Neither mental health problems, drug addiction, nor trauma from childhood sexual abuse have defeated Bega’s Scott Rees.
While giving up on the “horror story” that was his life once seemed the only option, Mr Rees now has a Certificate IV in Mental Health Peer Work and high hopes for the future.
”A couple of years ago, I had given up, my family had given up, my friends had given up,” the 40-year-old said.
“But now, I’m not a drug-addicted loser anymore. I have my own sense of identity that I’m proud of.
“I’ve been in the dark for 20 years, but now I’m in the light.”
When he was 17, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia – an event that was the catalyst for his first suicide attempt.
He self-medicated with drugs and alcohol, as while he was given medications he shunned them because he did not want to be labelled crazy.
Living in Wollongong, he turned to crime to fund his addiction, which resulted in him spending time in prison.
The trauma of being sexually abused played a large role in his mental health issues and was what he described as one of the hardest parts of his life.
“You think you get over it, but you don’t,” Mr Rees said.
“It does take treatment, you can’t just dismiss childhood trauma.”
Through the years he has lost 17 friends, most of whom died drug-related deaths, the others to cancer or accidents.
“Some were fathers, wonderful people who were taken away, while there I was taking advantage of what I had,” he said.
It was only a couple of years ago he decided he wanted to get better.
“I was lying down waiting to die and I was ashamed I had given up,” he said.
“I thought, ‘I can’t die without giving it a shot’.”
He joined Partners in Recovery in Bega as a participant.
Now, he has finished his Certificate IV and works with Grand Pacific Health and Partners in Recovery, where he works with participants setting an example of how you can live with a mental illness and still make achievements.
“I thought there was no value in the horror story that was my life, but I’ve found value as I can offer true empathy to those people who are struggling through the same issues,” Mr Rees said.
For 20 years he was unable to have a relationship, saying the abuse he endured as a child made one impossible, but now he is happily involved with a woman who has two children.
“I’m relishing the chance to spend time with these girls and be there for them, as they will never have a biological dad,” he said.
“And my family is back in my life more than ever.
“I can go up to my mum and dad and say ‘I love you’ and they say it back.
“I thought it was so unattainable, having this life.
“I’ve had people come into my life again who just assumed I was dead,” he said.
“But now I feel blessed I am still living, I really do.”