Rhonda's story

I was born on the 23rd August, 1975. I was the youngest of 4 children and my family was very loving and close. Growing up, I can vividly remember feeling 'not quite right' — always feeling like I never fitted in anywhere.

I made friends easily and loved spending time with them and my family, but like I said, I never quite felt 'right' or comfortable in my own skin.

I was very academic at school, and I went well in my first year of high school. By the middle of year 8, I had lost all interest in school and boys were my new passion, along with partying on weekends and going to the beach. The next few years were filled with one boyfriend after another (whom I thought could 'fix me' and alleviate the bad feelings that I had about myself), binge drinking and the self loathing that I had for myself was steadily beginning to grow.

I left school in Year 11 and then just partied for the next year or so until I fell pregnant with my eldest child (who is now 13 years old). My child's Dad and I weren't together so I lived with my parents, who were immensely supportive of me and very loving toward my child.

I started working at a local factory when my child was 11 months old, and I soon made a new circle of friends. I met a guy there, and we soon became a couple. We were married after 18 months of seeing each other. He was good to me and accepted my daughter really well. But after 6 weeks of marriage, I wanted out, as it soon became obvious that he couldn't 'fix' me, or change the way that I felt about myself. So my search continued.

Shortly after we separated, I got back together with my child's Dad. It was at this time that I had my first 'shot' of speed, and I absolutely loved it. My child’s Dad and I used for the next 6-12 months continuously, but due to an intervention from our families, we stopped, using drugs wasn't how we had planned to raise our daughter. For the next couple of years, we continued to work and raise our child. I fell pregnant with my second child when I was 23 and I stopped working shortly before she was born. I loved my 2 daughters more than anything and for a while, I felt that my world was complete. When my second child was 6 months old, I went back to full time employment. My relationship fell apart shortly after.

I continued to work, raise my daughter's with my family's love and support, and injected speed on 'night's out'.

I continued to go from relationship to relationship, looking for the one to 'fix me'. Unable to cope with a relationship breakdown, I turned to speed. This time, I wasn't able to put it down. I left my secure employment and started spending weekends in Sydney, using speed. The weekends turned into weeks, and my 2 girls lived practically full time at my parent’s house.

During this time, I turned to prostitution to fund my drug habit, as I was spending over $500 a day on speed. I began to use heroin as well to help 'bring me down', and soon, I had formed a habit from this too, although speed/ice was my main drug. I was working in a brothel in Sydney, and hardly ever seeing my girls. One day, my family intervened and said that if I didn't stop what I was doing, I wouldn't be unable to see my 2 beautiful girls. I stopped going to Sydney, and I detoxed at my parents house, and soon I had my girls back living with me, I was off the drugs and I was searching for something to the fill the ever expanding void that I felt inside.

Unfortunately, I turned to speed and ice once more, and I then began working in brothels in my home town to fund my drug habit. I began falling behind in my rent in the house that I had been leasing for the last 6 years. I was seeing less and less of my girls, and for the first time, my family started to distance themselves from me and my drug habit. During this time, I met a man, and shortly after we met, I stopped working. He was everything I wanted — he loved me, he loved my girls, and most of all he loved drugs. We lived together with my girls and we used speed and ecstasy on a regular basis, but this wasn't enough for me. I began to use daily behind his back, and soon this put a strain on our relationship. Even though he used as well, he left me and once again I was on my own.

During this time, my children's father wasn't using drugs anymore, and was in a new relationship and began to become involved in our girls lives again. I entered my first rehab and my old boyfriend and I reunited. I left rehab after only 11 days there, thinking that I was 'cured'. I returned home and my girls came back to live with me. After about 1 month clean, I returned to using ice and heroin, and although we used speed together, my boyfriend and I separated again.

Shortly afterwards, court proceedings began against me for custody of my children, instigated by their father. My mum supported me, but after a while, I was out of control, and contact with my family ceased. My girls were living with my mum, I had lost my house due to rental arrears and I continued prostitution to maintain my drug habit.

By chance, my old boyfriend and I reunited again, and I attempted rehab again. I was there for a month when I began realising how unhealthy my relationship with my boyfriend was, so I decided to end my relationship with him via letter. I also began acting out in the rehab, not working my program. My boyfriend tried continuously to contact me but I didn't see him or take his calls. He didn't understand why I didn't love him anymore. My mum called me on His's behalf, and I told her to tell him we were over. Five days after I sent the letter, He took his own life, with my letter in his hand. His entire family banned me from his funeral, so I fled the rehab and started using again worse than ever. I blamed myself entirely for His's death. I once again lived and work in a brothel, I wasn't seeing my family or girls much, and I knew that I was slowly dying. During this time, I contracted Hep C from sharing a dirty needle. I didn't really care, as long as I got my drugs. I knew the final court hearing regarding my children was coming up, but I just couldn't get clean. I cannot put into words the shame and guilt that I felt. I felt that I had failed my 2 beautiful girls, failed my family and wasn't worth ANYTHING.

The day after the final court hearing, where I lost custody of my 2 girls, I booked myself into residential rehabilitation, with the support of my family. Less than a week later, I arrived at the residential rehabilitation centre, broken and devastated. The light in my soul had now nearly completely gone out and words cannot describe the anguish I felt. Drugs had taken everything from me, and I knew that the only thing left to lose was my life. Immediately, I felt comfortable at the residential rehabilitation centre, and I did the best I could to embrace the program. But I wasn't quite ready. On one of my day leaves, I acted out by gambling and I was discharged for 2 weeks. Once again, my loving family were there for me, and towards the end of the two weeks I used ice again, and this confirmed to me that I was ready whole heartedly, to get recovery.

The next 10 months of my life were spent at the residential rehabilitation centre, working on myself completely, learning tools to equip me for the new life I so desperately wanted. The staff nurtured, cared for and taught me so much, but most of all, taught me that I was a decent human being, and I need not use drugs again, one day at a time, for the rest of my life. I worked closely during this time with my case worker, who guided me through my darkest hours and taught me about my self worth, self esteem and what it is to be a good person. The night that I graduated from the program was the proudest and most important night of my life, apart from having my 2 beautiful girls, whom I had been re building a relationship with throughout my entire program. On my graduation, my family and my daughter's were there, and I remember feeling so happy — the void that I had felt inside my ENTIRE life was no longer there. I was, and still am, filled with love for God, gratitude and admiration for everyone who have helped me. After my graduation, I went to live at a half way house, and I was supported to go to TAFE, where I studied and received my Cert IV in Community Welfare. I wanted to help other addicts like me, to show them a new way of life, as I had been shown through the program.

After graduating, I continued to see my family and girls regularly and my life was so different to when I was in addiction.

In January this year, I applied for a job as an AOD caseworker, and thankfully, I got the job. I now work full time, and I absolutely love my job. The things that I leant in the program help me, one day at a time, to live a fulfilling and drug free life. I have my bad days, when I don't feel 100%, but thanks to all those who have helped me, I now know that no matter how I am feeling, I don't ever need to use again.

This was put to the ultimate test shortly after I got my job, when my beautiful and supportive sister, Jennifer, was diagnosed with Leukemia. The last 6 months have been so painful to watch her go through what she has had to go through, but no matter how great my pain was, I knew that drugs weren't an option for me to ease the pain.

Today, my sister is recovering, and I am so grateful for everything that I have in my life.

I came from such a dark place in addiction — a place where I thought I could never escape from — to where I am today. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realise that I am not living in a fantasy — this is my life, and I owe it to God, the program, the very special people who work/ed here, and my ever loving and ever supporting family and children.