GENEVIEVE’S STORY: LESS JUDGEMENT
I heard about NUAA when I was recently in rehab through a Stigma and Discrimination project they were running. I was interested because I had always felt a lot of judgement around my drug use experience, even when I was abstinent.
I have been in and out of drug use throughout my life, including a 7-year period when I didn’t use or drink at all after having my child taken because of my drug use – a wake-up call that led me straight to rehab. When I got her back, I didn’t risk using for a long time.
I began using again a few years ago. It was just a little at first, but my drug use escalated to a degree that I did crime to pay for it. After 3 police raids through my house, I ended up in jail for 5 months. I am still on bail, with sentencing for another offence coming up soon. My Mum has been caring for my child and I was bailed to her house so I can parent. I have been trying hard to make up for spare time, attending to my child’s needs and showing them my love and support.
I have done all the suggested things to get my life on track and stay out of jail. After I finished my previous sentence, I went to rehab and have become abstinent again. I am doing Narcotics Anonymous meetings. I have connected with several services and organisations. I am volunteering to give my skills and my time in helping other people. And I am doing a lot of courses.
I did the NUAA Stigma and Discrimination Workshop for several reasons. I have been attending courses not only to add new tools to my toolbox to make me more skilled and employable, but also in the spirit of relapse prevention - keeping busy so I don’t use. I try to fill my days with positive things and the NUAA course includes inspirational trainers and useful information. I also wanted to learn how to give back to my community and share my experience to support others. A bonus is finding that by doing short courses and workshops I have become more confident. The NUAA Workshop has increased my self-esteem in particular by helping me let go of my own judgement around my drug use.
I really enjoyed the Workshop. It helped me understand that my lived experience is important and I feel empowered to be able to talk about it without suffering from discrimination. I learned that I can use my experience to assist other people who use drugs as a Peer Support Worker.
I didn’t even know what a Peer Support Worker was before I did the course, but I did know that I felt a bond with people who shared my experiences. In the rehab I went to, there were 4 counsellors. They were all great with boundaries, with text book stuff, with making referrals. However only one had lived experience and because she understood the feelings associated with use and abstinence, I connected with her. That made all the difference to my progress through the rehab program. From the others, I always felt a bit of judgement. It really was a case of discrimination vs understanding. I think that those of us who share the drug user experience can really help each other. There is trust in that relationship, so we can open up more quickly about our own stories and take advice more readily from each other.
The Workshop also made me more aware of the language that is used to describe drug use and I think it is essential that we describe ourselves as people first. I’ve been finding myself picking up on things that my friends in NA say and challenging judgmentalism when I hear it. I realised it’s important that those of us with experience of drug use are understanding and tolerant of each other, then we are better equipped to protest it where we find it in services and the wider community.
I am not sure what my immediate future will bring. The fact is I’m accountable for my actions and I may have to go back to jail, regardless of all the work I have done on myself. I don’t know if I will end up doing Peer Support work. But I feel so much stronger now and I am more at peace with my own experience.