The Journey to finding myself; Quitting Alcohol

Living a life free of alcohol for the past 13 years, not only has had positive physical, mental and emotional effects on me individually, it has also helped me transform my life and break a generational cycle.

I am lucky enough to be proud of many things in my life, apart from being a Dad to 5 beautiful children; 13+ years of sobriety, ranks at the top of my personal achievements.

This is my story.

After years of seeing alcohol consumption as the norm; growing up, family and teen parties, after sports games and general weekend activities; it was a little over 14 years ago, I made a positive decision to take control of my life, have ownership of where I was headed, get back on track and on a positive path.

It was the weekend of January 26th, 2005. I was on my way down the Hume highway for a weekend of touch football but if I was being honest, a weekend of partying, copious amounts of alcohol. I had been making this trip since about the age 13. Obviously at such a young age it wasn’t about drinking, but the drinking and partying culture of the Yass touch football knockout to me, was everything I had loved and everything I had wanted to be part of since my very first experience.

This trip to Yass would be like no other, this trip was to put me on a path to recognising and understanding that alcohol had been problematic for me and it would plant the seed of my recovery.

I was joined in the backseat by a close friend whom I’d love and respected like a brother. Chris Ferguson (Fergo). Fergo and I had been on the party scene for a couple of years since I turned 18 and in Chris’ words to me and others in the past; I was like a younger version of him.

We got to talking and after an hour or of small talk, I asked Fergo why I hadn’t seen him around for a while. As mentioned above, Fergo and I, through the tough football scene, were regulars on the Sydney Kings Cross and inner Sydney City party scene.

‘I don’t drink anymore, I haven’t for two years’ I half scoffed at the comment and immediately asked ‘what do you mean you don’t drink anymore, you partied with the best of them’

That conversation with Fergo was the very first time I had ever heard that someone ‘doesn’t drink anymore’ it was the very conversation that planted the seed for me that, maybe I too, ‘could get off the drink.

Fergo and I being good mates and both being life of the party, decided to room together for the weekend; call it coincidence, fate or whatever you will, it was the very weekend that changed the course of my life.

I remember vividly the conversation we were having about his sobriety, I was so intrigued, mainly because it was everything I wanted. My life had become very problematic to the point unmanageable and I had identified that, almost every single negative situation that was happening in my life, weather it be, poor form on the footy field, arguments at home, separations in relationships, fights and trouble in general, there was one very common theme; every single negative situation in my life that was happening, the common denominator, was that alcohol was involved. The thing is, I wasn’t a violent drunk, some would agree that I was a bit annoying and a pest, but for the most part, I was always happy, laughing, singing, doing my best to what I thought was entertain people; but when I started, I didn’t like to stop, in fact, I couldn’t stop. No matter how many times I ‘promised’ those close to me that I will only have a few drinks, once I had that first one, I felt like I just couldn’t stop.

I remember the conversation with fergo like it was yesterday, ‘that’s it, after this weekend, Im going to stop also brother’ his response stumped me, ‘why wait until you get home, why don’t you stop now’?

The truth was, I didn’t think I could, so many aspects of my life, socially, involved alcohol – the thought of not drinking anymore was entertaining, but I honestly didn’t think I could stop. I remember that instant thought rush over me whenever I contemplated stopping was; how on earth would I be able to function in a setting where a few drinks was so accepted; and the one thing that people didn’t realise, and to a point I didn’t realise at the time also, I was drinking for so long, as a band aid to what was going on inside my head. For a major part of my life, I had been living with suicidal thoughts, ideas and tendencies since my early teens, alcohol was the mask I used to quieten down the noise. So, for many years, not only was alcohol a way to socialise and be the life of the party, it was also a way silence my inner most demons.

I went out and partied pretty hard that weekend in Yass, as I had done for many years prior.

It was the car trip home that Fergo went to work on my mind once again. He could see the demons ringing loud and clear with the hangover, he could see that I was ‘sick and tired’ of being ‘sick and tired’

The limited conversation on the way home, managed to plant the seed that changed my life.

Fergo arranged to pick me up the following evening to take me to AA – Alcoholics Anonymous.

My journey in AA has been one of many great lessons, but the main lesson has been, it has been the example that people can live without alcohol in their lives; if they could, maybe I could also.

