Confessions of an ice addict: Gympie's growing problem
TEN weeks ago Tim Matthews was found hanging from a noose in his bathroom; he had given up on life after losing everything dear to him because of an ice addiction.
Today he is clean, planning for the future while sending a message to all who will listen: stay away from "the plague" of ice in our community.
Mr Matthews' experiences wouldn't be out of place in the hit television series Breaking Bad.
He has spent 19 months living a double life; hiding his ice addiction from family, friends and employers while spending $200-$300 a day on his habit.
"Breaking Bad is a good show but it is nothing like the real thing," Mr Matthews said.
"It's a lot worse."
The father of two's story nearly ended 10 weeks ago when he returned home to find his wife had left him; she was sick of the lies and deception. In despair, he lit a crack pipe, had a smoke and decided to end it all.
"If it wasn't for Dad I wouldn't be here today," Mr Matthews said.
"I thought I had no one to turn to, but I did."
Mr Matthews' father, Mervyn, found his 32-year-old son hanging in the bathroom and saved him.
It was a harrowing experenice for the 56-year-old but he was glad he arrived in time to pull his son down.
"Just seeing him there like that was scary," Mervyn said.
"It was horrible."
Four weeks in the Mental Health ward at Nambour Hospital going "cold turkey" helped Mr Matthews deal with his demons and get off the ice.
It's still a battle but it has been six weeks since Tim Matthews last lit up a crack pipe.
His aim now is to tell the Gympie community not to go near the highly addictive drug.
"It will ruin your life," Mr Matthews said.
"I was living a lie; a big lie.
"I lost my wife, my family, good mates and my house.
"I almost lost my life."
Mr Matthews' revelations are particularly concerning for parents.
He says meth is easy to access in Gympie and claims about $20,000 of ice is sold in our community every day.
"It's big in town; it's like the plague.
"People are buying rock (ice) now instead of a carton of beer and sitting around playing Playstation."
He estimated one in every 10 males aged 13 to 45 had tried it and many were hooked.
The drug is highly addictive and gets users dependant quickly.
Mr Matthews' habit started 19 months ago; before then he was a hard-working, church-going family man.
He started smoking ice as a social thing, mainly on weekends, but when a work accident put him on Workers Compensation for two weeks he started lighting up daily.
That's when his life became all about the drug and started to spiral out of control.
"It gives you energy, a high and switches your emotions off but it is bad," Mr Matthews said.
"Everything that is good in your life becomes clouded over.
"It controls you and you put the drug before everything else."
The addiction got that bad that Mr Matthews couldn't go a day without it.
"I'd be on my way to work in Cooroy, driving down the highway sucking on my crack pipe.
"I was living the dream, a pipe dream.
"I put it before my family," he said.
The once-dedicated father did try to break his addiction.
About 12 months ago he told his wife about the drug and took a job out west to get away from bad influences.
It worked for four weeks but a near fatal work accident, where he was impaled by a survey peg, put him back in hospital.
"I pulled the pin on the job and turned back to the amphetamines."
No one in his family knew he was back on ice and all the while his wife and family were struggling.
"She (his wife) is an angel; the best mum in the world," Mr Matthews said.
"If I put as much time and effort into my wife and kids as I did the drug scene, she would be a stay at home mum."
Mr Matthews is now working hard to become a better person instead of a "meth monster".
He has put on 17kg since he gave up the drug and he wants to help people who are battling drug addiction.
"I want to become a mental health nurse," Mr Matthews said.
"I've made some stupid decisions in my life but I'd like to try and make amends.
"I want to change and be the family man I once was."