Triumph over the needle

Ms Redpath''s own experience with substance abuse has inspired her to change the attitude of young people towards drugs and alcohol. 176531_03 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Kyra Gillespie

 Author and drug and alcohol educator Kerryn Redpath tells KYRA GILLESPIE about her latest book and how her brush with death put her on a mission to save lives.
“The specialist quickly diagnosed heart and kidney failure and at that point gave me less than two hours to live.”
A single dose of medication daily is now a constant reminder to 53-year-old Kerryn Redpath of just how lucky she is to be alive today.
From a destructive past of substance abuse, the former heroin addict has just released her second book Chasing After The Wind, which she uses as a tool to educate others – particularly young people – about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.
“The book is about raising awareness and letting people become aware of how devastating drug abuse can be.
“It’s different to my first book, my story is still in there but I’ve also got a lot of other extra real-life stories and it’s also got an educational side which the first book didn’t have.
“If just one person and one family doesn’t have to go through what my family and I did, then the book will be worth it.”
Although it is difficult for her to revisit her past, Ms Redpath says that it is important to share her story in the hopes that no one else has to go through what she did.
“Making all of this public is not easy for me, because I’m not proud of my past, but I am hoping to reach people.”
“I’m someone who has lived with addiction from both sides and even though it was over 30 years ago, I’ve carried the scars ever since.”
One particular scar is that one of her children has mild disability as a result of her drug addiction and kidneys failing.
“As a mother, it breaks my heart and I don’t want anyone else going through that.
“I was told by doctors that I would never be able to have children and yet I managed to have three beautiful kids.
“My kids have saved my life.”
Ms Redpath’s downwards spiral all started as a young 18-year-old who just wanted to have a bit of fun.
“When I was using I wouldn’t have classed myself as a drug addict.
“I was a functioning adult with a fulltime job and thought I was just having a bit of fun.
“What I tell people now is that you don’t have to be a bad person to have a drug problem.”
Surrounded by people in the drug scene, including her boyfriend at the time, Ms Redpath was doing heroin at least three times a week.
For a period in her life, she experienced numerous overdoses, drug and alcohol-fuelled fights and was even robbed by people she knew through drugs.
One night she spent about 40 minutes trying to resuscitate her boyfriend after he had overdosed on a cocktail of alcohol and heroin.
“It was the most terrifying night of my life,” she said.
But she said even this was not enough of a wake-up call.
At the age of 25, Ms Redpath was diagnosed with Hepatitis B.
Six months after the diagnosis, she became gravely ill and was referred to a specialist at The Alfred hospital.
“The specialist quickly diagnosed heart and kidney failure and at that point gave me less than two hours to live,” she said.
Ms Redpath unbelievably survived, and eventually left hospital with a relatively strong heart and 40 per cent function in both kidneys.
Upon returning home, she was still surrounded by friends using drugs and said she was at one time tempted to use heroin again.
“I begged a friend to give me some one night and he ended up leaving some on a shelf for me,” she said.
“I walked past the drug 10 or 20 times … there I was, torn between the desire to feel the rush in my veins and the fear of what could go wrong.”
Ms Redpath says that one of the key messaged that she conveys to young people in her educational talks is to establish life goals.
“Back then I didn’t have a vision or a goal, and that’s where I went wrong.
“Now in my book and in my presentations I encourage kids to have some sort of dream – to always have a plan B because it’s so easy to drift and slip into doing the wrong thing.”
It was through addiction that Ms Redpath turned to writing.
“I never wanted to be a writer, but I felt compelled to write my story.
“When I started writing my book all the memories that I had all these years just came flooding back.
“I got into speaking after a teacher read my first book and got in contact and invited me to speak at their school.
“I was originally terrified about public speaking, but I’m passionate about this. I want to try my best to change the attitude of young people towards drugs and alcohol.
“That’s what I’m trying to do with this book.”
Chasing After The Wind is available for purchase on multiple platforms including Amazon, Kindle, eBay and Ms Redpath’s website

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