'Ice got hold of me'

Daniel Lonesborough couldn't function without ice. The drug took over his life, ended his relationship and he lost the trust of his family. He tells journalist Andrew Pearson and photographer Sylvia Liber how he dragged himself out of his darkest days.

"I needed it and I had to have it everyday ... I had to have it to function ... I couldn’t go outside, I couldn’t do anything."

Daniel Lonesborough’s addiction started with party drugs. He was 18; ecstasy and speed were all the rage.

Then, a few years later, he tried ice and life as he knew it changed dramatically.

“It very quickly got hold of me, probably about three or four years ago, and that was sort of the end of me,” the 29-year-old from Nowra said.

Daniel smoked the drug and, at first, didn’t like to do it in front of other people.

He thought it “looked disgusting”, but soon discovered many others out there were doing the same and he no longer had to hide.

Little did he know his life was about to spiral out of control.

The addictive nature of the drug would soon press pause on normality and stop his ability to function.

Daniel with his dog Marco.

Daniel had plenty going for him – he was married, had kids and was employed as an officer at the South Coast Correctional Centre.

He stopped going to work and started “getting caught up with the wrong people”.

“I just had no worries in the world, I couldn’t really care; the drug was more important,” he said.

“It came to a stage where I needed it and I had to have it like everyday. I felt that I had to have it to function. If I didn’t have it I couldn’t go outside, I couldn’t do anything … so that’s where it sort of just took control.”

Piece by piece, Daniel’s world continued to fall apart.

He lost the trust of his parents and other family members; his relationship also ended.

When he reached his lowest point, Daniel sought help from an Aboriginal medical service in Nowra.

What followed was one-on-one counselling, three months in one rehabilitation centre and two months in another. Daniel’s wife Jessie Wood, herself a former drug addict who has done jail time, joined him for the second stint in rehab.

Despite pieces of their life being put back together, they are still dealing with the consequences of drug addiction.

Three of the couple’s four children remain in Department of Family and Community Services’ care.

Only 12-year-old Braxton currently lives with them.

“It’s been a long journey and it’s going to keep going until the day we die but … I can’t wish for anything more than to have the kids in my life,” Jessie said.

Daniel will soon mark one year of being “clean”.

Jessie isn’t far behind.

Their message to others fighting addiction is get help.

“Everyone makes mistakes but there’s a better life out there,” Daniel said.

“You don’t realise how much it impacts on your loved ones; you don’t see it when you’re in addiction, it’s when you have a little bit of clean time ... you realise all the hurt and pain you put [them] through.”

Daniel Lonesborough and his wife Jessie Wood, both former drug addicts, with their son Braxton, 12, and dog Marco.

Picture: Sylvia Liber

PAINTING HIS PATH THROUGH ADDICTION

This Aboriginal artwork represents a journey through drug addiction.

The painting, featured during the launch of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District’s new stimulant treatment program last week – tells the story of Daniel Lonesborough’s battle.

The artwork, which features tracks and footprints, shares an insight into some of Daniel’s darkest days; days in the grip of ice.

“You start off with your family and your support and along the journey you start to drift off, you start to lose people and ... eventually you lose everything,” Daniel said.

Picking up a paintbrush takes the 29-year-old to “another place” and reminds him of his roots.

“If it wasn’t for my culture, getting back into my artwork, I wouldn't be here today,” he said.

For help: call the Illawarra Shoalhaven Drug and Alcohol Helpline: 1300 652 226.