Ty's Christmas of light and hope

10 November 2023

Ty’s Christmas of light and hope

Ty, a 22-year-old Kamilaroi man, currently works as an Aboriginal drug and alcohol mental health counsellor. Prior to that, Ty served as a peer mentor at The Salvation Army’s Dooralong Transformation Centre (NSW) — Australia’s largest drug, alcohol and gambling rehabilitation centre. While his own recovery journey has not always been easy, Ty firmly believes there is hope for every person to find healing and hope. He shares:

I left The Salvation Army’s Dooralong centre just before Christmas last year (I was a client and then also peer mentor) and within days was blessed to move into my own independent accommodation. I’d put a lot of things in place while in rehab, and also asked for all the support I could get.

I was determined that my son was not going to face the same challenges I did growing up, so having my own place meant I could have my son for a week, including Christmas Day. I had a really good Christmas with my family, and I was emotionally present for the first time in years.

Things were very different the Christmas before that though. That Christmas I was sleeping on an air bed at my mum’s place on the lounge room floor, really depressed. I had nothing — no home, no job, no vehicle and was coming down from drugs.

Many challenges in childhood

I grew up around a lot of drugs, violence and stealing. I didn’t know anything different. I left school really early and didn’t get much of an education. I fell in with the wrong crowd and started on ice young and never even thought about working or any of that stuff.

I met a nice girl, she fell pregnant with my son, and we were together for about three years. But I was on and off the drugs. I’d get off, but then I’d be back on and every time I started using again, I got worse. My gambling addiction would go through the roof when I’d use [drugs] and I’d start stealing stuff from home — hocking all our stuff.

At rock bottom, I pushed everyone away from me. I had no support, I was in a dark place, and I had nothing. I really wanted a different life. I wanted to break that cycle of addiction and trauma that I’d grown up with. My son had already seen me angry, seen me at my worst, and I didn’t want his experiences to be like mine.

So I reached out for help and got into [The Salvation Army’s] Dooralong.

Recovery journey starts from addiction struggle

I was really paranoid from the drugs when I first went to Dooralong, but what helped me was just being honest with myself and other people around me and not being afraid to ask for help. It was good to know that I wasn’t alone, and I could have a chat with someone if I was struggling.

Staying on as a mentor was a big help. It changed the way I was thinking, the way I was feeling, and the way I was acting. I was attracting good people around me who wanted to help, and I wanted to give back in any way I could. I really started enjoying helping other people.

New role, new hope, new life

After Dooralong, I was actually a client and a volunteer at an Aboriginal health service, before I started working for them. They helped me a lot. I’m working for them now as a drug and alcohol mental health counsellor. I have my son on the weekends and soon I’m starting studies in a Certificate 4 in drug and alcohol mental health.

Not so long ago, I wouldn’t have been able to picture myself ever being where I’m at today and I’m incredibly grateful. I’ve got a house, I’ve got a car, I pay my bills, I’ve got a good job — and I can help people. I’m just getting stuck into it.

The best thing is that I have my son regularly.

I really just want to be in the present and enjoy all the little things that I took for granted for so long. I want him to grow up and know I’m there for him. I want to give him a good life.

I never really got into connecting with my culture until I got to the service I now work for. They are big on connecting with my Kamilaroi culture. So I’m still learning as I go but that is now important to me.

Hope for the future

My hope for the future is just to stay clean. Hopefully get through all my study and stay on the right path.

No matter what anyone has gone through, I believe there is hope for everyone to get well, no matter what their circumstances. I would just encourage anyone who is struggling to get all the help they can, so they can live their best life.

If you are struggling with alcohol and other drugs, The Salvation Army has services that can help.

If you are struggling or times are tough, the Salvos can support you and offer you hope, goodness and joy this Christmas.

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