From self-harm to self-acceptance

October 13, 2017

Recovering alcoholic, Gayle* knows that you can’t do it alone.


I was born in Darwin, a sickly baby with a heart defect which doctors did not discover until I was three years old. 

When I was five Mum and Dad bought a 40-acre property in Gympie (Qld). Like most country kids I was always active—riding horses, swimming in the creek that backed onto our property and exploring. My self-esteem was good until I started high school, when I was bullied every day.

I started to isolate myself, wagging school and hanging around with the wrong crowd. I also began to self-harm.

I left school, and did a station-hand course at Longreach Pastoral College. Here I really learnt to drink and party. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that I realised I had a problem with drinking and self-harm. 

I was studying nursing at university. I got drunk and hurt myself, from the pressure I was under and not knowing how to deal with my past. Four stitches were put in my wrist and I was put on medication to help stabilise my moods.  

The next year, I was drinking again, and hurt myself again—when the ambulance arrived I passed out from loss of blood.  

The acute mental health team was called in to assist, and this was my turning point, where I decided I needed to get a grip on life. 

I stopped drinking for a while, but started again the following year, when I was in Winton (Qld). I was nursing and the loss of six patients in four months hit me hard—it was the custom to debrief over a couple of cold ones at the local watering hole.  

One drink was never enough, but it wasn’t until my caseworker came and saw me at work that I realised I needed to get help by going to rehab. I thought that rehab was only for rich people or people who had broken bodies—not for drinking or self-harm. 

I was offered a place at the Salvos Townsville Recovery Services, but couldn’t believe that people I didn’t know would be willing to help me—I was so used to helping other people and not giving myself a second thought.  

Things were going well at rehab until my boss rang telling me that I would not be returning to my old job. This hit me hard, and I self-harmed and drank myself to sleep.  

I spoke with a caseworker the next day and told them what I had done. Now I really knew that I had to do something about my problems. I had to do this program for me, so I started it again from scratch. 

I believe that had I not reached rock bottom then I would not have grown as much as I have. I am getting in touch with myself, getting to know my feelings and I like what I see. 

I have a new faith that has made so much difference in my life. 

I went to The Salvation Army’s Yungaburra retreat as a part of the recovery program. Normally I don’t cry in front of people, but there were a couple of songs—‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘How Great Thou Art’—when I just ran out of the conference and broke down. 

I had one strange experience when I tried to get out of an unlocked door, but it wouldn’t move. There was no physical way I could open that unlocked door—I can’t explain it. I just dropped to my knees and bawled for hours. A lot of pain came pouring out.

I accepted God into my life. I knew God existed, but had put that on the backburner over the years. I now feel that God is with me every day.

I am continuing to explore the pain and issues that led to my addiction and harm and I’m looking into doing paramedic training. 

The best part of recovery is that, although I was never forced to do anything, the support and gentle ‘pushing’ from case managers helped me move forward. It’s not always fun at the time, but when I look back it’s the best push I ever had.

Without the staff and clients of Townsville Recovery Services, I believe I would be dead today—I only wish I had done this five years ago. 

It is so important to ask God for help in the process because I know you cannot do it alone.


If you are struggling with self-harm, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.


*Last name withheld by request.


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