TESTED - CARL'S STORY
I used amphetamines from age 14 and they were my preference, although I used other drugs as well. After steady use for about 20 years, I thought it was time to get my act together and get a proper job as I had a family to support and I wanted to give them a good lifestyle. So I got a job operating machinery for a big mining company.
At the time I got the job, I was still using occasionally, every week or couple of weeks. It wasn't so easy for me to get away from using, even when I'd made the decision I didn't want to use anymore. It seemed like drugs were everywhere. Not only did I have a neighbour who sold ice, there was someone selling on the work site. This meant that every payday I would get a deal. I wasn't working with other people, but I was operating machinery. Machinery and drugs really don't mix, it's really not safe to use and operate machinery. I knew that, but I still used at work, just because it was available and I got into the habit of doing it.
This was around the time that drug testing at work was introduced and eventually I got picked randomly to do a test. There is no way out of a drug test at work - they come in and say "You've been picked to do a random drug test" and you have to go straight away and do it. It was dread, it was horrible, I knew I was going to get caught and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. They say to you "Is there anything you want to declare?" but you don't say anything, you just have to wear it.
The drug tests they use at my work are swabs so they only come up positive over recent use. But they are really sensitive and even things like those hot lemon drinks that you take for colds will put you over. Of course I came up positive to the swab test.
They gave me a week off work after which I had to have a urine test and pass it in order to go back. For some reason, it showed up a false positive for Valium, a drug I never use. I was given another week off. I came back to work on the basis that I was tested on a weekly basis for a few months.
Meanwhile, the guy at work continued to sell. He was a little worried I would put him in but I said no, it was my choice to buy, I had to take responsibility for that. As time went by, it all settled down and I was taken off weekly testing. So I started using again. Then I got tested again and I failed again. I decided to resign before they could make a big deal of it. They were relieved because it didn't go on their safety record as another drug use incident and it also meant it wasn't on my record.
For me, it was a real wake up call. I had lost my job through my drug use. With my job went the self-esteem that working had given me and my pride in supporting my family. About three months later, I got a job for same company but at a different site. I had to have a pre-medical urine test and passed it.
As it happened, this was a better job that paid more, the job I had really wanted all along. Not only that, it got me away from the guy selling at the other location. The new workplace has little drug use, there are a few people who like to use cannabis, and a couple who might do speed at a party but on the whole, there's a great work ethic at the new location, and a commitment to watching each other's backs for health and safety reasons.
I was given a second chance and I have valued that. I've been at the new job for four years. They also have random tests here, but I haven't been tested once. But if I had been, I would have passed each one, I don't even take codeine based pain killers. I'm really surprised I haven't been "randomed" again, especially given my previous personnel record which I figure the company must still have, even though this is a different site. At this site, you are sent for a drug test if you bump a guard rail or have any sort of "near miss" or even if the equipment you are operating has a break down. Even old men are sent and people whom you can't imagine taking drugs in a million years. I have a good safety record, so I haven't been sent for a drug test on those grounds.
I work a lot of hours and do a lot of double shifts. Last week I did four 14 hour shifts. But I am still not tempted to use amphetamines, it's just not worth the misery. The drugs aren't like they were, I'm not so keen on ice, it's half cut with synthetics. Also I'm quite thin and the weight just drops of me when I use. I'm older and I can't do it anymore. It hits my immune system; I seem to get any bugs around and I just can't afford that. It's great to not always be fighting anxiety and coming down. It's good to feel good.
I am on suboxone because I am a poly drug user, it really works for me. Suboxone doesn't show up in a drug test and even if they did it’s a medication and I understand that they can't discriminate against you for that, no matter what job you do. Those legal battles have been fought and won.
I'm on monthly takeaways which is great. It means I can use the suboxone for a lift rather than use ice. Sometimes I dose myself a little low — 6 mls instead of my usual 8 mls — so I can build a little stockpile, then I can take a couple of extra mls if I need a boost, like when I am working double shifts. That helps me. I don't drink alcohol much, it doesn't seem to agree with the suboxone. I am working up to giving up cigarettes, that's my next goal.
I really want to keep this job. I can't risk losing it because of drug tests. Before, I was really reckless, I didn't care what I was risking. Now I really feel I need to look after my family - I have a big home loan. I want to look after my mates at work and I now I see using on the job as a safety issue. I've really changed a lot on this stuff.