We came out on the ten pound scheme from England in the 60’s, when I was 3. My mum was a teacher at Elizabeth Girls High School in Adelaide and she said, ‘We’re moving out of Elizabeth, because I don’t want any of you guys using drugs.’ And look what happened. How ironic.
I started with alcohol innocently, like smuggling cans of UDL vodka into the social, that kind of stuff, and smoking quite a bit of pot. Then I left school at 16 and did an apprenticeship, and in that time my drinking and my drug taking accelerated into taking magic mushrooms, and a bit of speed.
Later, I got into the Adelaide band scene, which put me in touch with people that were doing far more drugs. I struck up a relationship with a young lady who was living with a fairly big heroin dealer and it wasn’t too long before I started smoking it and thinking, ‘What’s all the fuss about? It’s not addictive.’ So I smoked a bit more, and before I knew it, I started injecting it because it was cheaper. That’s when I realized what addiction was all about – I started stealing to keep my habit going, I was doing break and enters, I was up to all kinds of stuff.
I had some pretty rough times with heroin over the years. I couldn’t kick it, so in 1990, I left Adelaide for England, to fly away from my addiction, and leave all my problems behind me. But would you believe it, I got off the train at King Cross station and there were these two Italian dealers staring at me, going ‘Do you want to score?’ I thought, ‘How could this possibly be, I’ve just flown 12,000 freaking miles to get away from this!’
The sad part about it is I used crack on that particular day and that introduced me to a whole different ball game because cocaine in England is like breathing air here in Adelaide, it’s just everywhere.
I was fully functional as an addict amongst all this; I become a copier salesman for Canon and a high achiever and when I flew to London, I was given a BMW company car and a mobile phone. In my first year, I made £72 000. But of course I spent it all on drugs.
I came home for a while, back to Australia to get on top of my crack addiction, but I wasn’t successful, and 6 months later I went back to England, and I started working in a pub. Eventually, the son of the owner found out I was stealing from the till, and he beat the crap out of me. That’s when I thought, ‘I‘ve got to stop this and get out of London because if I don’t, I’m going to die.’
First, I holed up in a disgusting homeless shelter in Willesden, while I recovered from my injuries. Then, I left London and started working in this bar in a lovely part of Surrey, with really well-heeled, nice people and I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do this, this is easy.’ That’s where I met my wife. After that, I turned to alcohol and because it’s socially acceptable, you don’t have this concept of it being a real problem. But of course you’re going to abuse it exactly the same way as you do with anything else, because underneath it all, you’re medicating pain.
Initially, it wasn’t out of hand, but as time progressed it got worse. My wife fell pregnant, and had our daughter, and my drinking really got in the way of my relationship with them. By 2000, not only was I abusing other drugs again, but I was drinking about a litre and a half of Jack Daniels a day. And my wife had left and never came back.
Finally, I started knocking on the doors of rehabs because I knew that alcohol was the drug that had finally brought me to my knees. But at four weeks into a twelve week program, I’d say, ‘Look guys, I’m leaving. Why don’t you give the bed to someone who really needs it?’ And I would walk out of there, so cock-sure of myself, and just fall flat on my face again every time, because nothing had changed. That happened six times – I’m a bit of a slow learner! Finally, I stayed on and did the work and got out and stayed in the rooms of Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous until I was clean and sober.
Four years ago, I started a business in Adelaide called Visible Recovery, working with addicts in recovery. Right from the ground up, all my staff are in long term recovery themselves, so we’re all walking, talking examples of what can happen, which really helps our clients. And now I’m surrounded by people in recovery who do amazing things in their lives. They’re just some of the strongest, most compassionate, loving people that I have ever come across!
For me, the help was always there, but it wasn’t until I was ready to surrender that I was able to hear it. It has to be that point for any addict I believe, being in enough pain to want to change.
I think change is like that for anybody, even if you’re driving to work and you keep hitting roadworks on a particular street, it takes a few times before you start going, ‘I can’t do this anymore, I’ve got to find another way.’
Photograph: Chelsea Nicholls https://www.instagram.com/highglossandfairyfloss
Please help support New Humans of Australia by buying our gorgeous, inspiring book. The perfect Christmas present!
What a story! Firstly, I have not been through anything like this Simon so I cannot comment on your life story so far. I can say, Congratulations for coming out the other end and doing something fabulous! It cannot be easy and I do understand you will always be recovering. Great stuff ❤️
Great story! I am currently 133 days sober, very early days l know. But your story has given me hope. Thank you ????
I heard your interview on Community Radio PBAFM.89.7 On The Kitchen Table..& was totally fascinated by your brutal honesty about the things you had done…And what you have and still are doing to this day…!
