By Kayleearne Clyde
My name is Kayleearne I was addicted to methamphetamines for five years. This October I will be three years clean. This is my story.
To share my story, I must tell you about the lowest places my addiction took me to. Some of these things I am not proud of but I will share them with you so you can understand the depth and how addiction took over my life and slowly took control until the person I once was almost ceased to exist.
I have always been a strong independent woman. Before addiction I worked two jobs that I loved, attended school and TAFE and had great relationships. I was happy with the direction my life was heading until one day I met someone. Looking back now I can see the red flags and early warning signs of this relationship. He manipulated me in a way that I believed that I didn’t have him, nobody would want me.
This was not a healthy relationship; there was a substantial amount of abuse physically and mentally, until one day he went too far that he broke my body, mind, soul and even my bones.
I’m not going to say this was the only significant event in my life that contributed to my using, but it is the event that pushed me into the darkness that I would soon feel like I was drowning in.
Soon my everyday life would be consumed with addiction. My day would consist of using, scoring, and selling. I stopped showing up for work and slowly lost everyone and everything I held close to my heart. But at this point I would not even notice or care because the only thought I had was using. I was in full addiction, and I felt I would never escape because the darkness had consumed me.
Over the five years of my addiction, I was in and out of jail until one day I met someone. This person would become the father of our child. When I found out I was pregnant It was like I could see the light in darkness, this child would be my escape. In a perfect world I would stop using and we would live happily ever after, but sadly this was not the case. Earlier I spoke of being a strong independent woman but during this part of my life, I was no longer that person and had handed my mind, body and soul over to my disease. Everyday my love for this child would grow as she grew inside me, but I would continue to use throughout my pregnancy and this perfect little girl would be ripped from my arms and put into Child Protection care.
You would think that this would be the light switch moment that I needed to get clean so our family could be whole again. But once again this is not what happened. I would struggle to go an hour without using because I felt that my pain was too great to face clean because losing my child felt like losing a part of myself.
I would continue to use and see my daughter three times a week for an hour until she turned three months old. This is the day that things would change because at 9.30am my house would be raided, and I would be imprisoned for five months. I had been in jail previously, but this time was different; the pain of being away from her was the motivation I needed to get myself clean. But I couldn’t just do this for her, I had to want this for me, and I did. I wanted my family to be whole.
On the day I was released, I already had five months clean time and I would reach out for support from services offered in Warrnambool that would teach me the tools and strategies I needed to implement in my life to ensure that I could maintain sobriety. I would receive help for my previous trauma and support for my mental health.
So where am I now? In July my daughter has been in mine and my partner’s (her Dad) care for two years; I hold a job; I am a mum; I have completed my Certificate IV in Child Youth and Family Intervention; am currently studying my Diploma in Community Services; and reconciled past friendships and formed new friendships. I have been a guest speaker at different places to spread my message of hope to all individuals affected by this disease. These are just a small example of my achievements I have been able to succeed in since finding recovery. My recovery didn’t come easy, but it came to me at the time when I was ready. Recovery is not something that happens overnight, it is a lifelong journey and something I will continue to work on. But it has been worth it.
If you are suffering from this disease my message to you, is you are not alone. If you are thinking about starting your recovery journey, then you have already taken the first step. If you have a friend or family member suffering just remind them that they are loved and no matter what happens they will never be alone. Simple things like this can spread a message of hope.
Kayleearne’s entry was named Paul Jennings special award winner in the 2022 short story competition.
By Mark Gavin
Slowly the blurriness between sleep and waking flows through my body as I hear a small commotion at my bedroom door. I inhale a conscious breath and instinctively know that the wind is gentle and offshore. I hear a quite “dad” from the bedroom door. “Yes” I reply. “Come on we are doing a dawney” was the response. Two of my boys had got up early to surf with me to celebrate my 50th birthday. I said “awesome, I will be down in a minute”. I gave my partner a kiss on her forehead and said “see you in a few hours” I felt her gently squeeze my hand and heard a quiet “happy birthday handsome, have fun and be safe”.
