He arrived at the Army�s Harry Hunter Rehabilitation Centre in Gosnells six months ago battling a raging addiction to methylamphetamine, or �ice�, that had taken over his life and severed his connections to family and work.
Now he is poised to leave the centre and embark on full-time study.
Mr Pizarro said he moved to Australia from Chile as a 13-year-old to live in Langford and attend a Lynwood high school, but his struggle to learn English isolated him.
He started drinking and smoking marijuana at 14.
�I felt like it united me with my mates,� he said.
By 18, he regularly took ecstasy, and occasionally speed and ice.
By 23, he was using ice every weekend.
By 25, he began using every day before going to work.
�Whether you smoke, snort or inject it, it grabs hold of you and changes you straight away,� he said.
�Your heart starts to pound, the back of your neck tingles and you feel invincible, like it�s party time.
�But the more you use � you just use to feel normal, to speak to your family, to go to work.�
Eventually arthritis crippling his knees and fingers forced him to leave his bricklaying job.
His financial situation became desperate, he said, and caused him to make �bad choices�.
�My life was in chaos. My family didn�t want anything to do with me,� he said.
�I did horrible things to them; stealing, lying, cheating, fighting, manipulation.
�I was lost and I was broken.�
He turned to his family GP for help and she secured him a place in the rehabilitation centre.
There he joined Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous groups and attended twice-daily classes on subjects such as family, forgiveness, grief and loss and anger management.
Between classes was work therapy on the property, including on its working farm, in the kitchens and general maintenance.
�This program saved my life – it has given me the tools to fend for myself,� he said.
He said he knew that once outside, he had to let go of the past and all of his old friends.
�I believe if you�re genuine about your recovery you have to change every part of yourself – not half or three-quarters of yourself, because if you let that one tiny part of you stay, it will never let you go,� he said.
�The nature of the beast is too big.�
He has confidence in his new support network of his Narcotics Anonymous group and his family, with which he has rebuilt bridges.
�Even though I hurt them, they never gave up on me,� he said.
�I couldn�t say sorry enough for what I have done � actions speak louder than words and all I could do was change my behaviour.
�In here I have realised a lot of people have no one � knowing that I can call home and hear someone tell me they love me and that I�m doing all right is priceless.�
When he leaves the centre in about a week, he will commence studying for a diploma in community services and counselling, which he plans to follow with a degree in counselling at Curtin University.
�I want to change the stigma of rehab and the stigma of �once an addict, always an addict,� he said.
�Addiction doesn�t care who you are or where you come from.
�No addict should die without a chance at a better life.�
n Opinion, page 8