We desperately need people like you Simon to help people break their addictions . Big thanks from me xx
What a story Simon! Thanks so much for sharing. You should b proud of who you are now and your amazing business helping others “Visible Recovery”.
What a long tough road. Thanks for sharing and for your good work in the community. Wishing you all the very best with your life in the future.
My Dad was a progressively violent alcoholic, who didn’t face his demons until Mum (finally, after 40 years of torment) took out a court order to prevent him from coming home. He was a funny, handsome, charismatic man when sober, but the devil incarnate when drunk. It took him seven years, but he got help, stayed straight, and then came home again.
Sober, we all saw how he suffered from a personality disorder. He was controlling, had low self-esteem and anxiety.
He has departed this life, but left scars that are barely healed wounds on his family.
Facing the reality of addiction is tough, but coping with the results of having lived with the addicted is bloody awful.
Yes, I loved him.
Incredible story. Best of luck for your present and future to remember that each day matters
When we met on the Sampai Jumpa in 2008 it was somehow obvious you’d been on quite some journey in your life, but I couldn’t tell what exactly. Back then, you really helped me and others get through the dive liveaboard from hell for which I’ll always be grateful. Reflecting on it now, it’s all the more remarkable given the story I just read. I salute your courage to tell your story and hope it will help others find their way through too. Best wishes to you mate.
Great life story. Even greater man i wouldnt be where i am today without the help i got from simon and all the awesome staff at visible recovery
Thanks for telling your story Simon. Best wishes for you on going recovery and for all those you help.
Thank you for sharing your story Simon. I hope your story wakes up more addicts to seek help.
Well done! Thank you for sharing, Good luck with the future and good on you for starting a business that is desperately needed.
Ive done rehab so many times and every time ive learnt something new about recovery i fell hard when dad died i ended up physically and mentally ill 2 weeks in a phsyc unit lost my job so this time i took the good fight on my own and so far im 4/12 months clean its people like simon who inspire you to keep going to keep motivating yourself to reach higher in your goals the best choice i made was to put down the pipe
Addiction – and to some extent mental illness – you really have to want to change and know it’s often a forever journey. Good onya for setting up a service, the lived experience is very powerful in assisting others on a similar path.
Respect for you Simon and proud it takes real courage to do what you have done and come out the other end then help others one of the real nice guys of this world x
I met you through your brothers, and I didn’t really know you, though I knew you. Your addiction was something that your family and us friends hoped would just go away. We shared a house for a short time. We were in a band called Mood Indigo, which fell apart before it hit the ground, largely because you started using again (but likely it wouldn’t have gone anywhere anyway). We all believed you had it in you to conquer the demon, but it had to be your journey and your time. Though we have been estranged for many years, nothing makes me happier than seeing this post. I believed you were a wonderful person then, but now I know you can see it too. You have achieved great things in healing, not only yourself, but assisting in the healing of others too. You are inspiring Simon. Just keep being you xx
Thank you for sharing your story. How I wish my son would read it and the comments… His addiction is slowly destroying the rest of the family …. But he refuses to reach out and accept help before it’s too late.
Simon Bowen you’re such an inspiration to so many people. It was a real pleasure to meet you and hopefully we’ll meet again underwater! ????????????
So are you Katy Bloor. I’d have a whole lot more money if it wasn’t for my diving addiction…..
What an insight to the power of addiction. An inspirational account of the strength and courage needed to take control back. A true inspiration. Mr Bowen. ????????????
Simon Bowen. Love you and your story, still an ugly bugger though.
I know this guy, he is the guy when I was at school bagged me because I would not take drugs, he is the guy that in my twenties laughed at me and called me a wimp because I would not do what he considered was cool. He is the guy that let people down, ruined other people’s lives and was a theif, conman and common crook. Sure what h is doing now is great but h has a lot of paying back to do. Ther are others who are doing what h is doing without the shady background. They are true heros.
Thanks for sharing your story and being so truthful. You’re inspirational and I’m sure you’ll help many many people.
Thank you for your honesty. Addiction is always a “won’t happen to me” story. I think it’s great that you’re using your experience to now help others.
I’m Greg from Brazil, I’ve read you story. At the begging at the story I thought, what a stupid teen and even young adult you were. But at the part that you mentioned that you lose you wife and your daughter, I said to myself, it’s now or never, this dude has to do something and finally you did. The biggest honor of a man is to recognize their mistake, and then work it out to get it right. It might be hard to face an addiction and even more run away from it, and you started earlier, lived with it surrounded you for a very long time. However, you’ve done it, you quit. At the end of your story, I was really happy for you. The business which you started means that you learned with your mistakes, and you’re moving on, better than just moving on you’re helping people to get over theirs problems.
Congratulations, you’re a good man and I’m more than happy to forward you story!