Standing on the beach with the first rays of light, I said to the boys “off you go, I need to fix my leg rope, I’ll catch up”. Truthfully, I just wanted a quiet minute to watch them paddle out, implanting proud and joyful memories into my mind. Standing there watching the reflections off the swell lines start too form, it created a reflection of my own life. My life was not always filled with such beautiful moments like this day had gifted me, in fact 10 years ago my story was very different.
I was living my life like it was an episode of Jackass. My existence and actions were executed by the mantra of `if you are living on the edge, then you are taking up too much room`. I had sipped, sculled, smoked, snorted and swallowed all kinds of mind-altering substances in the fruitless pursuit of happiness, acceptance, approval and self-worth. I would wear my excessive use of drugs and alcohol like a badge of pride, thinking I was some sort of champion. Excuses as to why it was normal or even deserved behaviour would always flow from my mouth. All the time I was failing to see what wreckage and absolute carnage I was leaving in my wake of self-destruction. My path to a premature death lay before me and I had my foot firmly on the accelerator.
There are many steps on the road to recovery but the one step on my path which to this day is prominent in my mind is the bluestone step leading into a dimly lit hall. I remember pausing at this step and just looking at it, knowing this had to be a turning point. I crossed over this step alone and completely broken. Seeing MS take my mother’s life over the first 11 years of my life had not broken me. Two failed marriages and several attempts on my own life had not broken me. Court appearances had not broken me and even barely seeing my own sons had not broken me. Finally, I just had no more bullshit sorry’s left in me. It’s the sorry that so many people who misuse substances know all too well. It’s the genuine regret for your actions the night before. It’s the `I won’t do it again’. It’s the well-intentioned promises to be a better person. All of which ultimately fail as you end up in another filthy public toilet using or having another secret longneck. Back down the rabbit hole for another trip to sorry town.
I don’t have a specific date to refer to, but I do know that my recovery started the day I crossed that bluestone step and stopped using alcohol, drugs and cigarettes all on that day. It was a few days later that I saw the world come into high definition for me. All the colours of the world literally got brighter and like respawning on a computer game I got the chance to start over on this level of life. My recovery has not always been roses and fairy floss. Life still throws me some shitty situations but there is now a lack of drama and conflict. Funny how love has filled the void that was within me. I now feel it from those around me and radiating out from within. There is a beautiful peace and calmness within the bosom of recovery.
First light of the day used to highlight all the sordid little actions hidden in the darkness from the night before. Now standing here on the beach basking in the first light of the day watching two of my sons paddling out, it lights up endless possibilities, joy, gratitude and contentment. The golden hour glows upon me like a beacon to the future.
WRAD is using International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31 to remember without stigma those who have died or become permanently injured due to overdose and to highlight effective harm reduction strategies.
To mark the day, WRAD is shining a light on the stigma and demonisation of drug addiction by lighting up its Merri Street building in purple lights from August 29 to September 2.
The colour purple sends a message that every person’s life is valuable and that stigmatising people who use drugs needs to stop.
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare recorded 1,842 drug-induced deaths in 2020, with more than two-thirds considered accidental and just over 20 per cent intentional.
WRAD assertive youth outreach worker Harriet Rose said deaths from overdoses have outnumbered the national road toll since 2014 yet the issue is rarely discussed.
“These are preventable and unnecessary deaths,” Ms Rose said.
Ms Rose said drug dependence was a complex health and social issue, not a sign of personal or moral failure. “The shame and stigma associated with drug use pushes people to the margins of society, creates barriers to seeking help, and means health issues go untreated,” she said.
She added that many overdoses were connected to prescribed medications, not illicit substances.
