“Tell me your story.” That’s the first step in the helping process provided by one generous soul, who has requested to remain anonymous and shall be referred to as John. He’s English by birth but became Australian by choice when he arrived in 1986. Because of his struggles with alcohol, John shares his perspective on gaining sobriety. This partly involves acting as a sponsor for Alcoholics Anonymous. AA’s goals, as written in the preamble, involve deflating the addict’s ego and “getting honest”. Being “anonymous” isn’t about shame but with humility and sacrificial living. John helps people who struggle with drinking, specifically in prisons and hospitals, by talking with them and listening to their stories in a non-judgmental environment.
Spirituality is an important part of John’s life, beginning with the Christian-founded AA and as a member of Moolap and Barrabool Baptist Church for years. One day after service, John was asked for advice by a family with a son/daughter who had an addiction and from then, he decided to help other families. He began working with OneCare in Geelong West developing a pilot program of recovery groups, who were featured on Humans in Geelong previously. The recovery groups provide a safe environment for attendees where they can be vulnerable about their experiences. OneCare also provides community meals, counselling and mentoring.
OneCare’s recovery courses are small groups of 15 people, who attend weekly sessions for four months. The program provides enough information to educate the participants and help them through the incremental goals to recovery. However, the main purpose of the program is to develop a spiritual outlook on life, reduce selfish thinking and foster fellowship. As team leader, this is where John uses the 12 steps from the AA program. Telling the story of addiction leads to the next step: consequences of said addiction. Participants are asked to consider whether their addiction has cost them more than money, including relationships with their loved ones. Finally, John asks the participants what they would like to do about it.
“You get a terrific sense of purpose,” he says. Helping people overcome their feeling of being an outsider or a failure is rewarding, along with the deep friendships John obtained through his journey. Understandably, many of the stories shared can be harrowing, and John has his own sponsor who he debriefs to when needed. However, he has heard many similar stories and he rarely needs to debrief anymore.
John is developing a new care program directed at sufferers of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, working in emergency services – particularly their family. Emergency service workers need specialised care due to the high-risk nature of their occupation, and many are reticent to attend on their own. The family is such an important element in caring for society’s defenders. Often the sufferer’s family attend the groups separately to speak with others about their experience. Attendees gain insight and support which flows on to affect the first responder. Following John’s work in the pilot program for the recovery groups, OneCare is developing a recovery support group model. This will build on John’s work through the provision of support for not just people dealing with addiction but also their family and carers. In John’s experience, the most significant changes he has seen is when working with families. The entire family feels more relaxed and their stress levels have been reduced.
John encourages readers that if they or their loved one is struggling to get in touch with OneCare and tell their story.
Story: Stephanie Downing. Photo: Supplied