SANDRA is not a stereotypical drug-dealer.
The 49-year-old, who is a grandmother of 10, said she was turning her life around after police arrested her for dealing cannabis.
The Colac woman, whose name we have changed, said she began smoking cannabis to deal with her depression.
“It was a form of self-medication, obviously not the right kind, but I felt like it worked for me because it calmed me down at night and helped me sleep,” Sandra said.
“People don’t think you can be addicted to marijuana, but I most definitely was,” Sandra said.
“I was smoking heavily, about 1.5 to two grams a day, and I started dealing to help feed that habit,” she said.
Sandra said Colac Area Health’s drug and alcohol counselling service helped transform her life.
“It’s not an easy journey and I’m still receiving counselling, but I’m definitely on the right path now,” she said.
“It didn’t work straight away either, I went into detox but I’ve relapsed, but the important thing was that I didn’t give up because I knew it was worth it,” she said.
“I’ve learnt new ways to deal with stresses, like meditation and relaxation techniques, and I’ve also seen a dietician at Colac Area Health and I’m aiming to go to the hospital’s smoking cessation service next year so I can get off the tobacco too.”
Sandra said cannabis use was “prolific” in Colac and district.
“People might think it’s just a few young people but it’s not, I know so many people in the town who smoke regularly,” she said.
“My message to people would just be to ask for help, and then keep on trying even if it doesn’t work the first time.”
Fellow Colac Area Health client Ben agrees.
The father-of-three said he was looking forward to his first alcohol-free Christmas in more than five years after receiving counselling for alcoholism.
“I hit rock-bottom about five years ago when my marriage broke apart, I dealt with it by drinking more and more,” he said.
“I came into Colac Area Health and they were great, I got help not just for alcohol and cannabis but they helped me find a house because at the time I had nowhere to live,” he said.
As well as his alcohol and drug counselling, Ben also used the hospital’s acute services as well as financial counselling and support for his family.
“I recovered then relapsed, then recovered then relapsed, and it went on and on for a while but I’m on top of the world now compared to where I was five years ago,” Ben said.
“This year is the first Christmas for a long time where I’ve got a job and I can afford to buy my kids presents, so I’ve gone a bit overboard, I’m making up for all that time they went without.”
Colac Area Health offers a free alcohol and other drugs service, including confidential case management and access to counsellors for clients and their families.