Two years clean: 'I was really stuck and frustrated'
FOR more than 20 years, Leena Whelan was trapped by an addiction she simply couldn't escape.
A drug addiction which began at age 15 which eventually had her turn to prostitution and lose custody of her three children.
"I had some dysfunction at home growing up and I started rebelling and using gateway drugs in school like marijuana and drinking," she said.
"By 16 I was a heroin addict (and) I went into prostitution."
Now at age 39, Leena is a completely different woman - two years drug-free and achieving goals she didn't think possible.
On Sunday, Leena will graduate from rehabilitation centre Bayside Transfor- mations where she became a woman's house supervisor.
It was two years ago when she arrived in search of help.
Overcoming her addiction, Leena said she couldn't imagine returning to the way it was.
At age 17, Leena started using methadone after meeting a man. Desiring a family, Leena believed methadone would help her achieve her dream.
"The guy I picked, there was a lot of domestic violence and he was really abusive," she said.
"I had two children with him."
When the relationship ended, Leena entered another where she started using ice before having another child.
"I got to a place after losing the kids... I remember being in a place where I really wanted to die," she said.
"(But) even though I didn't have my kids, I felt an obligation to protect them so I was really stuck and frustrated."
Having used drugs for so long, Leena began to believe she had been given up on by society.
"You see other people who were on drugs long-term and don't get off it and rehab doesn't work for," she said.
"You start to believe you can't do anything so what's the point in living?
"I didn't have dreams and I didn't think I would ever have them."
Leena held this perception until she attended Bayside Transformations.
"When I came here, I got hope back and it changed everything," she said.
"The things I do now I would have never dreamed about.
"Being a woman's house supervisor is awesome because you get to do case management, counsel (residents), advocate for them, look after their daily needs and sew them and build them up and watch them come through the program."
It was just four years ago when Bayside opened its doors to women in need of help.
Three years prior, the service was only available to men. Leena has one message she wished to extend to anyone fighting their own battle - the message of hope.
"The way you look at yourself is skewed (and) it's not the way God sees you.
"You've got a purpose and when you find that purpose it's going to fill that place and give you power and propel you forward into a different kind of life."
If you or anyone you know is in need of help contact Bayside Transformations on 4194 6621.