Under the Influence is the story of my childhood.
It provides an insight into the reality of being the son of an addict, paranoid schizophrenic, chronic hoarder and drug dealer.
For as long as I knew him, my dad dealt. Every day, a procession of desperate, malnourished and volatile addicts would visit our house looking to score. From a child’s perspective, they seemed to have only one goal - acquiring their next high. Growing up in this environment had a profound impact on my life and world view.
I never felt safe.
Under The Influence - Reclaiming My Childhood will be released chapter by chapter online; in text format via my blog, and in audio format via the Reality Check Podcast.
If you can't wait for the next chapter to be released, or would like to own a copy for yourself, it is available for purchase as an eBook, Paperback & Audio Book.
Check below to see what chapters are available now! The best way to be notified when the next chapter is up is by signing up to my email list, or by following me on social media.
- Out Now -
Chapter 1 - Who Let The Bum In? I was stoked to see my father attending the school award ceremony. He came, it meant that he cared enough to show up. That was until a friend of mine commented, 'Who let the bum in?'
By the end of year seven, I was starting to realise just how different my father was from those of my friends. He rarely worked in a conventional setting, and I had never known him to have a full-time job ...
- Coming Soon -
Chapter 2 - A Day In The Life I deconstruct the day to day realities of living with a dad who dealt drugs, suffered from mental illness and had grand plans to someday 'make it big'.
I always knew that my dad was an addict, but it took me a while to truly understand the difference between my dad and my friends’ dads. However, as I moved from primary school into high school, the differences became more and more apparent ...
Chapter 3 - Hoarder Piles of junk, furniture and refuse. Hidden treasure, broken clocks and endless numbers of empty bottles 'just in case' he may need them. My dad's house epitomised what happens when you stop throwing anything out.
I realised just how bad Dad's living conditions were about a year after his death. I was talking to a cousin of mine who had recently become a police officer. It’s not often that you get a chance to have a firsthand glimpse into the seedy underbelly of the society you live in ...
Chapter 4 - Just Popping By I always thought Dad had a lot of friends. Every day countless people would 'pop in' for a quick chat, or we would jump in the car and Dad would make the rounds himself. Once I got older I started to realise that these 'friends' were in fact his clientele, and that he was dealing from his house, or taking us with him in his car as a delivery service.
I loved going for drives with Dad, he would always let me choose the music and never complained about my taste. It’s one of the little things that made him special to me. It made me feel like I was important, no one else let me choose the music ...
Chapter 5 - Play It Again Daddy Discovering a meth lab in a friend of my dad's garage was less disturbing than the deplorable state of his toddlers. At age seven I was left to look after them.
If you have children or younger siblings, you will know just how obsessive they can be when it comes to watching their favourite movies. Often they will want to watch the same show again and again to the exasperation of the rest of the family. Relentlessly quoting their favourite lines and demanding that it is always on ...
Chapter 6 - Lessons Learnt My dad taught me a lot, but it was his example and the unspoken lessons that really shaped my world view.
All parents want to teach their children the ways of the world. Guide them through the ambiguities of life showing them with a soft and gentle hand, the lessons that they learnt the hard way ...
Chapter 7 - Fitting In I have always struggled to connect, to join in with the group, or even to just to feel safe.
Attachment theory proposes that the relationship that forms between a parent and a child can significantly influence the dynamics of that child’s long term interpersonal relationships. The infant’s ability to develop trust in their caregivers will influence their relationships for the rest of their life ...
Chapter 8 - Blackness Some of experiences of my childhood were so traumatic that my mind shut itself off to protect me.
Throughout my childhood I would always see things through other people’s eyes. Not in the empathic sense, but in the seemingly literal sense. I would never be truly in my own mind, rather I would 'see myself' from a third person perspective. This was true for most of my memories, dreams, and imaginations. It would even somehow occur in real time ...
Chapter 9 - The Carrion Feeder Drugs and mental illness feed off each other. Most of my dad's neighbours were a terrifying mix of desperate and volatile.
The morning that I found out that Dad had passed away, I drove over to his house. I knew the process of sorting through his possessions could not wait at all, it had to be done that day. One of Dad’s neighbours, Jackie, had called to let me know that Dad had passed and that his house had already been robbed ...
Chapter 10 - Death My Dad was the first truly close person to me to pass away. His death touched me to my core, it caused me to reevaluate myself and my role in our relationship.
Despite everything that happened, I loved my father and still do. To this day my biggest regret is not connecting with him more. I do not forgive him for what he put my brother and me through, but I regret not trying to get to know him on a deeper level, particularly as an adult ...
About Under The Influence,
I wrote Under The Influence as a form of therapy. Through writing, I was finally able to express myself completely. I found that as I wrote, the burden of my past began to lift. I was finally beginning to recover.
Sharing it with the public was the furthest thought from my mind. This is the story of my past, containing the most traumatic and embarrassing moments of my life. Why would I want that out there?
However, the reaction of my close friends convinced me otherwise. They pointed out that many people are suffering from the same demons as I am, and that sharing my story could help them to move on and heal as well. So I decided to start my blog and podcast - sharing some of my traumatic past as well as my experience with mental illness and recovery. The feedback and encouragement was amazing, my story was helping people.
This process also emphasized to me the fact that in a lot of family and friendship groups, there is a wall of silence around trauma and mental illness in general. It is a taboo subject and thus rarely gets talked about. Perhaps this is because of its intensity, or the severity of its impact upon those involved.
Therefore, I decided to share Under The Influence because I wanted to break the silence. Releasing my story is a way that I can connect with people. To let them know that they are not alone, that there is help available and that people care. Because often when one person starts talking, others are encouraged to do the same.
Increasing mental health awareness is a primary goal of mine. As education and understanding within society increases, outcomes for people with mental health issues will improve. I hope that my work will help to encourage the development of healthy dialogues between friends and family, as well as within schools and the workplace. Reducing the stigma of mental illness will enable people to seek help when they need it.
If you are reading this, and can relate to my story, I want to tell you the following:
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel and despite the confusion, fear, anger and sadness that you are feeling, it will get better. Remember that you are not at fault. Please reach out and seek assistance. I know that the world can seem like a hostile and cold place, but trust me, there are people who will care, you are not alone."
- Zachary Phillips