MADDY is 14, Charlie is 40 but both have been to hell and back in Moree. Their stories of drug addiction and redemption offer an insight into an underworld which would shock many – and yet be shockingly familiar to many more.
Both are clean now and have shared their stories with JOSEPH HINCHLIFFE to try and help others break the desperate cycle of drugs.
In part one we feature Maddy, who became a user aged 12 and descended into a world of suicide, sexual abuse, child exploitation and violence…
Coming of age in the age of ice...
At 14, Maddy’s been off drugs for one year but is too scared to go back to school – for fear she might relapse.
“That’s where it starts,” Maddy says. “There are too many drugs in school; I can’t handle going back and seeing it… I’m better off at home with Mum.”
Maddy is studying via distance education even though she lives in the heart of Moree.
When she was high, Maddy was physically violent toward both her teachers and her mother.
Now she credits her mother with helping her beat her addiction and with getting her life back.
“The only reason I let her smoke cigarettes is for her cravings,” Maddy’s mother says. Maddy says she still gets cravings for hard drugs, only now she knows how to control them.
“You’ve got to figure out what helps,” Maddy says. “For me it’s chocolate, chips and drives. “I lock myself in my room or Mum takes me for a long drive with the music cranked right up.”
While soft drinks and snack food is not exactly the cornerstone of a healthy diet, these vices pale in comparison with the substances Maddy took before she was even a teenager.
“The main one I used to do was coke,” she says. “Then there was weed, LSD, ecstasy… I smoked a bit of ice, took a bit of heroin, methadone, everything.
“People think you can’t get much heroin in this town anymore,” she laughs. “I could pretty much get whatever I want without paying for it.”
“Young girls often can,” her mother says. “They’re an easier lay that way.”
Maddy agrees, saying sexual predators and paedophiles are giving drugs to young children to take advantage of them.
She claims to know children as young as six who are taking drugs.
And it’s not just men who are taking advantage of vulnerable young women and children. Maddy says her addiction began with the most shocking of betrayals.
“I was staying at a friend’s place and they asked me if I wanted to eat dinner,” she says. “They put ‘oxy cotton’ in the mash potatoes.”
Maddy was 12-years-old.
A prescription, morphine-based painkiller, oxycodone is known as ‘hillbilly heroin’. Its illicit use has soared across the country over the last decade.
“After dinner I started feeling a bit, meh,” she says. “Then I pretty much ended up living there. Pretty soon I got addicted, they were putting needles in my arm and I didn’t know what was in ‘em.”
“She just knew she enjoyed it,” her mother says. Maddy agrees.
Maddy’s mother says the reason her daughter was introduced to drugs was to use her as a prostitute.
It is a practice she claims is common in Moree – and it is taking a terrible toll on its young victims.
“I lost nine friends in less than three months to drug-related suicides,” Maddy says. “It ruined me.”
Maddy said she was high seven days a week. When she wasn’t, she didn’t feel normal.
But it took time for her mother – a former nurse who has worked in the prison system – to realise.
“My other daughter went to high school a sweet, little, beautiful girl and within four weeks I didn’t know who she was,” she says. “So with Maddy I just thought, ‘f**ing adolescence again… I didn’t see it, she was too close.”
Eventually she did work it out and sent Maddy away from Moree to stay with family.
Maddy saw a psychologist, but most importantly she was out of Moree’s drug scene.
Her former ‘friends’ turned on Maddy and her mother when she left town and both claim to have received death threats and intimidating visits.
They talk about the methods of DIY self-protection, from thick bunches of keys on a chain to copper-tipped garden houses and throwing cigarette ash in the eyes of an assailant.
Maddy’s mother would like to own a gun.
“I had to leave my job as a nurse and now I only work a few hours a day to keep an eye on her,” she said. “It does affect everything I do.”
Maddy credits her mother’s sacrifices with her success in getting clean.
“I couldn’t imagine a better mum,” she says. “She’s my world; she was always there for me. Now she’s my best friend. I lost my Dad in 2010 and she is everything to me.”
Her mother was given six months to live in 1999 after being diagnosed with lymphoma.
“I’m clean and I’m happy again,” Maddy says. “Life is better now. Now, I want to help others beat their addictions.”