The following stories are from past and current residents of Detour House.
Two weeks ago I completed the residential component of my rehabilitation treatment program at Detour House. I am currently participating in the outpatient program as I transition back into society – clean, sober, free from my addiction to gambling and actually wanting to live again. Just 3 ½ months ago when I came to Detour I was depressed, defeated and lifeless, stuck in a life of chronic addiction. I didn’t care if I lived or died. I didn’t believe that I could get clean and stay clean and sober again.
Nearly 4 years ago I attended a long-term rehabilitation program on the Far North Coast. Unfortunately I began a relationship with another resident - a man who had a destructive history of addiction and violence. For three years I was locked in daily addiction, trying to free myself from the relationship. I have since become aware of how common this is in mixed gender services. Many alcoholics and addicts, once sober from their primary addiction, will reach out for a romantic and/or sexual relationship as a feel-good escape.
Early recovery is a scary and vulnerable place to be – particularly for women. As the years of buried pain and grief surface, it is extremely difficult to resist the support of another person, even if that support is coming from an inappropriate and even a dangerous place. I relapsed as a direct result of the pain and lifestyle introduce to me through that relationship. I have lots of friends who have had similar experiences. This time I knew that if I were to have a real chance of a lasting recovery, I needed to be given the space to heal without the distraction and danger of men being under the same roof, and particularly in the same therapeutic group. At Detour, I was given the opportunity to heal from my emotional turmoil, trauma and repeated patterns of abuse and violent relationships. I have felt a level of self-respect, honour and integrity that I believe will now stop this addiction from being a part of my future.
I really believe Detour helped save my life and will be forever grateful. I hope that Detour’s doors stay open so women like me are able to have the same opportunity I was given.
My name is Harriet and I’m 31. I’m living at Detour House. I suffer from extreme Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to many traumas and a severe ice addiction. This resulted in more trauma, homelessness and prostitution over the last 4 years.
The first time I got help was in 2012 when I was 6 months pregnant with my second daughter. I had become homeless due to a traumatic drug-related event and was living in motels with my 4 year old. I was working as a sex worker to put a roof over our heads and pay for my drug habit. I had been sexually assaulted by many men as a result of my unsafe situation and found myself pregnant. By the time I had managed to get myself and the money together for the abortion I was told it was too late. An aunt took me to hospital and looked after my four year old. The hospital informed DoCS of my situation and my daughter was placed care with my aunt and I was admitted to Jarrah House. I was told if I stayed at Jarrah, my four year old would join me there for the 3-month program and then we would transfer to another program for women and children, with my newborn for another 6 months.
I lost my children permanently and remained in deep addiction and homeless until December 2013, when I admitted myself into a service, very broken, traumatised and suicidal. On the site there were several houses that housed men. We had to mix with the men for meals, meeting and community activities. I found this extremely confronting. It brought up memories of past trauma, sexual assaults and my abusive childhood. I developed an anxiety disorder in this environment and it was difficult to focus on my recovery. My eating disorder re-surfaced too.
Since moving to the Detour House program 1 month ago I feel much more focused on my recovery and working through my deep-seated issues slowly with professionals. I feel less self-conscious and safe, more able to share my feelings and my story. The symptoms of my anxiety disorder are easing and I’m feeling a sense of hope. I feel safe for the first time in a long time - safe from men, safe from judgement and safe to work through my shame.
My name is Alisha and I’m 27. I have been at Detour House for 3 months and I am about to leave to move to a transition unit. I will still come to Detour for transition group and one-on-one support from my Case Manager.
I’ve been in other treatment facilities in the past. At Detour House I have been able to work on my issues in a small group of women. This allowed me to get comfortable and build a certain level of trust with the people I have shared the last 3 months with. I have been able to talk about things I have never spoken to anyone about before. I have been nurtured like never before in my life.
I have grown and changed so much and I finally believe in myself again. Without this service I would have continued drinking and using drugs and would still be homeless. But this time I would not only do damage to myself - I have recently found out that I am 4 months pregnant and I am having a baby! If this service wasn’t available where would my unborn baby and I be?
Not being able to recover from addiction in a women's only facility fills me with fear that my physical, emotional and sexual boundaries would be violated. In mixed gender rehab women will withdraw and feel unsafe. I can’t understand how it would be possible for women to be nurtured back to health in such an environment. I pray from the bottom of my heart that this does not happen. I have lived with active addiction and I know first-hand that it only results in jail, institutions and death. If women feel unsafe in a mixed gender service, they will prefer to live with addiction.
Detour house has loved and nurtured me so I can now live independently without substance abuse in a healthy and happy way. Their program and staff have offered me something I know is priceless. I pray my voice is heard in a way that it hasn't been for most of my life. Women who suffer this powerful disease just want to be heard.
Brought to you by SOS Women’s Services - a coalition of women and women’s services protecting the rights of women and children in NSW.