Some people are fortunate to have supportive families, friends and neighbours to help them navigate through difficult times; for those that don’t, there’s The Wayside Chapel. Jeremy* may not have a ‘belly button’ family but he has found a sense of belonging at Wayside. This is his story…

“The first time I came to The Wayside Chapel was in 1984. I was 18 years old and I had a heroin habit. I came to Wayside to seek help for my drug problem. As a teenager I was raped and my way of coping was to turn to drugs. It took me a long time to identify that was the reason I was going backwards and drinking and using. I had some counselling at Wayside and I was encouraged to go to NA (Narcotics Anonymous). I was put in touch with the social workers at the Department of Housing and they found me housing fairly quickly.”
Hands with tattoos on each finger spelling out "Love" and "Hate"
“I came back to Wayside years later in 2007. Around that time my mum had died and I was homeless. I was caring for my mum but when she passed away I got booted out and got a week to clear all mum’s stuff out of her house. I ended up on the street. I was trying to deal with the grief and I started using again for comfort. I lived in fear on the streets. You don’t know where your next meal is going to come from and you don’t know how you’re going to stay dry if it rains. The drugs tell you that they will take the fear away but it’s just a trick. It might take it away briefly but it gives it back ten-fold. It’s a false promise.”

“I was using maybe two or three times a week. What strikes me about that time is the desperation. I sometimes remember back to those nights where I was walking around and combing the streets, hoping that an opportunity would present itself for me to get money.”

“I couldn’t continue living a life of self-destruction. Basically, what I was doing with the drugs was self-medicating. I had this severe depression and while I thought the drugs were helping it, they were actually making it worse. They were covering it. I deserved better from myself. I got help with housing, I got off the dope and I went on antidepressants, which I am now free of. On some days life is like a hair-shirt, it itches and it’s uncomfortable, but that’s life. It’s not meant to be good all the time. It’s meant to be up and down. And I’m finding now that it’s not so severe, the ups and downs are more like a gentle wave. Touch wood I don’t have to experience those massive highs and the massive lows again. I’d really like to get into a permanent job and be a useful and a productive member of society.”

“It has been good to be part of the Wayside community. I have always been a bit of a loner. I’ve always felt like I’m on the outer of everything and it’s only kind of recently that I feel like I’ve become part of the community and that’s after five or six years. Most days I am more comfortable here at Wayside than I am at home. I don’t have any belly button family – they have all passed away, but I have people who I can count on to not to try and fix me but just to be there for me. If I need to lean against someone for a little while, I know my family at Wayside will always be ready to help me along. There are a lot of old faces that have been around the Cross for a long time like me. We have a cuppa together and it’s just nice. It’s family.”

“People have asked me where my courage comes from and I still don’t see that I have much courage but I guess to face up to yourself after being addicted to alcohol and drugs is a fairly courageous act. Each day I get up and make my daily decision not to use. I have little things to remind me to keep going. When I was 18 I attempted suicide. I jumped in front of a train at West Ryde station. I somehow bounced off the front of the carriage and I only ended up with four stitches in my head. As the train driver lifted me up off the tracks and onto the platform, he said to me, “Somebody up there loves you, mate. Remember that were six forty-tonne carriages that hit you. It’s a miracle you’re alive.” I’ve still got the scar on my head and I rub it when I feel down. It reminds me that while I might feel down, I’m not as bad as I was on that day.”

*name has been changed at visitor’s request

You can help support Jeremy and many others like him by making a donation to The Wayside Chapel.

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