my spirits up," he said.
"I don't think I could have done it without him."
Patrick runs a Facebook page, Patrick Smith Fighting Ice, that documents his journey.