WE HELP OURSELVES: PETE'S STORY
Pete is in his 30s and has been at WHOS for 4 months in the Residential Opioid Treatment Stabilisation Program (RTOD) - a program designed to help people stabilise on their methadone or buprenorphine and stop other drug use.
UN: So why rehab?
P: I went to rehab because I felt I had to get off my Opiate Substitution Treatment (OST) and I couldn’t do it on my own.
I actually first went to another place in northern NSW. It was an abstinence based rehab that had a program to get off OST. I went there to get off buprenorphine and other drugs I was using on top of my dose. I stayed abstinent there for 9 months. It wasn’t hard because I was locked away in the country in cotton wool with no contact with anyone except other people in the program.
But when I got out I freaked out. I couldn’t remember any of my pin numbers. I jumped every time someone came up behind me. There were no after services, no integration back into the community. So I did the only thing I knew how to do. I used.
Then I got on methadone, but I was still using on top and injecting my methadone. I am from Melbourne and they mix it with cordial there and there were times I even injected it with the cordial in it. You do what you have to do. But that is not what I wanted.
UN: Has WHOS helped?
P: I feel different, back into life. I am a lot more positive. I think this saved my life. I am in transition, which is the last part of the program. It means I live on site but can come and go. It’s great that it is in the city - so much better than being locked away and then having the shock of reconnecting with the world.
UN: Do you feel discrimination around being on OST, that it’s not a legitimate treatment?
P: I have always felt that OST was considered using, not treatment. I remember a girlfriend finding out. You know, she clutched her handbag close and basically saw me as a thieving drug user. I lost a job as I had to tell my boss because I was having trouble getting dosed and getting to work. All of a sudden the work dried up. It was like it was as good as using.
That discrimination nearly killed me. I felt I had to go and get off OST but I couldn’t do abstinence. So I ended up using again.
UN: How about in here? Is there discrimination in WHOS?
P: There’s the odd person who see you as having a free ride, just here on the nod. I mean we are separated from the other programs. But I don’t feel looked down upon as a person.
UN: What have you learned in here?
P: The big thing I’ve learned is that there is a way to live on treatment and blend in. You can still have a bit of fun. It’s so great to have a bit of money to spend on fun stuff. Go-karting, hobbies, clothes, going out. I was always broke. I was a pay day user while on my OST but it was enough to keep me broke and isolated. I could never go out with my work mates, I was always making excuses as to why I couldn’t go out after work. I couldn’t go because all my money went up my arm. It made me a loner. Using can be really isolating.
I have learned how to manage my money before I get it. You learn a lot of practical life skills in here. I have learned how to be on a stable dose, how to keep my mind level. I don’t have those extreme highs but nor do I have the extreme lows. But I’ve learned that’s how people live.
UN: Are there other benefits of being here?
P: One fantastic side benefit is being tested for hep C here; luckily I was negative. But they have the new treatments here which is fantastic. At least 10 of my friends have been tested, treated and cleared it while they have been in here. It’s great.
UN: Would you recommend the RTOD program?
P: Yes, I would - it teaches you how to live. I have been treated like a person and my treatment choice is respected. OST is the right thing for me but I needed to push past the stigma so I could choose for myself what was right for me. When I am on a stable dose and not fucking around - not using on top or injecting my dose - then it works for me. It’s been really important for me to learn and accept that