This is Cam.
He is a Scottish but lives in St Kilda sans kilt. He is a gay, ex-rugby playing, social enterprise manager who just opened Wheelly Good Coffee – a street-café on Gertrude Street, that provides employment for young people at risk, offering them structure and a first step back from the dark side.
He is also a recovering ice-addict himself.
Woah man ice..? So is it awesome and what are the feels?
There were absolutely was some fun times in the early days, but once you become dependent on the drug like I was, it really does take your soul. I suppose the best way to describe how it makes you feel is numb. You don’t have to feel anything not happy, not sad, I suppose it sounds a bit cliché but I was ‘comfortably numb’.
You’re smart and kewl, so how did you start taking it?
I’d been using some sort of substance since I was 13 but when I first tried ice I thought I’d found my wonder drug. I was 19, and within in weeks was using everyday- it took control pretty quick.
Did you have to do some crazy things to support your addiction?
It’s kind of more what didn’t I have to do? I was dealing drugs in the early days but still working, then the job got the boot and I was just dealing. When that wasn’t enough to fund the habit any more I turned to s3x work for quick income. Looking back now I think that I had no boundaries at this point of my life, I would have literally done anything to get money just so I could keep using. Addiction makes your body feel that to survive, it needs the drug first, water second and food third. So it becomes your #1 priority.
How did you get clean?
I realised I was an addict when I was about 21 but at the same time had come to the conclusion there was nothing I could do about it, and that was the way I was going to live the rest of my probably short life. The first time I tried to get clean I went to Cambodia for 6 months and did charity work in an orphanage. I was able to keep off ice for this period but by the end of it I was drinking pretty heavily to try and suppress that urge to use.
Were the withdrawls as bad as that Trainspotting scene with the baby on the roof?
Not quite that hectic. My sleep pattern was all over the place – I either wanted to sleep all day or couldn’t – and my mental health was the worst it had ever been. I was suicidal and homicidal but was lucky enough to be sent to rehab by my family to get clean. My hat goes off to anyone who manages to do it in the real world. The cravings where insane without the amazing people I met in rehab and the doctors and nurses in the facility.. I don’t think I’d be here today doing this interview if it weren’t for them.
What happened once you were clean?
I was lucky enough to have a supportive network around me to allow me to get back on my feet, but realised that because of the stigma in the community, my mates weren’t so lucky. There’s facilities out there to help people get clean but then what? How do you get a job if you’ve never had one? How do you explain where you’ve been for years? Especially now that all employers are doing CrimChecks, and won’t employ anyone with any prior charges.
I was approached by a charity called Whitelion to help them look at and set up a Social Enterprise Café in the docklands, helping to find a solution to this gap in young people’s recoveries. Wheelly Good Coffee has been a passion project more than a job – being able to give someone a chance regardless of their past, allowing them to stabilise their own life and to grow into an amazing contributing member of society.
Now I’m focusing on growing the business, the bigger it gets the more people we can give that chance to who really need it. We have got the café in the Library in the Docklands & the Coffee cart on Gertrude St in Fitzroy & are hoping to expand more in the coming months. People don’t realise that something as simple as buying a coffee can keep a young person employed, and change their life completely.
How do people react to you when you say you used to be an ex-ice addict?
The normal response is that ‘you don’t look like an ice addict’, to which I respond what does an ice addict look like? People have this view of scabs all over your face and that no one they know or love could possibly be effected by this pandemic that is going on in Australia today. But unfortunately, that’s not the case and until the stigma surrounding addiction is changed people who are suffering aren’t going to get the help they truly need.