Take yourself back to September 1987. Australia’s population was only 16 million (now 24), Bob Hawke was Prime Minister, The Year My Voice Broke was one of Australia’s greatest box office successes, Manly-Warringah were crowned champions in the rugby league and my brother began using heroin for the first time. In our shared bedroom.
We lived in a modest three bedroom brick house in Belmore, Sydney. We never really had much. You know, just the basics but somehow, I was always happy. Sure, some bad stuff was happening during this period with priests molesting me at school and my father almost dying from a cerebral brain hemorrhage (he abused and cheated on my mother so my cynical side would not have been bothered by his passing) and I witnessed my elder brother of 7 years inject heroin for the first time.
It’s had a lasting impact not just because of that initial insight into how one injects drugs, but the knock on effect over the following years as his life disintegrated into many fragmented pieces. We last spoke in 2006. I was in Melbourne for travel agent training and he had heard about this off my mum. Unfortunately, she gave him my number under the guise that he wanted to catch up. It had been 5 years since I had last seen him. Sadly though, his invite to meet up for a beer soon turned into him asking me to lend him $500 to keep up with rent and bills. Once a junkie as they say.
Being ever the optimist, I used his drug addiction over the years to motivated myself to keep healthy and active. He’s the reason why I don’t drink a lot, take drugs or live the life of a couch potatoe. Ok, I tell a small fib. I smoked pot twice (who hasn’t) and might have snorted a few lines of snow white out of curiosity but aside from those ever so brief interludes, I’ve remained clean.
I’m 40 years young now. My brother is 47. I’m not even sure if he is still alive but I do have him to thank for my love of some good music. Billy Bragg, The Smiths, The Beatles and The Jam and yes, without him, I may not have read the likes of Oscar Wilde, Jack Kerouac or Henry Miller so it wasn’t all a loss. But back in September 1987, and despite all the bad things that were happening around me, it helped me realise at a young age to never trust junkies, never trust priests and most of all, never hit or abuse woman. Love your mum, treat people with respect and if you want an addiction, better make damn sure it’s a clean and healthy one.