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Tax Appeal 2022 – Vicki’s recovery journey

Vicki remembers the exact date she came to Fresh Start for help.

“18 February 2014 was a turning point in my life. I was treated with an implant for a 20 year codeine addiction that I had spent years trying to overcome” she said.

Vicki was taking between 30 and 90 pills a day. Her parents and her church were trying hard to help her but she simply could not stop.  She had also used other drugs for many years including heroin.

“My lowest point was when I was living in a country town and my daughter was in care. I used to be a chronic self-harmer for a very long time and I remember sitting in my neighbour’s driveway with blood all over me and cuts all over my arms. I ended up in hospital and I remember thinking – I cannot do this anymore, I need help.”

The Fresh Start approach treats not only the physical addiction but provides strong support in areas which are crucial to recovery – mental health, relationships, employment, education and housing. Vicki found other recovery services were not right for her and it was only when she came to Fresh Start that she was finally able to move out of the grip of addiction.

“Before Fresh Start, I had tried many other recovery programs and none of them helped me. The difference at Fresh Start was the way I was treated – like an equal. There was no judgement.”

The development of an addiction can be a slow downward spiral for some people which makes it difficult for them to realise they have a substance use problem. Vicki still doesn’t know what started her own addiction.

“I was 14 when I first started using drugs. People tend to think addicts come from broken homes and abuse and neglect and that is certainly true for some people but not the case for everyone. I grew up in a stable loving Christian home with a beautiful family in a regional town.”

Vicki was using drugs throughout her daughter’s childhood and still feels burdened by what she exposed her to.

“I never hid my drug use from my daughter which was really unfair on her. She had to deal with things no child should have to deal with and I’m not proud of that. She saw me at my worst and I feel incredibly blessed that she has forgiven me and loves me and trusts me to look after her own kids.

“I haven’t forgiven myself though. The things my daughter saw and experienced haunt me at night.

After multiple attempts at recovery, a family friend who knew of Dr George O’Neil made an appointment for Vicki at the Fresh Start Clinic. It was that first phone conversation with a nurse that changed Vicki’s path in life.

“If I hadn’t come to Fresh Start, I would be dead. I am sure of that.”

For the majority of people with substance use issues, there is or has been significant trauma in their lives. The counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists at Fresh Start are highly experienced in trauma-informed care which is a central part of addiction recovery. Vicki found the counselling she received as part of the Fresh Start program made a huge impact and she continues to attend on a weekly basis.

“I think most people with addictions have suffered some form of trauma. Either before their addiction or during their addiction so by the time they arrive at Fresh Start they need more than just medical treatment.

“Addiction is traumatic in itself. Horrible things happen because of the environment and situations you find yourself in.”

After a protracted and difficult process, Vicki gained full-time custody of 2 of her grandchildren, who are now aged 4 and 6. With the kids in school and after-school care, Vicki is looking forward to returning to part-time work with support from the counsellors and chaplains who have been with her through each stage of her recovery.

“The chaplains and my counsellor are imperative for my recovery. I go to the group therapy every week and also speak with them one on one. They give me wonderful support and advice. I rely on them for guidance with making decisions that are best for me and my family. I can talk to them about absolutely anything – and I do.”

Vicki is very open about her journey and hopes that speaking about it will help people understand the very complex and challenging task of living with, and overcoming addiction.

“I am going to share my addiction journey story with my grandchildren when they are old enough.  I don’t want to just tell them not to do drugs, I want them to understand how I became addicted and the complicated circumstances around it and how my mental health played a part. To give them an understanding of how it has affected my life, how hard it was for me to get clean and how it devastated my life and my family’s lives. Most importantly, that I don’t want that for them.

“During my recovery journey I have learned how strong I am. I have learned how good God is. How important family is. How important friends are. And I have learned to have empathy for others.”

With her cravings and mental health well-managed, Vicki is looking forward to the future for the first time in decades.

“The worst day with my grandkids is better than the best day on my own. They give me purpose and a reason not to relapse.

When I think about the future, it’s all about seeing my daughter and grandkids well-adjusted and happy.

I just want a normal happy life with the kids. That would be my dream come true.”

Watch Vicki speaking about her experience with Fresh Start