Often, when people experience long periods of substance abuse, forcing their life to spiral out of control and damaging their most valued relationships along the way, it can be hard to even imagine the possibility of getting out of that destructive cycle. Although it may seem impossible to some, atWork Australia client, Mark is living proof that change is possible. Despite his troubled past, Mark was determined not to become a statistic. Mark has a history of substance abuse and has experience with the justice system. According to a report released in 2023 on Government Services, it was identified that 51.5% of people who are released from prison will return to corrective services within two years [i]. However, decades of research suggest that stable employment, suitable to a person’s needs and skills, will give them the greatest chance to successfully reengage with their community[ii]. Mark confidently said that if it was not for his volunteering, his passion for art, his involvement in Uniting Communities, and his work as a painter, he would not have been able to break his old habits and he would most likely still be in prison.
From what started as recreational drug use, a young man out on the weekends enjoying the vibrant nightlife, quickly escalated and took Mark down a dark and dangerous path. Thirty years later, at forty-seven years old, Mark has now been clean and sober for two years. Mark said, “I feel like I wasted thirty years of my life. I have been clean for two years; I have never been happier, and I now realise there is such a better life out there.” In the final year of Mark’s drug use; he overdosed twice, was sentenced to jail, he was assaulted, and he was stabbed six times. This was rock bottom and the final straw for Mark, and after thirty years of drug and alcohol fueled mayhem, he decided he’d had enough.
In the darkest period of Mark’s life, he found the courage to reach out for help. He showed up at his parent’s house and asked for their support to overcome his addiction. This was the beginning of a new and brighter chapter for Mark. With the support of his parents, Mark entered into a six-month rehabilitation program with Uniting Communities.
Throughout Mark’s rehabilitation program, he participated in the Uniting Communities Arts Program and re-found his passion for art and painting. Two years on, Mark is still heavily involved with the Uniting Communities Arts Program and is preparing to begin teaching his own art class through Uniting Communities.
Mark has made tremendous progress throughout his recovery; his volunteer work has been instrumental to his success thus far. Mark’s confidence in himself continued to grow and he now wants to pursue paid employment. With the support of Uniting Communities, Mark was connected with atWork Australia, a leading employment services provider in South Australia. Working closely with his Job Coach, Katrina, she supported him to re-activate his ABN and start his own painting business. Mark said, “Originally, I really struggled to find motivation to work, but atWork Australia were a great support for me. They had my back every step of the way and never judged me for my past.”
A key driver for Mark wanting to start his own business was to have control of his work environment and the people who he engaged with. This is a strategy he implemented independently to ensure he could stay focused and wouldn’t fall back into his old habits. When asked, Mark said his biggest challenge when it came to finding employment was himself; he desperately wanted to avoid working with people who could have a negative influence on him.
Mark remains heavily involved with the New Roads Drug and Alcohol program through Uniting Communities. However, these days he is mentoring and supporting others to overcome their addiction. Mark openly talks about his journey and challenges with addiction in hope he can inspire others to make changes in their life and find what he has found; a better life on the other side. Mark said, “Unfortunately, sometimes people have to hit rock bottom before they can get back up, but there is such a better life out there.” Mark is forever grateful for the support he has received from the New Roads Drug and Rehabilitation program. Not only was Mark able to overcome his addiction, but he was reconnected with his soulmate, Amy. Now, they are each others inspiration and motivation to continue pursuing a better life of health and happiness.
In 2021-22 there was around 131,000 people, aged ten and over, receiving treatment for drug and alcohol addiction. Finding meaningful employment suited to a person’s needs and skills is a critical element in supporting people to rebuild and find a brighter future[iii]. atWork Australia work with clients, not only through support that can help an individual overcome their barriers like Mark has, but through practical and financial support to receive the right training or education that will build skills to lead to sustainable employment.