“A common misconception is that overdoses only occur with illicit substances like heroin. All drugs can cause an overdose, including prescription and pharmaceutical medications. Often, it is a combination of drugs that results in an overdose. For instance, many substances have a sedative or depressant effect on the body where they slow the vital body activities including breathing and the heart rate. These substances are often prescribed or taken to alleviate pain, assist with sleep, or used recreationally like alcohol. However, when taken in excessive amounts or in combination, they can depress normal functions until breathing and the heart eventually stop, resulting in an overdose and potential death.”
International Overdose Awareness Day is also an opportunity to promote the lifesaving medication Naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids and provides opportunities for opioid overdoses to be treated immediately. Naloxone is now available as an intranasal device (Nyxoid) and is easy and safe for people to use at home.
People can access free Naloxone and information about how to use it from a community pharmacist or WRAD. WRAD will also provide education sessions for interested community members.
People can get more information about drugs, overdose and overdose death prevention such as the use of Nyxoid by contacting WRAD on 5564 5777. WRAD and Handbury Medical Suites now provides after hours support on Mondays, Tuesday and Thursday from 6pm-8:30pm, with appointments available with GPs and drug and alcohol clinicians.
For drug and alcohol issues, call Directline 1800 888236, or WRAD 55 645777
A Warrnambool man who reflected on the “absolute carnage” he was leaving in his path of self-destruction has won the 2022 WRAD short story competition.
The entry `First Light’ by Mark Gavin has won first prize in the competition that followed the theme Change, Challenge and a Brighter Future in Recovery.
“I was living my life like an episode of Jackass,” Mr Gavin admits in his story.
“I would wear my excessive use of drugs and alcohol like a badge of pride, thinking I was some sort of champion,” he wrote. “All the time I was failing to see what wreckage and absolute carnage I was leaving in my wake of self-destruction. My path to a premature death lay before me and I had my foot firmly on the accelerator.”
However, Mr Gavin points to a day when he stopped using alcohol, drugs and cigarettes at the same time. “A few days later I saw the world come into high definition…I got the chance to start over.”
Mr Gavin admits his recovery hasn’t been all “roses and fairy floss” but says there is a beautiful peace and calmness to it, saying the first light of day “glows upon me like a beacon to the future”.
The competition received about a dozen entries, including stories from parents who cared for children with substance use issues and from people who have recovered from their own problems.
Second prize went to `Last Week’, an anonymous entry detailing a series of communications between a mother and son.
“It’s always been about loving unconditionally; never giving up the hope for change, never losing sight of the small things to be grateful for,” the mother wrote.
Third prize was another anonymous entry `The Yellow Card’, a story of hope about a card with a message kept by a father who had been through recovery.
The Paul Jennings award was won by Kayleearne Clyde for her submission `Strength in Recovery’, detailing her five-year addiction to methamphetamines and her three years in recovery.
“If you are thinking about starting your recovery journey, then you have already taken the first step,” she wrote. “Recovery is not something that happens overnight, it is a lifetime journey and something I will continue to work on. But it has been worth it.”
Judges said that all entries had presented emotional and inspiring stories of recovery. “Selecting a winner was a difficult task. All the writers deserve special recognition for documenting their brave recovery stories,” the judges said.
The winners share total prize money of $2,500.
WRAD will feature some of the winning stories on its website and will publish a booklet highlighting many of the entries.
For drug and alcohol issues, call Directline 1800 888236, or WRAD 55 645777
Caption: Mark Gavin, Kayleearne Clyde with WRAD Director Geoff Soma and Patron Paul Jennings
WRAD was saddened to hear the news of Archie Roach’s passing. Archie was one of WRAD’S patrons and he will be missed. His songs and brave and triumphant stories will live on and serve as an inspiration to those who are engaged in substance misuse recovery. His kindness and his encouraging words will be remembered always. We offer our condolences to his family on this very sad occasion.
The Victorian state opposition has pledged $36 million support for The Lookout residential rehabilitation centre.
Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy and Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy were in Warrnambool today to confirm a Liberal Nationals Government will build a new 30-bed, state-of- the-art treatment facility.
