“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Vinnies”

Friday 28 January 2022

When Zoie reflects on the advice she wishes she could have imparted to herself before coming to Freeman House, she offers words that are often easier said than lived out.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help and use your voice. I wanted someone there for me, but I was scared to ask for it.”

Seeking assistance from Vinnies following a family tragedy that saw her numb her pain with drugs, the support of staff at Freeman House, a residential rehabilitation service located in Armidale, helped equip Zoie with the skills she needed to confront adversity and regain custody of her children.

“Before I came to Vinnies I was not in a good place and I am glad that they were able to be there for me.”

Growing up under difficult circumstances and spending time sleeping rough previously, Zoie was devastated by the news her younger brother had taken his own life at the start of last year.

“I was upset, things were going really, really well – and then my whole life took a backflip.”

Dealt a further blow with the onset of coronavirus affecting her ability to seek help in-person to address the grief she was experiencing, the spiral of events led to drug use and, ultimately, homelessness.

“I was trying to deal with my brother – I lost my mind, I lost everything.”

“I needed someone to be there for my kids because I needed to go and get help myself.”

Unable to turn to family for support and living in her car due to an interstate address that prevented her from accessing accommodation through the NSW Government’s Link2Home service, Family and Community Services stepped in to ensure the welfare of her children.

“In order to get my kids back, I had to come to a rehab facility and get my mental health sorted.”

Spending time in a mental health clinic on the NSW Northern Rivers while regularly contacting various rehabilitation services, a breakthrough occurred when Freeman House – temporarily closed due to COVID-19 – reopened its doors at the end of July.

Sharing her gut-wrenching story during an intake interview, Zoie came to embrace the support of the case workers and the compassion shown by members of the local Vinnies Conference within the Armidale community.

Significantly, the treatments provided helped her to come to terms with the pain that had taken her to dark places previously, along with instilling support mechanisms which could be drawn upon to weather future adversity.

“I learnt about mental stability, drug and alcohol knowledge, to be able to find coping mechanisms for myself – in the future I can use distress tolerance and calming mechanisms.

“After losing my brother I turned straight to drugs because that was all of what I’d ever done in my previous years of dealing with pain, loss and hurt.

“To be able to have learnt tools for the future is really good.”

Spending a total of seven months at Freeman House – first in the residential area before moving into an adjacent independent unit – Zoie is embracing her new life in transitional housing and has reconnected with her children.

“Things are really positive in my life; I’m looking forward to a fresh clean start and watching my kids grow up to be happy.

“I’m studying Certificate IV in mental health because of my own experience. I want to give back because I know what it’s like and I feel I’d be able to be more understanding towards that than if I was to work in another job.”

Zoie is one of many people Vinnies has been able to assist during times of hardship. Services like Freeman House are made possible through government funding but rely upon the generous contributions of donors. You can help people like Zoie to rebuild their lives by supporting Vinnies.

“When I was at my lowest Vinnies was there for me – I wouldn’t have my kids in my life, but Vinnies was there for me.