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My Story: journey of recovery

Danny with his daughter, Amalia and her mum, Amber

My Story: journey of recovery

After decades of drug addiction, horrific near-death experiences and frustration, Danny Shannon decided enough was enough. Now, he works at the treatment centre that saved his life and helps others in need.

My Story: journey of recovery

I don’t think I was born into heroin addiction. In fact, I feel like I grew up in a pretty loving family. My mother is awesome, absolutely loving in every respect.

My father, on the other hand, was not exactly the best role model a kid could have, although he was always kind and supportive to the best of his ability. I called him by his first name, Tony. He asked me to do this when I was a small child, which was a bit strange.

By the age of about 14, I started smoking pot. By 16, I’d used most other substances, but it wasn’t until then that I smoked heroin for the first time. I remember being scared at the time and thinking it was a really bad idea. That was the beginning of the end.

I was addicted within a week. I rarely ever missed another day of heroin for the next 17 years, besides when I was in custody and just unable to get my fix. When I discovered the friend that I smoked heroin with had started shooting up, I remember all of sudden going from someone who was never going to use a needle in my life to “I can’t believe you used a needle without me”.

Shooting up was the best feeling I’d ever had in my life before and I can still remember it today.

Chasing a feeling

Some people say that they always felt like addicts, they always had the obsession and compulsion with things. I don’t exactly relate to that. For me, I just loved the feeling of that first hit. I chased that feeling for the next 17 years. I did a lot of crime in the community and between the ages of 18 and 28, I spent over six years in prison.

Danny at the peak of his addiction with son Joshua and Joshua’s mum, Michelle

By 21, I realised that I was going in and out of prison and that I would hang out for heroin every time. I decided to get on methadone because I could see a lot of prison in my future. After a while, being on methadone stopped me using heroin, it just didn’t work anymore, so I started using methamphetamines to get a buzz. I stayed on methadone for the next 13 years.

I suffered many overdoses during my time in addiction. I’ve had broken, black-and-blue ribs as a result of people doing CPR on me. I’ve even had to resuscitate other people myself. There’s a lot of death in the world of recovery and addiction. It’s a war zone.

I have been involved in quite a few horrific near-death experiences myself, due to the need for getting and using drugs. One of those included a motorcycle accident that left me with head and brain injuries, a fractured femur and in a coma for a few days.

I have taken a fall out of the third-story window of a drug rehabilitation centre and even escaped from prison back in 2001 – an event that attracted the marine unit, water police, PolAir and a big ground chase, too. I managed to get away but was arrested on the other side of the country in Perth with my pregnant girlfriend.

Turning point

In 2009, I spent three months in Glebe House, a halfway house in New South Wales. While there, I had a moment when I wanted to throw it all away and just get stoned. It was too hard, but for the first time in my life, I made a decision to get on the bus and go back to rehab instead of going to Kings Cross.

It was a very significant point in my life, a real turning point. After that day, things changed for the better and I have never really come close to using drugs again.

Danny today with 19-year-old son Joshua

The obsession and compulsion to use drugs had been lifted, but not because of some miracle. It was because, for the first time in my life, I decided that I had to do things differently. This was the point in my life that I decided that I am going to throw myself into the middle of recovery and do every single thing that was suggested. This was the moment I began taking responsibility for my actions and worked my hardest to change my life.

The early days of recovery were hard. I had anxiety and hated the uncomfortable feeling of sitting with myself. What got me through that was joining a 12-step fellowship, connecting with my sponsor and others daily, writing on the 12 steps, doing gratitude lists and praying.

I found myself being of service to others, reaching out and offering my help to those who needed it and practised on a daily basis to be kind and brave.

The job that saved me

Three years later, I landed the job of a lifetime. I started working at Glebe House. After obtaining a qualification in Community Services, I was incredibly blessed to be given the opportunity to begin part-time work at the service that saved my life.

In no time, I’d landed a full-time job and today, I am still loving that job more than ever.

After five years being clean, I sat in the office behind my desk. I reminisced about how I was sitting on the opposite side of this exact table, as a client, five years earlier. I felt a mix of emotions – emotions that I had tried to mask for years with many different substances, vices and behaviours.

During this reflection, it struck me that I don’t have anything to connect with what I was like back then when I entered treatment. I thought to myself, ‘What was I thinking? How was I feeling? Who was I?’

The digital time capsule tool Danny created to help those in recovery

I felt a sense of sadness and grief as I wished I had done something to track, document and reflect on my progress. So recently, I’ve started a service called Encapsulator, which gives people in early recovery an opportunity to capture who they are, through a digital time capsule, so they can look back in years to come and see their growth.

It’s a tool to capture their hopes, dreams and future aspirations in a secure video recording to be delivered at a predetermined date in the future. The ability to express yourself without fear of judgement in a confidential space is so valuable.

I wish I’d had something like this when I was recovering. It would have been incredible to see myself transform from a lost and broken individual, to the happy, healthy, grateful man and father I am today.

I wake up every day and am so thankful. They now call me the gratitude maker. I am truly blessed.

If you’d like confidential advice and support to get help for yourself or someone else, contact:

New Zealand: Alcohol Drug Helpline on 0800787 797, or text 868. Youth Alcohol & Drug Helpline provides support for young people on 0800 787 984, or text 8681.

Australia: National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline 1800 250 015. For families or friends impacted by someone’s drug use, contact Family Drug Support 24/7 Support Line on 1300 368 186. For young people impacted by druge issues, contact Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.

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