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A Residential Road to Recovery

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Alex's Story

Alex* started using drugs at age 13 after moving to England from Australia with his family. He says the combination of peer pressure, boredom and availability led him to start using marijuana, alcohol and the magic mushrooms which grew in the wild for three months of the year. As he got into his late teens and into the rave scene, harder drugs like LSD and ecstasy started to become regular weekend habits.

Moving back to Australia just before he turned 17, Alex took a break from drugs whilst working out in the Kimberly as a Jackaroo. However when he returned home, he got back into rave parties and started working nights, smoking marijuana daily and using hard drugs when he could. He was introduced to methamphetamines and things started to go downhill.

Alex describes himself at this time as angry and vengeful and his relationships with his friends and family started to deteriorate. Working at a pub, he had constant access to alcohol and meth which he was using regularly. Alex would experience intense cravings for meth and realised he was at the verge of psychosis. He gave up the meth, whilst still smoking marijuana daily and drinking alcohol heavily.

Unable to work or pay rent, this lifestyle was taking a toll on Alex’s physical and mental health. Alex woke one day after a heavy session smoking marijuana with his head-spinning and heart pumping. Fearing he was having a heart attack, he called an ambulance. It was his first panic attack, and it wasn’t the last. The anxiety continued daily, and depression set in. Alex contacted the integrated Next Step / Palmerston service in Fremantle. He was put on the waiting list for Palmerston’s Therapeutic Community.

The Farm

The Farm is a Therapeutic Community 30 minutes south of Perth offering a residential rehabilitation program designed for people wishing to address their substance use issues. The suggested minimum stay is 14 weeks, with residents having the opportunity to remain in the Therapeutic Community for up to a year. Residents are provided with a routine of farm work, individual and group counselling sessions and recreational activities. They are also responsible for meal preparation and daily tasks on a rostered basis. Families are able to visit on the weekends, with a playground recently installed for the children who visit.

Alex says he owes his recovery to the farm; however his first impression of being on the farm was ‘strange’. As someone who had isolated himself from society, living with 30 other people and having to communicate with them was hard at first. With a therapeutic approach, residents at the farm are encouraged to be accountable for their own behaviour and to make other people aware of their negative behaviour in order to address it in a constructive way. This was a challenge at first for Alex as he had a number of behaviours to work on.

Road to Recovery

Things started to click for Alex as he learnt to communicate with others and to recognise his behaviour. He says that he lost his social skills after 15 years of using drugs and the farm taught him how to be part of society again. It provided Alex with a safe, supportive environment where he was able to learn, grow and test the boundaries. Alex reconnected with his family and old friends, something he feels he wouldn’t have been able to do if he didn’t have the support of the farm and his counsellors behind him in case things didn’t work out.

Alex progressed to the Palmerston transitional housing, which is accommodation provided for residents who have completed the program and who would benefit from some ongoing involvement in the Therapeutic Community. These residents are expected to take a lead role in the community, while engaging in employment or pursuing further training. Whilst here, Alex joined the local cricket club, started a TAFE course, got a job and was meeting and socialising with new people. By the time he moved out of the transitional housing, Alex’s days were filled and his lifestyle no longer revolved around drugs and alcohol.

Nowadays, Alex is giving back to those who seek support. He is a facilitator of support group meetings, assisting people in recovering from alcohol, drug use and other addictive behaviours.  Alex is currently studying his certificate 4 in peer work and is working a couple of jobs. He also has a close relationship with his family and friends. For Alex the farm gave him the opportunity to turn his life around.

More Information

For further information about the farm please call Palmerston Perth on (08) 9328 7355 or visit www.palmerston.org.au

For more information about therapeutic communities and other alcohol and other drug services in Western Australia, visit the Green Book Directory of Alcohol and other Drug and Mental Health Services in WA at www.greenbook.org.au

For free, confidential information, counselling and referral 24/7 call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 9442 5000 (country callers 1800 198 024)

*Name has been changed for the purposes of this story

Alcohol and other Drug Withdrawal at Home

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

For people who are dependent on alcohol or other drugs and who want to safely reduce or stop their use, withdrawal is an important step along the way.

