Fresh Start graduate completes university Law Honours
“Complacency has always been a stumbling block for me…”
The committed and brave life of Chris O’Donoghue illustrates the long, hard road a drug addict takes to drive out their cravings. In 2007 Chris arrived on Fresh Start’s doorstep in the depths of addiction, only recovering after three years of treatment. He went on to volunteer at Fresh Start and eventually became a paid employee. In 2010 he returned to his family and friends in Queensland. As Chris recounts,
“Complacency has always been a stumbling block for me”.
He relapsed into heroin, Suboxone and benzodiazepine use. Later that year Chris returned to Fresh Start, responding positively to the naltrexone treatment.
“Naltrexone helped me,” Chris said. “But I never really addressed the reasons I was using, and I never committed to a program of recovery to complement the implant treatment.”
Recovering a second time, Chris returned to Queensland. Things went from good to bad to worse as he once more lapsed into Suboxone use. Then in April 2011 he was arrested for robbing a pharmacy to obtain more Suboxone. Chris was sentenced to five years in prison.
“It was a painful time. But, during this time I stayed close to God and he gave me a second chance, unlike a few of my mates. They say people on drugs either end up dead or in prison. I guess I got the prison option, my mates weren’t so lucky….”
A reformed Chris was released from prison 14 months into his sentence. He moved to Bundaberg, joined a church group, made good friends and found love. Chris became a community volunteer and worked non-stop during the devastating Bundaberg floods of 2013.
In 2014 Chris completed a degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. He was invited to enrol in the Griffith University criminology honours college a year later where he graduated with honours. But two decades of drug abuse, re-lapses and a term in prison took a personal toll as his partner left him. Again Chris fought back, entering the Salvation Army program in May 2016. He recently completed the transition phase. Chris has become involved with the local Southport Salvation Army Temple Corps, and is a volunteer bus driver taking people to detox to start their recovery program. As a peer support worker, Chris offers his experience, strength and hope to those battling addiction. He’s also established a relationship with the Australian Anti Ice Campaign (AAIC) raising funds to educate teenagers about Ice addiction.
Chris is actively involved in several 12 step programs around the Gold Coast.
”What I hear and see there gives me hope for the future, and it also reminds me not to become complacent again.”
Chris now lives on the Gold Coast and has a good relationship with his family and friends.
Streamlined services to clients offer:
- Fast access to diagnosis and treatment for Hepatitis B and/or C
- A specialist Hepatitis GP clinic, every Tuesday
- Holistic support including counselling, mental health and general nursing
- Rapid support by the specialist Hepatology Department at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital for clients who may have more complex treatment requirements
- Vaccination for Hepatitis A and B if required
- Education of Hepatitis B and C for clients, their partners and families
- Liaise with outlying GP’s and pharmacies to provide back-up support for all patients during treatment for either Hepatitis B or C.
- Hepatitis B
- Treatment initiation and ongoing maintenance
- Regular monitoring with blood tests and ultrasounds every six-months
- Vaccination if not already immune or infected with the virus.
- Hepatitis C
- Less treatment visits and blood tests are now required
- Shorter treatment duration – Often only 12 weeks
- Over 95% cure rate
- Follow-up monitoring for those with more complex liver disease post-treatment
If you have concerns about Hepatitis, please ring the specialist Hepatitis Nurse at Fresh Start on 9381 1333 to organise a consultation.
UWA clinical trial on Fresh Start’s promising new Smoking Cessation Spray
The University of Western Australia is part-way through a clinical trial, testing a new Smoking Cessation Spray invented by Dr George O’Neil. A preliminary study involving ten Fresh Start clients indicated that the spray significantly reduces anxiety and the urge to smoke. These initial findings were promising enough to initiate a larger, randomized placebo-controlled trial.
Early participants in the trial have commented that “Using the active spray I felt much more chilled and didn’t even feel like having a cigarette” and “Since participating in the trial I feel way more confident about quitting smoking”.
The nasal Smoking Cessation Spray provides anti-craving effects and may reduce anxiety. Cravings and anxiety are prominent cigarette withdrawal symptoms, typically occurring within an hour of the last cigarette. The Smoking Cessation Spray can be used whenever these symptoms occur, providing relief within one to two minutes.
Admission to the Northam Recovery Program
At Fresh Start we recommend that our clients participate in a Rehabilitation Program after treatment. It removes those struggling with addiction from their old ways of life and places them into a facility that offers 24/7 care. In-house recovery programs help to eliminate stress by removing the individual from temptation and reducing the chance of relapse.
Northam Recovery Program (NRP) offers a comprehensive residential program focused on men’s recovery. Residents will begin their journey at Northam Recovery Centre until they are able to graduate to The Hill a farm-based centre 8kms from Northam. Both have the same core program with differing activities and responsibilities.
This year alone we have had 65 new admissions to Northam.
When a potential client is interested in Northam they will have the opportunity to meet our Recovery Co-ordinator and discuss any queries or questions they may have. Patients will receive an information brochure and some basic information about the program. A weekly outreach program is also held at the clinic for potential residents and former clients wanting to return to Northam.
Following the naltrexone implant treatment patients will need to complete the following steps before progressing to Northam:
- Northam Admission Application
- Medical Assessment with our Doctors
- Suitability Assessment with our Counsellors
- Must have a Mental Health Care Plan
- Urine drug screen test
- Any court paperwork must be provided
- NRP Rent Paperwork (Centrelink set up)
- First 2 weeks rent paid upfront
Once all stages of the process are completed clients are able to make the transition to Northam, where the next part of their recovery journey begins.
Ben’s recovery from methamphetamine addiction
Ben’s 23 year methamphetamine addiction took a turn for the worse following the death of his brother. He started to get into trouble with the law. It was at this point his 16 year old son reached out to Ben’s sister, for help. His son was tired of being stood up by his father on weekends. They looked around for a suitable rehab and before long he was at Fresh Start’s Northam Recovery program.
Ben said the hardest part about rehab was learning to conform and being in a structured environment. He welcomed the advice of staff and leaders and used this to learn how to deal with issues and shape how he dealt with his own recovery. Seeing how his addiction had badly affected his son gave him the strength to stick at the program.
One of the highlight’s of Ben’s recovery was being able to help out in the Northam town community; this gave him freedom from the rehab along side the support within the facility. After 7 months in the program he returned to work in Perth. Ben was honest with his employer about his struggle with addiction and they kept his position open for him.
Two years after walking through Fresh Start’s doors Ben returned home and now spends his weekends playing video games and enjoying days out with his son. He has re-built relationships with his family and has a new circle of friends that he met through work and family friends.
“It’s how you make it, you can make it easy or hard on yourself. Think about how to process your feeling and beliefs.” – Ben