CEO Blog: Education and belonging key to recovery

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Written by Samaritans CEO, Brad Webb

Two years ago, when I first started working at Samaritans, I read a powerful story of a man who considered Samaritans a second family to him. His life had been changed by a Samaritans service he called ‘a Godsend’.

That man was Sean.

Last week, I had the privilege to see Sean graduate with a Certificate III in Community Services – study that he has completed through Samaritans post release services.

Linking people who have been in prison back into housing, education and ongoing supports is a crucial foundation for growth. Sean’s story shows us the power of that linkage. The teams at Samaritans Friendship House and Recovery Point have built a community that is fostering real, lasting change in people’s lives.

Following his graduation, Sean shared a reflection on his journey over the past five years. I share his words below with permission.

Sean, pictured, graduated recently with a Certificate III in Community Services

The jail system is tense, it’s violent.

I came straight out of jail into Samaritans Friendship House in 2014. As I was getting to know the volunteers I thought hey, this is a really wonderful opportunity; who else gives a crap about people coming out of prison and wants to help them get their birth certificates and Medicare cards and stuff?

My relationships were broken bridges, especially the second time I went to jail because my parents had done everything to help me but when I got out I was on my own.

The catalyst for change for me was I had to be really honest with myself about abuse I experienced when I was a child that I had been holding to my whole adult life. It had been coming out in behaviour like drinking and self-medicating which was having disastrous consequences for my life. It was leaving a trail of destruction everywhere.

It’s been a really slow path to recovery, a lot of deviations to some really dark places and some really good places. For the last year and a half I’ve made some good inroads and I’m actually starting to live recovery and make some really good life decisions. It’s taken 5 years for things to slowly start going up but today I’ve got a really good relationship with my mum and dad, and they were the ones that were really copping it bad because of my behaviour in my past.

It’s the best I’ve ever been as an adult, being linked in at Samaritans Recovery Point and the family that’s here. That’s what it’s like here, it’s a family. The trust I found here, that was the turning point for me in my life so far.

Seeing guys like [Samaritans staff members] Rob and Jenny who’ve had a similar background to mine and the work they’re doing inspired me to want to explore Community Services. This Certificate III was a way to be in this workplace. What a great job it would be to come into work every day and work with people who’ve had the same struggles that I’ve been through and try to help them through. That’s the ultimate.

I’d like one day for somebody to be sitting in a graduation class and looking at me like I was at [Recovery Point Team Leader] Helen today, and for me to have had that impact on somebody’s life. That’d be epic, that’s when I would’ve made it.