Hope House gives Brett a future
13 July 2015
He still has a few beers a week, he says, but nothing like the amount he consumed before he met Major Joy Wilson.
Joy was previously the coordinator of The Salvation Army’s Hope House at Gunnedah in northern NSW. She was honoured as Gunnedah’s 2014 Citizen of the Year for her community work, which includes running help programs for people in addiction, with financial concerns and a need to establish a more positive lifestyle.
The man in the opening paragraph is Brett Turnbull, who has gone from a life of alcohol dependence and depression to just a couple of beers every few days and feeling better about himself most of the time.
Brett – a 47-year-old former coal miner – was in a bad way when he first made contact with Joy in February last year. He was in “a depressed state of anxiety”. What he called “challenging friendships” had steered him toward alcohol dependence.
Brett’s life, says Joy, hadn’t been an easy one. A long list of court fines for assorted offences was testimony to trying times.
His war with alcohol had waged for almost half his life. He’d tried a rehabilitation program and was doing okay for about nine months when a close relationship ended abruptly.
It hit him hard. He drove his car while under the influence of alcohol and landed in court.
A friend told him about Hope House, where lives are rebuilt. The Probation and Parole Service also suggested Hope House as an avenue of recovery.
At first, Brett wasn’t keen on opening up his life to strangers. He had been through personal programs before and wasn’t comfortable with them.
He reluctantly gave Joy’s recommendation of the Positive Lifestyle Program a try. After a few sessions, he began to relax and find it wasn’t too bad.
Brett completed the 10-week program. He was beginning to see life in a more positive way. He was more optimistic about his future and his ability to make better decisions.
“I was able to eliminate challenging friends who were wrongly influencing my life,” he says.
Joy then suggested he enrol in a Traffic Offenders Program at the local Police Citizens Youth Club. He completed that program, too. It was “a sense of achievement”. He had spent time listening to the problems of other people and realised he wasn’t alone in the world.
With two major life-changing achievements improving his attitudes, Brett was ready to accept a third recommendation from Joy. She offered him a Work Development Order Program, working on a community garden at Hope House. It cut $3000 from a court fine for previous offences.
Continuing to improve
Completing 200 community service hours at Hope House for one of his offences, Brett now works there as a volunteer manager in the community garden two days a week.
“I wear The Salvation Army Hope House T-shirt with pride,” he says.
Joy says the shirt identifies Brett as a valuable member of the team: “We all wear the Hope House T-shirt. I wear it instead of The Salvation Army uniform to identify with the team.
“It shows we value all people; that nobody is any better than another person. We certainly value Brett’s contribution. His work is as valuable as mine.
“The difference in Brett’s life has been wonderful to see. He has taken preventative measures with his issues and it has paid off.
“He has purpose in his life and sees that he has something to contribute to the community.”
By Bill Simpson