Darel* is a young Aboriginal man who got caught up in the cycle of alcohol, drugs and prison early in life. That was until he started yarning with an Aboriginal counsellor at Holyoake. He describes his experience through this interview.

How do you feel when you look back?

I feel really angry about how alcohol and drugs wasted the last four years of my life and how it affected my family. During this time I felt it was the only way I could survive, but it was actually destroying everything.

Why did you come to Holyoake?

Corrective Services referred me to Holyoake because I was charged with assault. I did not attend the sessions, but asked the Noongar counsellor who called me to put in a report to Corrective Services that we had engaged, even though it was by phone. The counsellor refused, but invited me to come and yarn with her about what was going on in my life. She promised to speak to my corrections officer and explain what was happening – as long as I came in to see her in person and have a long talk.

Did the counselling sessions help?

Yes, the counsellor was very kind and patient. She listened to my story and really understood my situation and the trouble drug use was causing my whole family. I realised that alcohol and drugs were my way of forgetting about the sadness I felt about losing my brother, uncle and cousin. They all died in a car crash and the police said they were using methamphetamine at the time of the accident. The counsellor then explained everything to my corrections officer and requested some more time for me to get my life sorted.

Do you think things have improved now?

At that time I was using methamphetamines, I was arguing with everyone and getting angry for small reasons. This is how I got into trouble for assault. I also began to see the bad effects of drugs in my life and especially the effect on my family, and decided to stop using.

The counsellor helped me to understand the effects of grief and to deal with the loss of my family members through the car accident. I learnt to keep a strong mind and spirit and connect more with strong families and community. She also sent me to see an Aboriginal Health doctor to help me sleep better without using cannabis. I am now planning to get my driver’s licence and train to work in the trucking industry. The guys at Corrective Services are very happy with the changes I have made.

All this would not have happened if I had not started yarning with the counsellor at Holyoake.

Read more about our programs or email clientservices@holyoake.org.au for more information. * Name changed on request