I lived on the Gold Coast my whole life, but when my son was born with a very rare genetic lung issue, we were transferred to Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital. I was homeless when he was in hospital, just wandering around the city. Initially, I was given a room through a charity that helps parents with kids in hospital for one month – that was all I was eligible for.
Then I’d sleep on a recliner in intensive care, spend a few nights on the street, then would be eligible again to go back to charity house. One afternoon at around 1pm, I saw a few people I knew standing outside Brisbane Youth Service waiting for it to open and they told me I could use a toilet and get food there. I ended up leaving with three nights in a hotel, some clothes, and a bag of food. I needed to be awake all the time, being alert at the hospital and awake for calls from the hospital to come back as my son was having an episode. I’d leave for ten minutes to go have a shower and get a call to come back.
I was under crazy amounts of stress and needed to take a lot of drugs to cope and stay awake. I couldn’t fall asleep knowing that I might miss a call from the hospital, and it would be THE call from the hospital. My BYS support worker Mel would bring fresh clothes and food to the hospital. I used to come see Mel and had been talking about my substance use. She told me they could help getting off or moderating drug use, but I wasn’t in any position to stop or come off it at that point. My whole life I’ve been very indecisive, and I had moments I considered going to rehab, but I couldn’t commit to anything with my son in the hospital. Even if I wanted that momentarily, it wasn’t an option at the time.
My son passed away the day before his 8-month birthday. After he died, I moved to NSW for six months, I lost myself and felt I had no reason to live. I made an agreement with myself that if I went to NSW to grieve and be clean for 6 months, then I could do whatever I wanted with my life. I moved to my nan’s in NSW to grieve and be clean for six months, as I knew if I let myself go and use I was going to die. I went cold turkey there for six months, but then came back to Brisbane. After that, I barely know what I did for the next few years, until I ended up in jail for almost three years. If it wasn’t for their support in jail, I swear I would be dead by now as I had no intention of living past my 21st birthday. When I got out, my dad had passed away, but I moved back to his house and cleaned it out as my brothers had made a bit of a mess. I paid $4,000 of rent arrears, fixed up the walls, the damage in the house, the yard and tried to save the lease, but on the day of the inspection they served me with a 7-day notice to leave.
Without even inspecting or giving me a chance to take the lease. That was the first day I relapsed. I then felt so disgusted in myself as I felt like it would give me what I needed like it used to, but it didn’t. It made it worse. So, we all moved out of there, and I ended up staying with a boyfriend. Eventually, I met my current boyfriend and have been mainly clean for the past year. Tanya and I do Emotion Regulation and Impulse Control (ERIC) once per week, drug and alcohol support, and she touches base with me and makes sure I’m stable and not putting myself into situations that could cause triggers. The weekly contact keeps me on track. I am the most stable I’ve ever been, and probably the most well fed I’ve ever been. I’ve already started an undergraduate course to get into university where I want to study a Bachelor of Social Studies and Community Services. I want to do what Tanya does. She inspires me to help other people like me, especially the difficult ones like myself, I feel drawn to helping people. I realise there’s always someone having a worse day than you, and it genuinely cheers me up and makes me want to help them.