Tina Embrey (Dir. Mgr. Bayside Transformations) at the complex on Torquay Rd.
Tina Embrey (Dir. Mgr. Bayside Transformations) at the complex on Torquay Rd. Alistair Brightman

Transforming lives by overcoming one addiction at a time

It's a conspicuously yellow room. Seemingly so incredibly yellow it's nigh impossible to ignore. It's unsettling almost. Like seeing a man in a pink tutu walk a busy street.

I can guess Tina Embrey chose the colour to brighten days. Because breaking the cycle of drug and alcohol addiction is bloody hard work. Every little bit counts. Even a calculated gamble like canary-yellow walls lifting moods and taking the vice-like edge off the wayward existence of someone trying desperately to get back on track.

It's a hot and effortless autumn day. And as we sit at a big wooden table on chairs that are way too short, I'm slumped down like a toddler at an adults' dining setting with my arms folded somewhere up near my shoulders.

Tina and the Transformation Team recently opened a women's house next door to this yellow-roomed building, to replicate the successful work undertaken in their men's rehabilitation program on the same site.

Seven lives redeemed there already. Many more attempts. And it's those at the forefront of Tina's mind as she sets out to tell the world that this service has arrived; so women gripped by addiction know they now have a place to go; somewhere they can get the help they need to plot a new course through a life that's often plagued by obstacles.

To help with this Tina's offering a special part of herself and will share her story: it's the story of a woman who's metamorphosed from addict to ray of hope armed with nothing more than willpower and a decent serve of courage.

It's an ironic story, too. Because Tina never set out to save herself; she simply wanted to help others. Down and out in her late 20s, hers was a life riddled by drug use.

Weed, mainly, but alcohol, too. Weed the drug an American state recently began to sell over counters. Weed the drug that is seemingly becoming more commonly accepted as just another harmless substance, just something to dull the pain and make everyone chill a little. Right?

Anyway, she'd been using drugs and alcohol heavily and wanted to help people, to give them hope. Do something she'd always dreamed of doing and so decided it was then or never.

"The moment I actually hit the streets with Drug Arm, because I started working for Drug Arm, I knew that I was meant to be helping these people. They were from a similar place to where I've been in my life," she recalls.

"I'm very passionate about helping these guys because the sense of hopelessness when you're young, having a broken family, feeling like you're not wanted, that you're a black sheep, yeah, you just don't have any hope."

In hindsight it all seems so flippin' simple. Like all the crap she'd gone through was in some mysteriously conceived way there to prepare her for who she would one day become.

Only it wasn't that simple at the time. The parts of life that really matter seldom are. Usually they hurt like a hole in the head and make us scream.

Tina, tragically, was sexually abused multiple times as a child in Hobart. Scream. When she speaks of it you sense there's uneasiness somewhere still deep inside, despite her having confronted it. Scream. Her eyes get a harder edge; the lines on her face more serious.

"I was very angry and rebellious about what happened to me as a young girl." She came from a dysfunctional family, was on the street by age 13, in juvenile detention as a ward of the state not long after, trapped within a revolving door that rarely lets souls escape, round and round in circles they go, forever wanting to get out. Then one day it can be too late.

Kids came in her late teens when she arrived in Brisbane. And, while able to provide them with the type of motherly love that she never felt, she just couldn't clean herself up. She battled on as mother's often do, stuck it out as she'd always done. Screamed a little, let loose.

The ironic part of her story began some time when Tina was in her 30s - she'd never talked about all the abuse she suffered but finally she did. She met another man, took on another family of three children - making her a mother to six.

"I got myself cleaned up, re-educated myself with degrees in psychology and counselling , found God," she says. Tina then committed to helping people. "It was in me since I was a young girl, since I was in that home, actually."

At the home Tina didn't feel like she had anybody. But she at least felt safe; she was away from the abusers and the torment of a dysfunctional family. She was at the home from ages 13 to15. Seed planted, life's purpose known. Yet it would still be 15 years before she finally saw something sprout - 15 years of walking around blinded by a haze that robbed her of plenty; of struggling; of suffocating; of fighting tooth and nail.

"I still raised my kids. I did love on them." When she started out with Drug Arm she loved on those roughing it on the streets and at war with the same battles she'd fought. She loved on everyone and everything until love became the only drug she needed.

Within these canary-yellow walls I now understand the colour choice: it's warm and inviting, loving, pure, encouraging, an opportunity for redemption and a sign of the future, a reason to hope.

"We can do anything," she says amid the mayhem of my realisation. "If you wanted to fly a plane or become a pilot, anything; find out who you are, because as I said, there was something in me since I was a wee girl that I always wanted to help people.

"I was just naturally drawn to helping people. There's gifts in us all and it's a good thing that people find who they are in their journey of life. Everyone deserves that opportunity and I want to help facilitate that for them; whether someone can be a teacher or a social worker or it's someone who likes admin; I mean, they can be who they are made to be."

Bayside Transformations - lounge area in the womens house.
Bayside Transformations - lounge area in the womens house. Alistair Brightman


The Bayside story:

BAYSIDE Transformation has opened the women's drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility Miram House in Torquay.

Spots within the holistically structured program are available for those who want to beat addiction.

The program is intensive but rewarding.

If you or someone you know needs help turning their life around, contact Bayside Transformation or its director Tina Embrey on 41946621.

Currently the residential rehabilitation program caters for up to 20 men and five women battling addiction.

The program was brought to the region to fill the void of similar services between the Sunshine Coast and Mackay.

It offers help to people from across the state.

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