Sitting in his mother’s loungeroom, Danny Shannon goes through family photos. “I was using drugs then,” he points to the photo of him and his sister Lucy. “Yes, you were using, you can see it in your face,” replies Danny’s mother Maria.
For over 15 years Danny used (also known as ice), and other illicit drug every day. “I used every substance known to man in Australia,” says the 45-year-old father of two.
Like Danny, many Australians have fallen into the trap of addiction at some point in their lives. A 2019 by the Department of Health found that around 3.4 million Australians reported using an illicit drug in the previous 12 months. In 2019, the most common illicit drug was cannabis, followed by ecstasy, misused pharmaceuticals, and then cocaine.
According to a recent by Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, more than 40 per cent of Australians over 14 have used an illicit drug in their lifetime. For Danny, 14 was the age when his drug abuse started.
Danny's sister Lucy, his mother Maria and Danny. Source: Supplied
At that age, his family moved from Syndey to Bundaberg in Queensland. “Mum and Dad weren't working out, [moving there] was like the last attempt to keep our family together. Beautiful sentiment, but it just wasn't working out,” Danny recalls.
On the first day in Bundaberg, Danny’s new friends introduced him to alcohol, marijuana and some other recreational drugs. “I remember passing out and waking and seeing smashed glass around, people laying around and I remember thinking, ‘well, that was a lot of fun.’”
After that, Danny’s life deteriorated as he continued to abuse drugs and by the age of 17, Danny was using heroin. “Getting and using of drugs is all that mattered, I still stole, I robbed, I hurt family members and hurt those people around me.”
In order to fund his addiction, Danny started committing crimes. He even spent his 18th birthday behind bars. “My life was jails, institutions, homelessness, hurt, pain and misery.”
I was so selfish, I had no idea of the impact that had on my son or my family.
“He was absolutely horrible,” says Maria who stood by his side and tried to help him overcome his addiction. “If he can't beat the drugs, I used to think to myself, ‘you will be better off not to be,’ because his life was just so tormented, it was absolute hell for him and for the rest of the family.”
In the midst of his addiction, Danny became a father to his son Joshua. But Danny continued using drugs and eventually Danny’s mother Maria was able to apply for custody. “I basically got 70 per cent custody of him and [his other grandmother] got the other 30 per cent,” Maria explains. “So between the two of us I think we raised him as well as we could and gave him a good life.”
Joshua now is 19 and is completing an apprenticeship in plumbing.
“I was hardly there for him,” Danny admits. “I was so selfish, I had no idea of the impact that had on my son or my family. It was just like all about me, like poor Danny.”
Danny with his son Joshua. Source: SBS
In 2009, Danny checked into the Glebe House rehab facility. By this time he had spent time in and out of prison, rehab and overdosed 15 times, including one time when he had to be revived by paramedics. Danny even took drugs with him into rehab so he could use them inside. “I just could not let go but on the 15th of September 2009, [that] was the day I last had any substances.”
And then, finally, life started to look better. “I started working, I was working really hard doing some labouring jobs, and I decided to study community services.”
Three years later, he was back at Glebe House – this time as a support worker.
Inspiration hit while at work one day, Danny decided to record a video message for his future self. He listed a number of questions for himself to answer on camera. “As I was going through the questions, I noticed myself getting really emotional, I noticed myself talking about some stuff that I never mentioned before,” Danny explains.
Danny invited some of the other people who came through the rehab facility to record a message for their future selves. “I captured over 150 videos of our clients and received really positive feedback.”
Danny with his daughter Amalia. Source: SBS
It triggered the idea for not only a business venture, but something he hopes will provide genuine assistance for others who are trying to overcome addiction. Four years from that moment, Danny developed what he calls , a web platform that gives people going through rehab the tools to capture video messages directed at their future selves. “It allows people to identify their goals, their hopes, their dreams, and the future aspirations and this stuff gets all locked away in our secure time locked vault waiting to be discovered on a date in the future maybe by themselves or for their loved ones.”
While Danny is working hard at his fulltime job as well as this new project, but his main priority is to remain drug and alcohol free, just as he has been for the past 11 years. “I'm really cautious and it goes back to me putting recovery first,” he says. “Being a father of two children, I think, what it would be like to have them suffer... My son knows all about it. My daughter will never know, she'll know dad... it's as long as I stay clean.”
Danny has a good relationship with his family. He visits his mother, sister and son every week. His 3-year-old daughter lives between his home and his ex-partner's.
“I feel like I'm on this journey of discovery and personal development. And I'd say ‘just don't die, Danny, because life is going to be amazing.’”
For crisis support: Lifeline 13 11 14 or l. For alcohol and drug support: 1800 250 015 . For gambling support: 1800 858 858 or
Addicted Australia premieres Tuesday 10 November, 8.30pm on SBS and SBS On Demand. The four-part documentary series continues weekly on Tuesdays at 8.30pm and will be available with simplified Chinese and Vietnamese subtitles.
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