Bree's Story: Finding Me
My journey has been a long and hard one, interrupted by terms of imprisonment and unemployment. I have felt desperation, frustration and overwhelming helplessness about breaking what seemed like a never-ending cycle of drug dependency, crime, court, programs, probation, parole, rehabs, detoxes and incarceration … all while trying to be the single mother of two beautiful children.
However, all of that seemingly came to an end when my past finally caught up to me. I had spent months on the run, wondering when they would catch up with me. I knew it was just a matter of time.
It was a desperate existence. I wanted to obliterate the regret, pain and remorse I felt at the fact I had got myself into this pathetic position at 42, an age most “normal” people were …”being normal”! Instead I was living earn-to-earn, shot-to-shot, all while constantly looking over my shoulder and trying to stay one step ahead of the law.
On 20 January 2013, the inevitable day finally arrived. The police boxed my car in and for the first time in my life I didn’t have the inclination to run. By the time they cuffed me, in front of my son, I was completely and utterly broken on every single level – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.
As I was led into the cells, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I would be refused bail and forfeiting my appearance in court. I just asked the officers to get the prison truck here as soon as possible so I could get to Mulawa and get the long reception process started.
Totally, utterly and completely broken, I had hit what I thought was my rock bottom. Little did I know, rock bottom had a basement.
I was placed in the hospital wing where for three weeks, I painfully withdrew off heroin. Worse still, I was coming off Xanax. I fitted and went without sleep for pretty much the whole three weeks.
As my mind became clearer, I started on a month-long ride on an emotional roller-coaster. I was wracked with guilt at the position I had got myself into yet again. The deep remorse I felt for what I had done to my children nearly took me to the brink of suicide again. I swapped pinches of tobacco for psych medication in an effort to ease the pain, but nothing worked. Reality hit me like it had never hit me before.
For the first time in my “jail career”, I made a conscious decision to do my time differently. After a classification to a minimum/medium facility, I stopped trying to wipe out the pain and filled my days with work and programs. I ended up with a job in the dairy, which kept my days full. On my days, I off enrolled in every course possible, finally leaving jail with 14 certificates.
In the last 9 months of my sentence, I was selected to be the Koori delegate in the jail as well as the inmate delegate for the whole jail. This meant regularly meeting with the big wigs in Corrective Services to voice the concerns of the women in the jail. I distinctly remember after one meeting, the head of security followed me outside and told me she had never heard anybody speak so passionately and articulately. She was impressed that I treated the women’s grievances and concerns with the credibility they deserved.
It was a lightbulb moment for me, even though I didn’t know it at the time. It was the first time in years I could remember feeling a sense of self-worth.
During my incarceration, I became a grandmother and, combined with the new feeling of worthiness, I was released for the first time without the intention of spending my release cheque on pills and heroin.
It’s been nearly 3 years since my release. It hasn’t all been easy; it has been a journey of several lapses. However, it has been a wonderful journey of self-discovery.
I have managed to sustain a period of abstinence and that has led me to the place I am today. I am employed, in a great relationship, in a stable home and I am now returning to study. The most important thing is that I have made a very final break in that endless cycle of grief, loss, regret and remorse.
For the first time in longer than I can remember, I am ME and most nights I lay my head on the pillow with a feeling of accomplishment. For the most part, I am happy to be where I am in my life – right here and right now.