Aimee Maclean battled meth addiction and homeless for years. She’s now helping others
ABC Far North
By Amanda Cranston
Laying in a hospital bed, bruises covering her body and wearing a dress that is her only possession, Aimee Maclean confronts a life-or-death decision.
WARNING: Readers are advised that content in this story may be confronting.
Return to an abusive relationship and a drug-fuelled life — or leave.
For the self-confessed meth addict — who sold her body to feed the habit — ending up in a Perth hospital with concussion and swelling on the brain was the final straw that motivated Aimee to ask for help.
“I was at the lowest point in my life,” she said.
“I was homeless, I had zero money; I didn’t even have shoes and I was laying in a hospital bed with nobody.
“I’d pushed everyone away that loved me.”
According to federal government statistics, Aimee is among the one in 20 Australians with a drug or substance abuse problem.
Despite family relationships deteriorating over her addiction and behaviour, Aimee headed straight for her mum’s doorstep in Perth after leaving hospital.
“I took one look at her, and we both just sobbed and sobbed,” Aimee’s mum Jenni Maclean said.
“I told her he [her then partner] would kill her next time if she went back and she said she knew.”
Jenni, who didn’t know Aimee was in hospital, said she was heartbroken that she was alone but understood why her daughter didn’t call.
After Aimee’s last visit, Jenni said she was left with no other option but to exercise “tough love”.
Aimee would randomly turn up at her mother’s home covered in bruises, “completely and utterly off her brain” on drugs, staying a few weeks before disappearing again, Jenni recalled.
Money also started disappearing from Jenni’s credit cards.
“I kept allowing her back because I’m her mum, but then realised I was just enabling her,” Jenni said.
“I had to be tough, but as a parent you feel so much guilt.”
Jenni says she still struggles with the guilt, blames herself and wonders what she might have done wrong — or differently.
“I now realise it’s a person’s personality that draws them to drugs, people with an addictive personality.
“I hope by sharing our story, it can help one person or one family who is going through this.”
‘Getting my fix’
Dealing with the emotional turmoil of her parents’ divorce at the age of 10, Aimee’s feelings of rejection turned to rebellion, and she started to argue more with her mum.
At 14, she started drinking alcohol, taking drugs and ran away from home.
“I was hanging out with the cool guys and smoking pot, then very quickly went down a really dark path snorting speed and injecting drugs when I was about 15 or 16,” she said.
She moved interstate and worked as a topless waitress at just 16, but three years later returned to Perth to be closer to her mum and grandmother.
When her grandmother died, Aimee was devastated and turned to drugs to numb the pain.
“After the funeral I went clubbing to let off steam and that’s really when my journey with methamphetamines began,” she said.
But it wasn’t until Aimee was in her late 20s that the “meth addiction” started to consume her.
At the time, life was good.
Aimee was in a good relationship, with a job, a home and a dog.
But once the insidious methamphetamine addiction took hold, she lost it all.
“Methamphetamines is not something to mess around with; it took everything from me,” Aimee said.
“I went into sex work because I had dipped into my superannuation and had no money left, but I needed to pay for my habit.
“I would sell my body, sell pictures of myself naked and I would steal, just to get by.
“All I cared about was getting my fix of meth and I lost who I was as a person.”
Aimee says at the time, she just wasn’t able to escape the destructive cycle.
Her family tried multiple times to help, even paying for a flight to Queensland where the rest of her family lived.
But she never got on the flight — until January last year when she left the Perth hospital, buoyed with the courage and determination to seek a new life.
She spent three months detoxing with her family near Townsville in north Queensland.
“I went cold turkey because my nervous system was fried and I had to let it calm down,” Aimee said.
“I stopped smoking weed and injecting meth all at once and it was hard.”
Helping other vulnerable people in need
After finding her feet, Aimee moved further north to Cairns where she is pursuing tertiary study in social work, sharing her story with youths and community groups while volunteering with a charity that feeds the homeless.
“I know what it’s like to have nothing because I’ve been there,” she said.
“There’s no shame in being homeless, being in a domestic violence situation or suffering drug addiction.
“Hopefully I can show them that if I can turn my life around, they can too.”
Eunice Winship, the Cairns branch co-ordinator for Rosies – Friends on the Streets, said she was shocked to learn what Aimee had been through from “such a young age”.
“And to do a 360 and turn your life around is incredible and then to volunteer to help others is inspiring,” she said.
“Her experiences certainly help her connect with the patrons at Rosies, as she really does understand what they are going through.”
Aimee said attending weekly support meetings to confront the addiction had been vital to staying on track.
“It’s important for me to go every week because it’s not easy and you have to constantly work at it,” Aimee said.
With her 12-week-old puppy Luna by her feet and a hot cup of herbal tea in her favourite mug, Aimee reflects on how far she’s come since hitting rock bottom 18 months ago.
“Luna is the love of my life and brings me so much joy,” Aimee said.
“Finally, my heart is open and I’m happy.”
If you need help:
National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline: 1800 250 015 — 24/7 info, counselling and referrals (webchat available Mon-Fri 8:30am-5pm)
Family Drug Support: 1300 368 186 — 24/7 support for families, friends and carers of people with problematic alcohol and drug use
Al-Anon: 1300 252 666 — counselling and support groups for friends and family of alcoholics
Path2Help: an online tool that assesses the problem and connects you to nearby support services