While some people choose to work with in-patient withdrawal services, people living in the Perth metropolitan area may choose to withdraw at home with support from St John of God Health Care's Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network (DAWN).

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network

Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network Team Members
The Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network (DAWN) team.
The Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Network (DAWN) is a free, professional service that provides an effective treatment option for people choosing to safely reduce or cease their substance use.

"DAWN supports people to manage their withdrawal from alcohol or drug use in their home environment," says DAWN's Manager Liz Wilson-Taylor.

An experienced Clinical Nurse Specialist will  work closely with the consumer, their doctor and family member/support person and make regular visits at the home throughout the withdrawal.

Why Do People Need Medical Support To Withdraw From Alcohol or other Drugs?

"Ceasing a substance abruptly and without medical support - without medication and advice - can be dangerous, both physically and psychologically," says Liz. "This is especially true for alcohol."

What's Involved?

The withdrawal is planned with the client, their support person and GP with a commencement date negotiated with all parties.

A DAWN Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) visits each day from Monday to Friday for the first week to monitor withdrawal symptoms and to assist in relapse prevention as well as with the medication regime if required.

Telephone support via the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) will be organised for the person over the weekend.

Further visits will depend on ongoing assessment.

The DAWN CNS also keeps the client's GP informed throughout the withdrawal and deals with any possible emergencies or issues along the way.

"The service supports people to reach their goals and to make changes that are realistic and sustainable," says Liz. "We encourage self-determination and independence to reduce harm and promote a safer lifestyle."

DAWN is mindful of the cultural, physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual and mental health needs of individuals.

What Does The Clinical Nurse Specialist Do?

  • Coordinates the withdrawal
  • Provides support for the patient, family and/or significant others
  • Ensures a safe environment
  • Keeps in regular contact with the patients' GP
  • Monitors withdrawal symptoms
  • Monitors the use of any medication prescribed to assist with withdrawal
  • Explores relapse prevention strategies and
  • Explores options for ongoing support with the patient (including counselling and rehabilitation) and facilitates referral to the service that best meets their needs.

Who Can Do A Home-Based Withdrawal?

"We work with people from all walks of life with alcohol and/or other drug dependence or who are regular users," says Liz. "As everyone is different, a nurse will discuss an individual's circumstances with them to ensure home based withdrawal is the best treatment option."

With the exception of tobacco, DAWN will support people to withdraw from any drug, and people with medical or mental health conditions are welcome.

"It's important that people have some support and the nurse will ask potential patients about this as part of a comprehensive assessment," says Liz.

Private health insurance is not needed. The costs that may be incurred are a visit to the GP and medications for withdrawal.

How Long Does It Take?

"This depends on the situation and what substance or substances the person is withdrawing from," says Liz.

Once a person is assessed, the nurse will talk to them about how long they can expect to be supported.

"Change is possible and can be sustained," says Liz. "Withdrawal is a step in the process."

What If Home-Based Withdrawal Is Not The Best Option?

DAWN will discuss other options if home-based withdrawal is not the safest treatment for an individual. Says Liz, "We can facilitate referral to other agencies and services that best suit a person's needs."

More Information

DAWN St John of God Health Care Subiaco Hospital Logo
DAWN  can initially see people in clinics across the Perth metropolitan area, as well as the main office based in Subiaco.

The DAWN Youth Service has nurses co-locating at headspace Osborne Park and headspace Fremantle who provide holistic counselling, including harm-reduction support to either reduce or cease their substance use for young people aged 12 - 25 years with a mental health and AOD issue..

 "We're often in the community seeing people, so it's a good idea to contact us by calling our Subiaco office," says Liz.

For more information, please call DAWN on (08) 9382 6049, email dawn@sjog.org.au or visit www.sjog.org.au/dawn

For more information about withdrawal and detoxification services in Western Australia, visit the Green Book Directory of Alcohol and other Drug and Mental Health Services in WA at www.greenbook.org.au - or call the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS) on 9442 5000 (country callers 1800 198 024) for free, confidential information, counselling and referral 24/7.



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