EXCLUSIVE: 'I became an ice addict at 40': How a successful businesswoman and loving mother became helplessly addicted to meth... and her warning that no one is immune to its deadly allure
- Andrea Simmons had a 'perfect life' until she tried ice for the first time
- She left husband and kids, sold everything and descended into 'drug hell'
- After two years, she was $75,000 in debt and only had $76 for plane ticket
- She flew home to her mother on the Gold Coast and began getting straight
- Now clean for three years, the 45-year-old is working to help other addicts
- She started Australian Anti Ice Campaign and runs courses in schools
Andrea Simmons was a successful businesswoman and devoted mother who nearly lost everything because of one moment of weakness.
Five years ago, at 40, the Gold Coast woman's marriage was on the rocks when she fell 'head over heels' in love with another man.
With her children now young adults, and feeling ready to move to the next stage of her life, Ms Simmons made the difficult decision to leave her family and follow her heart to Melbourne.
But it very quickly took a serious turn for the worst when her new man introduced her to crystal methamphetamine - ice - something she knew nothing about.
For the next two years, her life became an uncontrollable drug-induced hell which saw her sell two homes she owned and her luxury car - and she also racked up $75,000 in debts to support a $500-a-day drug habit.
Andrea Simmons was a devoted and loving mother who abandoned her children for
two years after becoming trapped in an ice-fuelled haze
Five years ago, the 40-years-old's marriage was on the rocks on the Gold Coast, in Queensland,
when she fell 'head over heels' in love with another man and decided to move to Melbourne
The first time her partner offered her some ice to smoke, he assured her it would help her to relax. 'He said "You trust me don't you? Look at me, I'm alright",' she said. 'I thought I would let my hair down because if you smoke it - it's probably like marijuana where if you don't have too much you should be right. 'I have tried marijuana as a teenager and smoked cigarettes so I thought it couldn't be that bad.'
Without questioning what it was that she was about to take, Ms Simmons smoked the crystal meth with absolutely any concept of how that one ill-informed decision would turn her life into a living nightmare. 'Four days later we did it again because it was really good and I thought I was old enough and strong enough to control it - then before you know it you end up two years down the track,' she said.
Thinking she couldn't possibly be any happier, just one moment of weakness turned
Ms Simmons' life into an uncontrollable drug-induced hell
She sold both homes, her Mercedes and fell into $75,000 debt out of complete desperation to
afford her $500-a-day habit
There was nothing Ms Simmons wouldn't do to get her next hit - including selling everything she owned.
While she was married she had built up a successful construction building business with her ex-husband as well as owning many other ventures including a cafe, a restaurant and beauty salon. 'I sold my two houses, pawned all of my jewellery, maxed out my credit cards, sold my Mercedes - I had been a business person, I raised two children, made my first million at 21, but (it) just ate everything,' she said.
'We would spend all of the money on the ice so we would steal food just to get by - we didn't even have money for toilet paper at the end of the week.'
Ms Simmons holed herself up in a room in her partner's house in Melbourne
Ms Simmons holed herself up in a room in her partner's house in Melbourne and racked up $75,000 in debts to feed her destructive habit.
'You become an introvert because you live in your own little world and I'm naturally an outgoing and social person being involved in film and media,' she said. 'I'm usually caring and always keeping the family together and business-orientated and it just stole everything - I didn't have any friends and became poor and depressed.'
It got to the point that Ms Simmons managed to get lost just around the corner from her own home with no memory of her street address - so she just helplessly sat down and cried. 'Towards the end, I couldn't lift my head or body off the pillow without the next hit - I just couldn't operate - all the muscles in your body - you're so messy without a hit.'
At the lowest parts of her addiction, she recalls feeling desperately lonely. 'There was no one around - it was an empty world of just darkness - you lose contact with reality.'
She was desperately lonely living in an 'empty world of just darkness' with no friends or family to turn to
Although her children, aged 19 and 21 at the time, and her mother, did not see Ms Simmons for the entire two years, they had no idea of the nightmare she had got herself into.
'I thought I was ringing my kids on a regular basis but apparently not - they said "we just lost you off the map - you only called in every so often",' she said.
'They knew that my behaviour wasn't normal because I was always very mothering and concerned for them and they just thought: 'It's strange - what happened to mum?"
They didn't know that it was drugs.' Ms Simmons couldn't even bring herself to go clean after she almost died after combining ice along with the party drug GHB and collapsed into unconsciousness. 'I stopped breathing, so my boyfriend started slapping me around and I started gasping for air,' she said. 'But four days later, we had another hit because I just thought "well I won't mix it with G again".'
Finally, after what Ms Simmons describes as a supernatural experience with God, and with barely enough money for the airfare, she fled Melbourne for her mother's home on the Gold Coast.
Andrea (right) with her daughter Candice (left), her mother (second from left) and other
daughter Brooke (centre) - who she chose not see for the two years she was addicted to ice
Weighing just 41kg and more than $75,000 in debt, Ms Simmons moved in with her mother to try to get her shattered life back on track. 'I cried for the first three weeks and did a lot of writing, which I want to turn into a book to let people know they are not alone on this trip and they are not the only idiot in the world,' she said. 'People out there have no idea - it just takes one moment of weakness.
' Even now, looking back on the hellish period of her addiction, she recognises the powerful lure of drugs. She recalls meeting 'one of the biggest dealers on the Gold Coast' who offered her the very drug that had nearly destroyed her life. 'I sat in my car while looking out over the water and drowned in a bottle of wine and went to sleep,' she said.
'Every cell in my body just wanted it.' Ms Simmons suggests addicts experiencing unbearable cravings should try a different tactic. 'An addict in recovery just needs to keep focused on where the drug took you when those temptations comes in,' she said. 'That will stop your craving quick smart.'
Weighing just 41kg and more than $75,000 in debt, Ms Simmons moved to her mother's
on the Gold Coast to slowly but surely get her shattered life back on track
Now after three years of being clean, Ms Simmons is now running her own TV and film production company and helps addicts get the vital support they need to turn their lives around. Some of those she has helped have even slept on her sofa while waiting to get into rehab. She has decided to put directing on hold to concentrate on the Australian Anti Ice Campaign she started, which focuses on raising awareness about the devastating effects of drugs by holding public forums and going into classrooms at high schools.
The campaign is running the first awareness class at a high school on the Gold Coast where a former user will tell their story to the students. The students will also receive cards with numbers of supportive services, all of the different names ice is known as and the symptoms to look out for.
Now after three years of being clean - it's hard to believe that the 45-year-old ever endured such a dark period in her life
'We give a lesson on what it does to your brain, your body, your life and the presenter incorporates their experience into that and we also show through video clips of what ice looks like and what form it comes in,' she said.
'I was talking to two pharmacists and a doctor recently and they were asking what it looks like - people don't know.' 'Ice doesn't discriminate - there are doctors and chemists on it as well - people with stressful jobs.
' But Ms Simmons says she is proof that it is possible to kick the grips that the evil drug has over its users. 'Although 98 per cent of ice addicts don’t get cleaned up - you never lose hope because it is possible to have a worthy and good life,' she said.
She now dedicates her time to creating awareness about the devastating effect of crystal meth at public forums and in classrooms
PUBLISHED: 10:57 EST, 5 August 2015 | UPDATED: 08:24 EST, 6 August 2015 - By LEESA SMITH FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA Full Article