Resilient. Courageous. Warrior. These are a few words to describe Gary Brown, a Newcastle local who has overcome addiction and the stigma of prison to fight for his recovery.

Gary first came to Samaritans when he was released from prison in 2010. From then to now, he has channeled his focus into become a self-trained marathon runner, and despite a relapse in 2018, is now clean and back fighting fit.

Gary has shared his story in the Big Issue magazine, The Newcastle Herald newspaper and on ABC’s Compass program, to name a few.

Here he shares with us about his latest challenges and what helped him climb out of his relapse and back onto the running track.

Photo source: Maitland Mercury newspaper
Photo source: Maitland Mercury newspaper

What’s one thing you want people to know about you?

That I’m a survivor. I’m a fighter. And I don’t let things conquer me.

Tell us about life after prison.

In 2010 I stayed in Samaritans halfway house – Friendship House in Newcastle – when I got out of prison. They’ve treated me like family. I haven’t been back to prison since then.

I’ve come from a life of crime and drug use to something beneficial.

I describe Samaritans like the family I didn’t have. They’ve given me help for over 10 years. I got the love that I missed from an actual family. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. They gave me direction that changed my life.

You have run many marathons. Why do you run?

Running is like a medication for me. It makes me mentally feel better about myself, and it helps my depression, stress and anger.

Addiction is a cycle, it’s like a merry-go-round which makes it very hard to get off. I relapsed on October 18, 2018 after five and a half years clean. I didn’t get clean until November 17, 2020 last year.

Those two years were hell. I didn’t run. I knew I needed to stop using when the last time I used Ice I had a psychotic episode, and I said to myself that I needed to get my life in order.

Everything feels good now; I feel good in myself, my spirit is better, I’m stronger physically and mentally and I’m enjoying life now. It’s not a battle anymore.

What would you say to other people stuck in the cycle of addiction?

I’d tell them to try to get help, to get some counselling to try places like Samaritans and to take up a sport or a hobby.

Replace the drugs with something that’s more beneficial. Channel all that negativity and anger into something positive.

Life now is going pretty good. I’ve had some work grape picking and lawn mowing, and the doors are starting to open up. In the past they were closed. Mentally I wasn’t there, I was using drugs and I was trapped. Now the doors are opening up again.

There are still days that worry me but I put things in place to beat the loneliness.

When is your next run?

I’m doing the Ultimate Trail Australia race in May. It’s a 100km event in Katoomba.

I’ve run it once before, in 2018, and it finished in under 16 hours.

Why are you fundraising for Samaritans?

Samaritans Recovery Point has helped me in the past and I want to give back to them.

They helped me when I was down and now I want to give back so they can support more people who are in a position like I was.

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