Getting on in life, one tends to ponder and reflect on crazy times and try to make some not crazy sense of it all. So it goes with my using.

I’m 58 and started serious using at 17. Over the years I’ve had long bouts of messy high intensity using, and long bouts of abstinence, outward achievement, and stability in life.

I avoided HIV infection by a whisker (I was a client of the first NSP in 1986), miraculously cleared Hep C without treatment, only ever did 4 days in the cells, did 9 rehands, countless other interventions and all kinds of weird and wonderful things.

My using ran the gamut from the high life (well, a little bit) to the gutter and sleeping on cardboard. It was the best and worst of times, and for the most part, I’m pretty much at peace with it all these days. I’ve been abstinent again now for 7 years and intend to remain so. I’ve never been a social user at any point and it’s nonsense to think it possible.

There are still a few struggles though, from the accumulation of the years and the aging process.

Grief and loss – the lost years and missed opportunities are many, as are the deaths and disappearances. It all comes and goes, and I need to pay attention and monitor it closely.

The legacy of trauma, the things that happened, that i witnessed, that i heard about, that i did. Manifests in strange ways but is very real and present much of the time.

As in the internalised stigma and shame of my history and behaviours, the judgements of others, the sense of being an outsider and a freak, the exclusion and isolation.

So, it’s still a bit of a load to carry around and takes awareness and work to keep in check.

Also, I’ve been bizarrely fortunate to come through with very good physical health, considering the OD’s, violence, lack of self-care, diet, and exercise and all the rest.

I can look back on the great times, the excitement and thrills, the sense of purpose, the incredible people I met, the wild things I did, and appreciate it all.

Gratitude, hope and optimism are qualities I work very hard to nurture and I’m also very mindful relapse is always just out of sight, over a hill somewhere, but all is well.

I am who I am and did what I did. And I’m glad it’s in the past.