Oscar's role as a peer support worker is to share his lived experience of addiction & recovery, role model hope, provide recovery education through group facilitation, assist people in making new connections after leaving treatment, and to walk alongside people on their journey.
Oscar also provides bridging support for people at all stages of the referral process for detox, counselling and care & recovery. Oscar is currently completing a Diploma of Community Services and has completed IPS (Intentional Peer Support) training and SHARC Peer Worker training.
What made you want to be a peer support worker?
I wanted to work as a peer support worker in the AOD sector because I find it very empowering to be able to utilise something negative from my past as an asset to help people. I am also very grateful to be able to bring the voice of recovery into a multi-disciplinary team within the harm minimisation medical model framework that exists in Australia.
What are the misconceptions of addiction?
The misconception of addiction is that it is a disease of choice. That people who suffer from addiction have to fit a certain criteria and that once somebody has been to treatment they should just be ‘fixed’ and be able to get on with their lives like everybody else. That social acceptability equals recovery.
What are the biggest challenges for someone with an addiction?
The biggest challenges are losing the freedom of choice once the obsession and compulsion to use has begun. Damaging and/or destroying personal and family relationships through the inability to put anything ahead of their substance use. Having prompt access to treatment options when they are ready to seek help. Being stigmatised within the healthcare system and greater society and having a disease that tries to convince the person suffering from it that it’s not there. Job loss, homelessness, destitution, jails, institutions and death can all be common destinations for people who suffer from addiction.
What has been your experience of the documentary?
It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to have the capacity to work with people so closely over such a long period of time, and see that almost everybody involved has ended up in a better place than when they began.
It has been very humbling to have the opportunity to play a part in piloting this treatment model. After this experience I really hope that longer-term intervention that is not long-term residential rehabilitation will be funded moving forward, as I have seen such great value for the participants compared to the treatment options that currently exist.
What do you hope people will see when they watch the documentary?
I hope people will see addiction as a real life, human health condition and that it will eliminate misconception and stigmatisation of addiction. I hope it will help people see that we are not defined by our illness and we are human beings before we are substance users. I hope it will help people see the value of peer support so it can assist the lived experienced workforce to grow in the AOD sector. And, I hope that it will encourage family members or loved ones of people suffering from addiction to seek support for themselves and strive to gain a greater level of understanding of what is helpful, and what is not, when trying to help somebody suffering from addiction.
How can we as a society ‘Rethink Addiction’?
By treating addiction as a health issue instead of a criminal one. By deepening the connection with people who suffer from addiction instead of cutting them off. If we can create a culture of no shame and no judgement, so people are less afraid to seek treatment and will be honest with those around them about what they are going through. By being open minded to the voice of the consumer and being less afraid to give that voice more power in decision making processes. And, by being open to learn more about what people need from their own perspective instead of making assumptions or decisions on their behalf.