A former drug addict of 37 years hopes by telling her story others might seek help and try the program she credits for saving her life.
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Robyn Lewis (52) was “that desperate” to get clean and sober she was always at her GP asking what he could do to get her help.
“One day he told me about a new program that had started up in Newcastle and asked if I wanted to try it,” Robyn said.
“I did, and I started travelling to SMART Recovery Australia meetings in Newcastle once a week.
“I was in a group with prostitutes and heroin addicts - women and men who have lost their children, their houses, their jobs, everything, they’d lost everything.”
Robyn not only kicked a 15 year ice habit, she also overcame addictions to marijuana, antidepressants, alcohol, cigarettes and gambling.
She said the SMART program is different to anything else she has tried.
“I’ve been to detox and rehab, drug and alcohol counselling, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, psychiatrists and psychologists – I tried everything over all those years,” she said.
“It’s a really unique concept, it’s going to be the way of the future.
“It’s a group based program and I think it works so well because you are with people who are in the same situation as you and you are not being judged.”
SMART stands for Self Management And Recovery Training.
Participants attend weekly 90-minute meetings focusing on their addictive behaviours rather than the substance itself.
With the group’s input, participants identify goals and set their own achievable plan for the next seven days.
They concentrate on the present and future, not the past.
“You have a facilitator, but you are only guided by them,” Robyn said.
Robyn has completed the training and is now a SMART facilitator herself.
She runs a SMART Recovery Program in her home town of West Wyalong.
“When I was trying to get clean and sober and I was going to different counsellors, there was nothing worse than someone trying to tell me what was going on and how I had to deal with it when they have had no experience,” she said.
“Most of the Smart facilitators have lived experience, you’re talking to someone who really does understand.
“How would someone know what it is like to be on ice for five days and not eat, drink or sleep unless they have first hand experience?
“I think that’s why SMART is so successful.”
Robyn started using marijuana when she was just 15 years old.
By 17 she had progressed to amphetamines (speed).
“I was a victim of domestic violence both as a child and an adult,” she said.
“I became an alcoholic and a bad gambler over the years and ended up addicted to antidepressants which saw me put on 30kg in weight.”
Robyn believes antidepressant medication is handed out too readily.
“I had to go to the psych ward twice to get off them,” she said.
“I wanted to kill myself and everything.”
Robyn said exercise has been a huge part of her recovery.
“I got off prescription medication and started using exercise as a form of antidepressant - to get the natural feel-good endorphins,” she said.
“I just love it, I train every day and I’m back down to my normal weight.”
Robyn believes the over-prescribing of antidepressants is an epidemic
“I am really passionate about getting the word out there to people,” she said.
“Don’t take antidepressants, go for a walk, it costs you nothing and it really does make you feel good.”
Now, almost two years clean and sober, Robyn doesn’t take the fact she is an addict for granted.
“If I started again now, I’d probably never stop,” she said.
“Not long ago I was put in situation where I it would have been really easy for me to use.
“I got up and walked out, I was really proud of myself.
“I just know that one is too many, and a thousand is never enough.”
Robyn said she doesn’t want to live like that again.
“Ice ruled my life for too long,” she said.
“It strips you of everything - it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when - your self worth, your self esteem, your ability to work, your ability to have normal relationships with people.
“It just changes people, it really does.”
There is a SMART Program running in Forbes and Robyn would love to see one start up in Parkes.
“Parkes and Forbes are rampant with drugs like ice and heroin,” she said.
“You have a very real problem.”
Her advice to anyone with an addiction is to stay connected to family and friends.
“Own what you do, be honest that you have a problem,” she said
“You are never going to deal with it if you are not honest and own up to it.
“Stay connected, that’s the main thing.”
For further details, email Robyn at email@example.com
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