A critical shortage of residential rehabilitation in the Warrnambool region has seen a strong community push, led by the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Centre (WRAD), to establish The Lookout residential rehabilitation centre.
A change in government in November will deliver the community’s vision, according to Leader of the Opposition Matthew Guy, who said The Lookout would provide 24-hour care and support for south-west coast residents seeking help for alcohol and drug dependencies.
“Alcohol and drug addiction has a dreadful impact on local communities and unfortunately, regional Victoria lacks adequate support for people struggling with dependency issues,” Mr Guy said.
“To invest $36 million into a dedicated local facility with trained staff to support residents with addiction problems will go a long way to addressing the challenges the community currently face.”
The investment will mean that residents can get the treatment they deserve without needing to travel long distances, leaving family and local support networks.
Shadow Minister for Mental Health Emma Kealy said the commitment forms part of the Liberals and Nationals’ overall plan for better mental health care.
“The Liberals and Nationals will address the mental health crisis in our state, and support Victorians in getting the help they need when they need it.”
Member for South-West Coast Roma Britnell said residents in the Warrnambool area shouldn’t have to travel far and wide to access the support they need and deserve.
WRAD Director Geoff Soma said the announcement was a positive step in the right direction. “Roma Britnell and her party have shown strong support and commitment for this project which is appreciated and significant to the cause,” Mr Soma said.
“The whole community has got behind this project because it is important to our community. People with substance misuse issues are import and a residential rehabilitation centre locally will directly benefit clients and their families.’
Great South Coast Consortium Clinical Team Leader Chris Kendall is now providing clinical oversight for the Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) and Portland District Health (PDH) Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) teams in a newly created position.
Mr Kendall had previously undertaken a team leader role for WRAD, which had a clinical caseload similar to the position at PDH. Both positions became vacant and following a review, a decision was made to join the management part of the roles across both sites.
“It is the first time the Great South Consortium has worked together to share roles across the region where the person is working across both programs,” WRAD Director Geoff Soma said.
Mr Kendall is employed by WRAD and sub-contracted to PDH. He works two days per week in Portland and three days in Warrnambool.
The role involves supervising staff and providing leadership for projects such as Sliding Doors and Dual Diagnosis.
“This strengthens the collaboration between PDH and WRAD as we can share knowledge, resources and training,” Mr Soma said.
PDH’s existing AOD team members will continue to provide the same level of services to the Glenelg and Southern Grampians regions.
PDH Executive Director of Primary Care Services, Margaret Cadenhead, said the new arrangement would strengthen care pathways for clients and resources for the workforce.
“We are already part of a regional model and this new arrangement is in line with mental health reforms that look at integrated and partnership care and dual diagnosis support,” Ms Cadenhead said.
“This strengthens the whole team by allowing us to combine with a specialist AOD organisation and benefit from WRAD’s expertise.”
The new position also addresses key strategies in the Wimmera-South West AOD Catchment Action Plan compiled by the Primary Health Network, and builds on a joint arrangement with WRAD to provide a pharmacotherapy clinic at PDH one day per week.
Ms Cadenhead said it was planned to expand counselling services between Portland, Hamilton and Warrnambool.
WRAD is the lead agency in the Great South Coast consortium and provides a range of services including counselling, care recovery, non-residential withdrawal, non-residential rehabilitation, family reunification, brief interventions, overdose prevention, dual diagnosis services and assertive outreach.
For drug and alcohol issues, call Directline 1800 888236, or WRAD 55 645777
Victoria’s peak alcohol and other drug organisation has used its first board meeting in Warrnambool to call for destigmatising of AOD issues.
The Victorian Alcohol and Drug Association (VAADA) also used the visit to add its voice to the push for the proposed Lookout Residential Rehabilitation Centre.
The VAADA Board met in Warrnambool on Friday June 17 and later hosted a South West AOD forum in conjunction with Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD) to look for home-grown solutions for the local community.
