My drug addiction was cured by a coma

Carissa was on death's door but got a second chance at life.

One puff on a joint sent Carissa’s life spiralling out of control.

Here, Carissa, 34, tells the story in her own words.

Do you want a puff on this?’ someone asked as music blared around me.

At just 14 years old, I was at an older friend’s party. Young and innocent, I’d never even seen drugs before, instead preferring to run along the beach or do arts and crafts.

But wanting to fit in, I decided to give it a try. I instantly loved the feeling it gave me. From that day on, I smoked marijuana regularly and started drinking too. Living half the time with my mum Melinda and the other half with my dad Andrew, I’d lie to each of them about where I was and go off partying.

When I was 15, I was offered amphetamine, commonly known as speed, at a friend’s house. ‘You can have it for free. You’ll love it,’ an older boy grinned. Already drunk, I happily accepted. Feeling the most intense high, I started giggling and couldn’t stop talking. Soon, I forgot how to be happy naturally.

Despite my growing habit, I was still able to function in everyday life and hide my habit from my parents. Always a straight-A student, I even managed to finish my final year of school with good grades.

Carissa and mum
Me and Mum (Credit: Supplied)

After studying graphic design I landed a job and also had a couple of short-term relationships. But the loves of my life continued to be illicit drugs and booze.

As I now lived with friends in a rental property, my parents and old friends had no idea about my secret life. Mum often tried to catch up, but I’d make excuses. ‘I’m just so busy with work,’ I’d tell her. When we did meet up, she worried about me. ‘You look so thin and pale,’ she said. ‘I’m just so busy with work and I forget to eat,’ I lied. But the truth was, my job was sliding, too. I’d even started taking ice in the toilets at work.

No-one will notice, I told myself, coming out of the bathrooms as high as a kite. Then I took two weeks off without telling my boss. ‘We will have to let you go,’ he told me over the phone. But all I cared about was getting my next high.

Things got so bad that one day I woke up and realised I was in hospital. Mum was by my bedside. ‘Everything’s going to be okay,’ she assured me. But I could see the worry in her eyes. Finally, my secret was out. Mum knew I’d overdosed.

Doctors revealed I’d been admitted after going into a drug psychosis and near kidney failure. Although ashamed, in a way it was a relief. I no longer had to hide my double life. ‘I’m sorry Mum, I want to get better,’ I said teary-eyed. ‘I’ll help in any way I can,’ she promised.

Spending the next three weeks in a detox facility, I was clean for the first time in years. Detoxing was hard, though. I went through stages of anxiety, anger and cold sweats. You can do this, I told myself, determined.

Once discharged, I moved in with Mum who became my number one support. Then one day, without telling her, I disappeared and bought some drugs. Although I knew it was wrong, the compulsion was just too strong.

Really low one day, I binged on a cocktail of marijuana, ice, cocaine, prescription medications and wine. I just couldn’t stop. Suddenly, I was struggling for breath and suffering strong, sharp chest pains. I faintly recall calling Triple-0. Next thing I remember is waking up in hospital again. This time, I had a breathing tube and couldn’t move or talk. ‘You’ve been in a coma for 10 days,’ Mum revealed.

Tears streamed down my cheeks as she told me my lung had collapsed and my heart almost failed. 

carissa in hospital
I had a collapsed lung and my heart almost failed

My family and friends had kept a bedside vigil, even being told to say their goodbyes. I felt terrible for putting them through that.

For days, I couldn’t move or talk, only communicating through nodding or shaking my head. The coma meant my body had detoxed while I was under, so I was once again free of illicit drugs. I need to make the most of this chance, I thought, knowing it was probably my last.

Over the next three weeks, I learnt to talk, walk and eat again. For motivation, I thought of the carefree girl I used to be. I wanted to be that person again.

After being discharged, I moved back in with Mum again. I started counselling, took up meditation and went to church. Rediscovering my passion for art, I started painting. I also adopted a cat, Mr Meowgi, and a dog, Tiger, who’ve brought happiness and given me a purpose.

carissa and her dog
Being responsible for Tiger has helped me recover (Credit: Supplied)

Now, nearly a year on and still clean, I have a whole new lease on life. I’m sharing my story to show others that it’s never too late to change. Grateful for being given a second chance, I’m determined to make the most of it.

Me now - free from drugs
Me now – free from drugs (Credit: Supplied)

Read more in this week’s issue of that’s life!

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