PSYCHOTIC, paranoid and purely delusional.
To put it simply, smoking ice sent Stu crazy.
Years of ice binges and wild parties, both in America and Australia, left Stu with severe psychosis and even forced him into a psych ward.
Remarkably he was able to complete a university degree and even gained a teaching job at a prestigious Sydney high school while still in the clutches of addiction.
But it was not long before ice stole his sanity and with it, his career.
He has now been clean for 10 years and is starting a 12-step support group for ice (crystal meth) addicts in Clunes.
But even after a decade off the drug Stu does not consider himself to be healed – nobody ever can be.
However, he no longer lives a “double life” and his attention has turned to helping people that are in the same situation he once found himself in.
Looking back, Stu remembers the first time he took ice.
It was a surprisingly underwhelming experience.
In fact, he estimates the first 10 times he took the drug it had little effect.
Stu was heavily into the party scene in Sydney, having grown up in Ballarat and completed his VCE in the city.
“My friend was getting it in from the United States in packages. I drank it with water and didn’t feel anything and didn’t know what the buzz was about,” he said.
“I went to America and found that everyone was doing it in the clubs I went to.
“In the gay scene it’s a very sexual drug so a lot of people would use it to get people into bed and that sort of stuff, it was just everywhere.
“At one point I tried (smoking) it and got the feeling everyone was talking about.”
It was not long before psychosis started kicking in.
Unlike other addicts, Stu remained virtually unharmed in a physical sense.
Mentally, he was a wreck.
“I had psychosis for the first time in USA, I thought the taxi driver was calling me names and imagined I was being followed,” he said, recalling a three-day binge in New York where he didn’t eat, sleep or drink.
“I had this whole reality where people were trying to kill me because I was this evil person who had done these bad things.”
After being treated by a friend, Stu came to his senses and realised he had been on a psychotic episode.
But it did not perturb him from taking ice again; he was a full-blown addict.
Having already been admitted to the emergency department in New York, he went on another binge the night before he was to fly out to London to meet a friend.
“Most of the flight I just sat there in pure terror, thinking the plane was going to blow up and that people on the flight were trying to kill me,” he said.
“When people get psychosis on crystal meth they often become violent but I’m the opposite, I become very introverted and quiet and get fearful that people are plotting to kill me.”
After flying back to Australia, Stu finished his teaching degree before getting a teaching job at the esteemed high school.
He taught there for an entire year while still on the drug, but another bender early in his second year proved the catalyst for change his life so desperately needed.
“In my psychosis I rang up the school and said, because I was psychotic, ‘I know you don’t want me to teach there, I know you don’t think I’m a good teacher’,” he recalled.
“I just quit, I didn’t believe what everyone was saying.
“I came out of it and said ‘what the f*** have I done? I quit my job and I couldn’t get it back’.”
After a short-term rehabilitation, Stu found himself clean for six months before an addict friend coerced him to again try taking ice. The psychosis returned worse than ever; he ended up getting picked up by the police and placed in a psychiatric hospital for five days.
He then spent 10 months in a Byron Bay rehabilitation centre and has been clean ever since.
“I was constantly getting sick and getting cold sores. The withdrawing was terrible, it was hideous. It’s like having the worst flu and headache for eight days straight and nothing you can do to change it. It’s just hell.”
Now, Stu is looking to bring his help course to the Ballarat area.
“With crystal meth, addicts can be anyone, not just the stereotypical street junkie or heroin user,” he said.
“Most of the people who are affected are people that are fully functional before they become undone.
“It can never be cured but it can be arrested.”