PETER Cook knows too well the hell of dependence.
Aged 14, he was already wiping himself out routinely with alcohol and drugs, numbing himself from a world of hurt.
He'd lost his big sister to cancer and with it any sense of belonging.
"I'd go out with the boys on a Friday night but the difference was I didn't get home until Tuesday," he explains.
As his benders blurred into weeks then years, the Queensland Catholic schoolboy wound up in Kings Cross.
He knows he was only one step away from jail or even death.
At 40, he was thrown a lifeline when he got the chance for rehabilitation at a clinic in South East Asia.
"The rich people I was in rehab with had the same issues as the people I was using with in the Cross; grief, sexual abuse, parental neglect and divorce," Cook recalls.
"We all have trauma; all of the research shows trauma can be any moment in our formative years that leaves a scar that can manifest in destructive behaviour as adults.
"When you have that validated; it's much easier to stop the behaviour.
"Once you have an awareness about it, you can start to heal.
"I never had the opportunity to grieve my sister's death; we're told life goes on.
"It's the perfect storm."
Cook's relatively recent experiences and those of people around him dealing with addiction prompted him to write Breaking the Castle, which explores trauma, family, grief and loss.
Cook says the purpose of the story is to offer a deeper understanding of addiction and generate empathy.
"There's no political will for us to be a nation of empaths," he says.
"It's much more popular to see addiction through a punitive lens.
"All of the research says addiction is a disease."
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Cook says young men - in particular - need to learn to get in touch with their emotions.
"Being vulnerable is being strong; it allows you to be open," Cook says.
"If we're not vulnerable it feeds into toxic masculinity and toxic workplaces, for that matter; we need to change the paradigm from believing vulnerability is weakness to vulnerability is strength.
"Since I've allowed myself to be vulnerable and softer, I've become a stronger person."
Breaking the Castle premiered at The Street Theatre in Canberra in early 2020 before its HotHouse Theatre season in Wodonga was postponed in March owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
It will run at the Butter Factory Theatre in Gateway Village from July 6-10.
It will be the third attempt to bring the show to Wodonga owing to the COVID-19 crisis.
For tickets visit hothousetheatre.com.au.
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