Ex-addict wants to help others to stop

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 25/06/2013
Damian Mair
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
REFLECTION: Recovering synthetic cannabis addict Damian Mair shares his story at home yesterday.

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A synthetic cannabis addict who went bush to kick his $800-a-month habit wants to help others affected by the drugs.

Invercargill resident Damian Mair appeared in court last week after he admitted breaking into a south Invercargill store in May and stealing 461 packets of synthetic cannabis.

Mair said he had been using synthetic cannabis for the past three years, smoking up to two packs a day.

Sharing his story yesterday, Mair estimated his addiction cost him $10,000 a year, even with the discount he could get as an employee of a legal high store.

This financial burden was one reason he had broken into the store, he said.

"I was trying to help my family but I went the wrong way about it. I understand that now ... but when you're addicted you don't think like that."

However, Mair said he had now been off legal highs for two weeks and was looking forward to experiencing the birth of his first child as a "clean" man.

One of the reasons he quit was because he feared he would lose his family to the addiction.

"The last thing I want to be doing is smoking that stuff out the hospital door when my baby's on the way. It's awesome not feeling the need to smoke up all the time."

To quit the drugs, Mair said he "went bush" with his dog Cobain this month, carrying enough dog biscuits to last two weeks and supplies for himself.

The plan was to go cold turkey and sweat the addiction out.

While sleeping in the wilderness near Tuatapere, Mair said he cuddled Cobain for warmth and woke every few hours to stoke the fire.

He had intended to camp out for a few weeks, but after four days he felt he could control his addiction and returned home to his partner.

Going cold turkey was a struggle, especially as he breached his bail conditions to go bush, but it was worth it, he said.

"If I didn't, I would have lost my family and it would have been worse than a breach of bail."

Back home, Mair has found new hobbies to keep his mind off drugs, including archery, gardening, searching for gold and climbing.

Climbing had offered him the biggest new buzz, he said.

"I came back last Monday pumped as [from climbing] ... it's like a drug I've never had before. I've never been a sporty person, so it's cool to find a sport I can get into."

He was also hoping to find a job to support his growing family.

People had criticised him for celebrating after only two weeks off the drugs, but for an addict, it was a big achievement, he said.

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"I couldn't even keep off it for an hour or two and I've done a couple of weeks. It's been a big couple of weeks. It's the first few days that are the biggest issue."

Mair's partner, Melissa Palmer, said she was very proud of him for quitting.

The pair have started a Facebook page to support addicts and their families.

Meanwhile, Judge Stephen Coyle said in the Balclutha District Court yesterday that young men were increasingly appearing in court for serious offending after using K2.

- The Southland Times

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