Anna’s story – The battle of my career, versus my dependence
I am the youngest of 7, a working-class family. I am a high school dropout. I was the tender age of 15 when I commenced my career in the Commonwealth Public service that would culminate in 25+ years of service and reaching the acting level APS 6.
From the earliest time I always considered myself not too bright. I was full of self-loathing, I felt ugly and did not have the confidence to make connection with my sisters and brothers. Instead, I was jealous of them.
I found that using heroin daily softened these feelings, and allowed me to somewhat function as normal. Heroin enabled me to put on a mask so that I could go to work, and for a time, it was good. Whilst hiding my use, I was able to obtain my Certificate IV in Leadership and Management with the view working towards my Advance Diploma in this field of study.
In one position that I held I had the responsibility of a daily 11.30 am deadline where I was responsible for releasing main economic indicator datasets to the public, media outlets, financial institutions. This deadline involved pressing just one button – but it was crucial that I never missed this deadline.
I can still remember quite clearly sitting at my desk trying to call my dealer to get on and then he finally answers. The time is 11.05 am and I get up and bolt out of the office front doors. I was a girl on a mission, god forbid if you got in my way.
I reached the pre-determined location, and I am frantically looking for him. I spot him and we do the transaction and I tuck the foil in my bra that also contained my equipment. Then I dashed into the public toilets – I mull as quick as lighting and have my taste. A quick check to make sure I did not leave any evidence of blood on my long sleeve shirt. (NB: I never wore anything but long sleeves when I was working). On these days, I never had time to savor the taste as I am out the doors and back to the office.
The time is now 11:27am and I am sitting at my desk with my mouse hovering over the button waiting to press the button that so many people relied on. In this role, I can proudly say I never missed this deadline, but I most certainly missed the vein. My arm is black and blue but hey what can I say…Although I did find the use of hirudoid cream and Bio Oil seem to reduce the amount of scarring tissue.
Life continued, I was presented with daily challenges, and I relied on heroin to blur and soften the edges from what I considered the harsh realities of life. These events were things like having my parents pass away, domestic violence and ending a 13-year de-facto relationship. All this pressure and using heroin as a solution equated to my decision to put my hand up for a redundancy.
I exited the Public Service with an impressively sizeable amount of money. This money did not last long. My habit was growing, and I still remember the day when I was at the ATM withdrawing my last $100.00. The guilt, the embarrassment, the shame, and the anger were so overwhelming.
The years that followed were filled with unemployment, detox stays, stays at residential rehabs, attending women’s only day programs, different educational courses and of course, more heroin use. It was a never-ending cycle.
At one point during this time, I secured myself a job as a casual cleaner at a local shopping Centre. The cleaning company was quite small, and I was the only female cleaner employed. I held on to this position for approximately 4 years. Quite often I had my dealer come to work and drop off to me but there were times that she was not able to do this.
On days like that, I took advantage of being a female and the fact that my boss was in his late 60’s. I would phone him and tell him that I had an embarrassing accident, i.e.: I peed my pants and I need to go home and get changed and I would be no longer that half an hour. He was quite understanding and never challenged me about this even though I used this excuse on several occasions.
I would take advantage of his kind nature and asked for advances on my pay. I did this numerous times, and he became quite concerned about my ability to budget. At one point, I was paid back just over $2,500 in pay advances.
Then one day the inevitable occurred where he told me that a couple of the regular shoppers had came to him saying that I was a drug user. He asked me directly if there was any truth in this matter. I denied these allegations but unfortunately my boss gave me notice as a very small cleaning company he could not afford to have continue my employment because I was considered a risk.
Then just over 12 months ago I noticed something had changed inside of me. The change was ever so subtle and not intentional, and I decided to go with the flow and not challenge it. I started a gratitude journal and made a commitment to myself to make regular entries of a least 3 things that I am grateful for. I have a list of 150 things that I am grateful, and I still add to the list.
I worked towards getting onto Buvidal injections and now receive monthly injections. These injections have been a game changer for me. I ended a toxic relationship which was difficult to do. I could not continue with this relationship because it was causing me to allow someone to walk over me. They did not respect me and took advantage of my kind nature, and they knew I had difficulties in saying no to them.
I then embarked on doing some volunteer work. This volunteer work made me feel like I was giving back to the community, and I was feeling my self-worth increasing. The organization I volunteered at was able to offer me a couple of hours casual employment and I accepted their offer. It was nice to have a little bit of paid work.
I knew my life was on a right path when I opened my wallet and I had $35.00 It was 2 days before payday and normally I wouldn’t have had 2 bob to rub together. Then one night I received an unexpected message from one of the managers. The text message was thanking me for the work was doing and that she would like to keep me in the office for good.
I did not understand what she meant but then finally the penny dropped, I realized I had been offered full time permanent employment. Luckily, I live by myself, I squealed with absolute delight, and I was smiling like a Cheshire cat. Fast forward to now. I am enjoying my job and I am in a good spot.
I can look in the mirror and honestly say I like the woman I have become – warts and all. I accept my missing front teeth and I like the wrinkles on my face as they tell a story. I accept my some-what shady past. My past has shaped my true self that people see today.
Also, I am not dis-illusioned and fully expect life to throw me curve balls. I will have deal with these things as they occur and know that I have the skills to assist me and not let things overwhelm me. I do not meet the expectations that society has of 52-year-old middle aged women. I have no university degree; I have no children, nor do I own my own home
But in retrospect my life journey has given me so much more. It has given me the opportunity to get to know myself and to learn how to own my feelings. It has taught me how to be grateful, enjoy the little things in life, make peace with my past and accept and love myself.