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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

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