Sometimes, the unlikeliest of circumstances have the largest impact. Such was the case for Kristian and his dog Buddy, from Mitchell Park.
At just 17, Kristian experienced the loss of his beloved Pop – the person he respected most. With the added weight of childhood trauma, mental illness and a minimal support network, Kristian turned to drugs as a way of seeking connection and masking the pain.
“I used drugs as a way to hide from trauma,” Kristian said. “My family turned their backs on me when I started using. There was no confrontation, they just walked out. I guess I punished myself where they didn’t.”
Battling with his addiction for almost 2 decades, Kristian experienced ongoing homelessness, unemployment, paranoia, schizophrenic episodes, and spent time in and out of jail.
“My mental health deteriorated pretty badly,” he said. “Years later, I was barely with it. I was seeing and hearing things that weren’t really there.”
It wasn’t until Kristian rescued his dog Buddy, a 6-month-old deaf heeler-cross, that things started to turn around.
Ultimately, it was the risk of losing his new best friend to his ongoing struggles with homelessness and mental health, which motivated Kristian to turn it all around.
“They told me I’d have to give my dog up because I couldn’t look after him. I just sat there in tears,” he said. “That was the moment I decided I’m getting off drugs now.”
After hitchhiking from Millicent to Adelaide, Kristian enlisted the support of Safe Pets Safe Families, who crowdfunded enough money to pay for a motel, before linking him in with Junction.
6-months into his sobriety journey, Kristian found his mental health improving.
He no longer needed or wanted drugs, but he knew it was an ongoing battle.
Now, almost 5 years after rescuing Buddy, Kristian has settled into a new home and has made new connections through local groups.
Previously a skilled labourer, factory worker and crane operator, he also continued advancing his skills through training opportunities, and found part-time work as a gardener.
“I enjoy being outside and doing the hard work. It’s satisfying when you build and maintain things and get to see the results,” he said.
He also started training as a public speaker, peer counsellor and advocate for those with similar experiences – the work he is most proud of.
“Now that I have built myself a foundation, I keep getting more opportunities to use my voice as an advocate. I have been interviewed for newspapers, spoken on the radio and podcasts, and I am going to be speaking at the AAIC (Australian Anti-Ice Campaign) training in Queensland later this year.”
“It’s been an amazing journey. Some days it’s hard but I will never go back.”
October is Mental Health Awareness Month
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