ROHAN’S CONSUMER ACADEMY STORY: MY VOICE
I really enjoyed attending the Consumer Academy workshop. I was made feel very welcome and enjoyed hearing the stories of the facilitators. It was pretty interesting to be in an environment where you can talk freely and without judgement about your drug use. I liked that there was a good spread of age and experience. I learned a lot.
I have always thought risk minimisation is the way to approach drug use and through my studies I’m even more convinced. My drug experience has been around daily use of cannabis and using that on top of a mental illness has been really harmful for me. I’d like to learn to use drugs without them overtaking my life, but it doesn’t seem possible for me. I felt suicidal. I tried all sorts of therapies, psychologists and rehabs to stop using. I’ve learned that for me, I need to replace using drugs with other things that are more important to me.
Studying has been a positive thing in my life. I went to the workshop to find out more about how to help people and to learn more about my own struggle. I really enjoy working with people and I have been doing different courses and workshops to help me build my skills up. A few years ago, I decided to do a course to learn how to be a carer. After I graduated, I was caring for my grandmother until her death just recently. I also did a Certificate IV in Alcohol and Drug Counselling and now I’m doing a Diploma.
The Consumer Academy taught me that I can have a voice. I learnt that my history is important, that we all have a story, each and every one of us and that all of us, no matter our background, race or gender have experienced hardship and have learned how to overcome. I learnt that all people have value, no matter where they are in their story and you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover - we are all on a journey and we can support each other.
Throughout the workshop I really felt wanted and needed, that I have useful information that can help people. I feel 100% like that is what I want to do – share my struggle so that I can help others. I’ve lived that struggle, so I understand what it’s like to be there.
Since doing the Consumer Academy workshop, I have become a consumer representative on a committee that looks at improving the health system. Most of the people on the committee are doctors and I’m the only consumer so it’s a big responsibility. Being a consumer rep gave me a chance to speak directly and clearly about things that are important to people who use drugs. I really feel that I am helping people by contributing what I know about the gaps in the system and the way I have been treated.
I feel safe in the forum but I learnt from the Consumer Academy that these spaces - whether you are the only consumer rep on a committee or you a peer worker are talking with another person who uses drugs - are professional spaces. They are not your friends; you have to have boundaries. You should be aware of what you have in common so you can be helpful, but you should also realise that it is a work space. It is always about the goal, not about you.
The Academy taught me some useful things about advocacy and how to do it. I learned that having a voice is important and knowing when to speak up and how to do it makes your voice more effective. It’s good to be passionate, but you need to do it the right way.
Going to the workshop made me feel useful and worthy. When I left I was holding my head up a little higher than when I arrived.