VAADA President Dr Tamsin Short said there was a great window for change but people need to reconsider how they perceive AOD issues.
“There’s often a stigma within a stigma – firstly around mental health and then a further stigma around alcohol and other drugs,” Dr Short said.
“We need to shift community understanding about alcohol and other drug (AOD) issues to it being recognised as a health issue.
“I would love to see every news article with a link on how to get AOD help, like there is with articles about suicide and mental health.
“There are good supports available; services like WRAD are doing really great work, even though resources are limited.”
Dr Short said AOD issues could happen to anyone in any part of society.
“Non-stigmatising language around AOD is a massive issue that needs to be addressed,” she said. “We need to get the message across that people should be able to access treatment and not be marginalised.”
Dr Short said the Royal Commission into Mental Health recommended services be more accessible. “Mental health is going through a period of change so now is a good time to engage to ensure services are more accessible for people with AOD.”
Executive officer Sam Biondo said it was the first time VAADA had held a board meeting in Warrnambool as part of its annual country visiting program.
“We are aware of WRAD’s work in trying to establish the Lookout and it was a good time to visit to see if we could have an input about that project and local issues in general.”
Mr Biondo said he was impressed by the services offered at WRAD.
“It was very positive to hear how WRAD is supporting people by developing and implementing an innovative and accessible dual diagnosis service,” he said. “It’s exciting because it has the potential to be used by other organisations around the state. Warrnambool is showing the way.”
Mr Biondo said regional residential rehabilitation was vital because of the “tyranny of distance” and the need for people, including those in Aboriginal communities, to remain close to home in recovery.
“Western Victoria is known to be a hot spot for alcohol consumption and rehabilitation should be local, not hundreds of kilometres away in Geelong or Melbourne,” he said.
“WRAD is well positioned with wrap-around services including a GP clinic, addiction medicine psychiatrist, psychologist and a broad sweep of services that make it ideally placed to provide residential rehab.
“The south-west is the only catchment without residential rehab in Victoria.”
For drug and alcohol issues, call Directline 1800 888236, or WRAD 55 645777
People in recovery from substance misuse can share their stories and inspire others to follow their lead in a writing competition organised by the Western Region Alcohol and Drug Centre (WRAD).
The short story competition across the Great South Coast will follow the theme Change, Challenge and a Brighter Future in Recovery.
The inaugural writing competition in 2021 attracted more than 20 entries and helped to break down stigma associated with addiction and helped people tell their important stories.
WRAD Director Geoff Soma said the competition was so successful in celebrating recovering and that it was decided to revive it in 2022.
“It’s important to get personal stories out into the community to improve understanding about substance misuse and the role treatment can play in recovery,” Mr Soma said. “This competition is about encouraging hope and celebrating people’s journey along the road to recovery.”
People who are in recovery are being invited to tell their stories, along with friends and family. Personal entries are preferred but people can also make anonymous submissions. Fictional stories will also be considered as part of the competition.
Total prize money of $2,500 is being offered and winning stories will be published on WRAD’s website and social media platforms, newsletter with excerpts highlighted in the local media.
Warrnambool-based author and WRAD patron Paul Jennings is again supporting the competition.
Mr Jennings said the previous competition had significantly changed people’s lives. “The authors were rewarded with the knowledge that their stories had encouraged others who were still struggling with addiction and many parents, siblings and friends of sufferers had been moved by the stories of hope and courage so generously shared,” he said. “As a bonus, many of the entrants had discovered their own previously unrecognised literary talents.”
Mr Soma said WRAD wanted to generate discussion and understanding about substance misuse issues and to promote that treatment does work.
“Discussing substance misuse and recovery helps to destigmatise the problems and sharing personal stories will hopefully inspire more people to seek help and start their own journey,” he said.
The stories have a 1000-word limit. The competition starts on June 6 and entries must be lodged by July 29. For more information, people can contact competition organiser Rick Bayne on 0418 140489.
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