This Good News day, we interviewed one of our newest Recovery Coaches in Victoria, Jake. The Good* Story that we are about to share is incredibly vulnerable: we thank Jake for taking the time to provide insight into his journey with recovery.
Jake’s story of resilience and recovery amidst great personal pain is just one powerful example of the power of lived experience. Let’s get to know Jake!
Hi Jake! Tell us a little bit about your life prior to becoming a Recovery Coach with One Good* Day?
Where to begin? I was diagnosed with mental health conditions when I was 12 and I have been an inpatient in psychiatric facilities a few times since. I was a fit and healthy combat sports athlete in my youth, garnering several state and national titles. This early introduction into fitness led to a dream of becoming a pro fighter; something peers in the industry encouraged me to do.
With crippling self-doubt and mood instability, I didn’t pursue this goal. As a result of not having that drive and motivation to execute my dream, I became a school drop-out and felt as though my only options were uni or a trade qualification. I convinced myself a trade was the way to go, and ended up doing scaffolding for quite some time.
My uncertainty and self-doubt led to self-medicating in the form of social substances which led to an addiction and drug-dependence on both prescribed medication and illicit substances. The addiction then became a catalyst for adrenaline-seeking behaviours that left me suffering from psychosis, self-harm and several crime-related arrests.
Mentally, I was lost.
Physically, I suffered broken noses & knuckles, concussions, dislocations AND a severed achilles tendon whilst under the influence. I went on to have several surgeries on my Achilles tendon, plus neurosurgery on my hand and head.
The Achilles tendon reconstruction was effectively the end of my addiction, and the beginning of a new start.
I endured 2.5 years of physical and mental rehabilitation to be able to run again. A pivotal moment was completing the Melbourne marathon that same year in under 3.5 hours.
After ceasing my addiction cold turkey, I developed suspected brain damage with frightening symptoms like slurred speech, out of character behaviour, daily migraines, vertigo and more, leading to the discovery of a brain tumour which was successfully removed, settling my symptoms – but spurring a complete lifestyle change. Once my insomnia was under control I managed to wean off sleep meds.
I sought out help and traveled to South America to take part in an Ayahuasca camp to attempt to naturally cure my depression, anxiety and trauma by natural means. It didn’t go as planned, and I developed Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) as a result. I still have this disorder today however it’s no longer the forefront of my focus and I live symbiotically with it.
What was the final ‘aha’ moment; the one that really gave you clarity about your choice to support others who had been in similar situations?
It was a surreal moment when I was supporting a client at a court hearing.
Having been in this position myself 5 years earlier, I realised I had made it to the other side.
I’m now blessed enough to be in the position to support others during their hard times. I did work as a Support Worker for 6 months prior but this event cemented my drive and purpose.
Was this a decision you made alone, or is it something that you shared with your support network?
I first shared my plan of studying community services with my family who were 100% supportive. When I consulted my friends, I had the same result.
Was it through your own lived experience that you gained an interest in further study of mental health and psychosocial illness? It’s quite a career change from construction!
Absolutely! I saw no meaning behind why I experienced the trauma that I did.
I often thought ‘I didn’t suffer trauma, heartache and loss for nothing’, and this revelation is what led to my silver lining; working as a Recovery Coach with One Good* Day.
I am certain I wouldn’t have the level of understanding and empathy I have without my own experiences.
Tell us about working in construction whilst navigating your ill mental health.
Working in construction for me, was fraught with toxic masculinity.
I constantly masked my true identity, to avoid being called ‘soft’.
The culture on construction sites with constant name-calling and a need to ‘take it on the chin’ didn’t align with me at all. Emotions were never spoken openly about or dealt with. Drugs and alcohol were the go-to ‘socially acceptable’ method of addressing issues. I understand this is only my experience of construction and there are exceptions to the rule, and this was a time before mental health awareness existed.
Jake, you are a change-maker, challenging the assumption of invulnerability in an industry with a ‘tough’ label.
It’s a huge step forward in the mental health movement, and acknowledging that mental health issues don’t discriminate.
Do you have any advice for others who might be in a position to do the same?
Be yourself. Be open, be honest – have those tough conversations in safe spaces. Don’t change for anyone. Surround yourself with people who appreciate your true, genuine self. You don’t have to be liked by everyone, but more often than not, they will respect you.
Even the ‘tough guys’ – I have found they would start to open up, once that non-judgmental space had been established.
We are all human at the end of the day, each of us having needs for connection and acceptance.
From crisis, to career progression – One Good* Day thanks you Jake, for harnessing your invaluable lived experience to coach others on their own recovery journey.
Jake, Recovery Coach at One Good* Day
At One Good* Day, we pride ourselves on our authenticity. Read more good* stories here.