Partners in Recovery

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If Naomi was a piano, her life has hit plenty of dud notes. But in plinking away on her beloved keyboard she is composing her own overture of life to herald in a happy future.

Recently Naomi took delivery of a brand spanking new keyboard, thanks to funding from Partners in Recovery. And thanks to a deal from the store and a small loan from her partner, it’s a better model than she originally chose. “It sounds like a grand piano … I just love it,” a chuffed Naomi told me.

It now dominates her small flat and her life. Like her smile, it commands your attention when you walk in the door.

“I had a keyboard at age 21, mucked around on it for a few years until it eventually wore out. It was on my bucket list to buy another keyboard and learn to play properly before I turned 50.

I’m 44 now and recently got the urge to start playing again. I saw it in my mind… Chloe (PIR facilitator) made it happen.”

John Lennon’s Imagine has been a constant inspiration to Naomi. “It speaks of peace and love – it speaks to me.”

Naomi has had a rough life, starting in childhood. “Family life was dysfunctional. Domestic violence. I developed anxiety because I was always walking on eggshells. I started pulling my hair out, literally – trichotillomania it’s called – at age five. My stepfather would punish me for it. Soon after the tricho started, mum had me off to my first, of what was to become many, sessions with a psychiatrist.”

“My parents weren’t big drinkers but there was usually a cask of wine in the fridge, mainly to have with dinner guests at weekends. By the age of 10, I was often sneaking a glass for myself here and there.”

A few years later, her parents were divorced.

“At 15, I was working at Woolies so had money to burn on booze and partying and my boyfriend supplied the drugs. I got married at 21 and had a baby boy. I settled down for a couple of years but by 23 I was depressed and suicidal. My husband took me to the mental health unit at the local hospital.

During my stay, there was talk of manic depression in the group therapy sessions. I related to it … I had thought my ups and downs were a normal part of life.”  She left the hospital undiagnosed, having only been treated for depression.

Naomi sighs, takes a deep breath then a string of words ensues. “Divorce. Single mum. Drinking. Drugs. Prostitution.”

“I had my second son to another father when I was 31. We’d decided to have a baby together but after the relationship broke down, I left him early in the pregnancy and skipped town. I got in a very dark place. I was planning on suicide and taking the kids with me. Running the car into a tree seemed like the best option to end it all.”

“I wasn’t drinking so I had no coping mechanism. I was a rageaholic … screaming all the time. Neighbours called Child Safety. They arrived at my door and I admitted I needed help.

They recommended a pastor: he was a Pentecostal Christian.

I was taken into the church community and its network of support, was born again as they say and immersed myself in the church.”

Naomi eventually shifted back to the Gold Coast. She got involved with the local church, spent money on healthy organic food for her little family and was helping feed the homeless.

“But, yep, slipped back into booze and drugs. I entered a Christian rehab program but they didn’t take mental health into consideration: it was all demons to be expunged. I didn’t need the laying of hands on me – I needed help!”

Upon busting out of rehab, she landed in a refuge. “It was then I met a wonderful doctor whom I still see today.” Naomi was diagnosed with bipolar and borderline personality disorders. She was medicated and attended AA every morning for the next year to remain abstinent from the drinking.

She was soon to meet her current partner who is very supportive and has some work experience in mental health. Naomi was then able to function reasonably well and enjoyed a social drink occasionally.

Last year, she was volunteering with an environmental council and loved it, but in September her drinking was out of control again. She ended up back in detox.

Then came the wake-up call she needed – her son asked her to stop drinking for good. She was then connected with Partners in Recovery.

“I am so grateful for my Facilitators Ursula and Chloe. They have been so supportive and have connected me with some other really helpful counselling and support services.

“I am now in recovery. Sober five months. Functioning ok. Learning to manage anxiety and panic attacks, and volunteering one day a week back at the environmental council.

“My son is now so proud of me.”

When we spoke, Naomi was pumped, preparing to take her second son on a trip down south to see his big brother for a few days who is in the military service. These days they don’t get to spend much time together. “They are good boys. I am so proud of them both,” beams Naomi.

During our chat Naomi’s eyes flit back and forth to the keyboard. She’s getting fidgety and leans across to put her fingers on the keys. “Music is therapy for the soul. One day I’d like to compose my own relaxation music.”

I have no doubt she will.

We bid our farewells and before I get to the car, I can hear the ivories tinkling away and for a moment I imagine all the people, living in peace for today, a brotherhood of man sharing the world as one.

For other Gold Coast events and activities visit the Gold Coast Primary Health Network’s website:

PIR is a Federally funded program. Other consortia members include Gold Coast Health and Mental Health Association QLD