The main tools I have learnt through my journey I take with me every day. Mainly because of the society we live in, alcohol is such a common additive to many, many people’s lives and many areas of our life.

When I first started my journey of sobriety it was tough. I can’t for one second sit here and pretend that it has been easy. There have been countless occasions the cravings have jumped up on me and tried to convince me to ‘just have a couple’ or ‘it wasn’t that bad of an issue for you, this time just control it’, again I wasn’t the aggressive or troublesome drunk, so it would have been very easy to convince myself it wasn’t a great issue.

One of the most important lessons I have learnt is that, alcoholism is something that I will carry with me for life; because Alcoholism is a genetic disease that I will carry with me until the day I die.

People get the term Alcoholic wrong. The common misconception is that an Alcoholic is someone who drinks every day, who depends and needs it to survive, who sneaks drinks with no one watching. All of that is true, but an alcoholic can also be a top-class executive, professional sportsperson, even a judge in a court of law. An alcoholic is an individual who suffers with the genetic illness alcoholism. The term illness could even be questioned, with alcoholism now widely talked about as genetic, with it being placed in the genetics of an individual since birth, genetic illness’ are chronic, meaning these illness’ can be classed as chronic disease – meaning you have it for life.

The day I realised I have this illness/disease for the rest of my life, was the day I began to learn, ‘I don’t need to beat it, I just have to manage it’ day in day out. The same goes for my mental illness. I have good days and bad days, but I have a mental illness, that I won’t beat, it stays with me for life, I just have to manage it.

Recovery for me has been up and down. I have been in AA over 14 years, but I haven’t remained sober the entire time. My first stint I went 11 months without a drink and then found myself listening to the quiet devil on the shoulder convincing me ‘it won’t be that bad’. I had hit rock bottom again; without beating myself up, I dusted myself off and sought the help and support I needed – and got back in the rooms of AA.

Thankfully for me, I have been sober now over 13 years but the journey is always changing. There are good days, there are days where the cravings are coming in hard and think, those are the days I must stay close to the things, tips and tools that have kept me on the path of sobriety.

During the past 13 years of my sobriety, I have noticed the relationship between alcohol and the greater community has become normalised, and even at times, alcohol consumption in excess is applauded. Many occasions’ individuals are applauded for how much we drink, or how wasted we become. Alcohol and the affects of alcohol in our communities are having massive negative implications and many issues in our communities are heightened with alcohol consumption.

If you give it some thought, there are many of the issues in communities that have alcohol as a major ingredient.

My sobriety I hold close with great pride. There are many reasons I need to stay on this path but the most important is to role model behaviours to my children. My kids are my main motivator in everything I do. If I want and expect my children to live a positive life, I need to role model those behaviours to my kids. One of the strongest statements and proudest statements I have ever heard come out of my eldest son’s mouth was when he was about 3. He said to his mates at pre school when talking about their Dads. ‘My Dad doesn’t drink beer, he drinks water’. That statement shows me that there is impact in my behaviours.

Another main reason for me never wanting to touch alcohol again, isn’t just the physical, mental and emotional effects it had on me, it also is the historical implications alcohol has had on my people. As a first nation Wiradjuri man I have promised myself to never touch alcohol again. It is known fact, that alcohol was used as a tool for payment for Aboriginal slavery. During these times it is also documented that women were used as sexual objects – I owe it to those old people, both men and women, particularly our women, who were used as sexual objects when our men were given so much alcohol to the point they would black out and unable to protect them. I owe it to those very ancestors, to not touch that poison again.

My journey of sobriety is ongoing, will I stay sober forever? I hope so, I want to lead by example, prove to those who can’t, that a life without alcohol is possible, a life without alcohol, you can live a life with ‘fun’, be happy and successful.

Today, as a man who is sober, compared to the functioning alcoholic; I am a completely different person. I often talk about pre & post in education forums I facilitate; pre & post alcohol abuse. The difference is non comparable. I got great advice from a close friend in my early sobriety. He told me ‘no matter what you do in your life, you will be better at doing it without alcohol; if you are a father, a doctor, sportsperson or garbage bin collector; you will do your role better without alcohol. He was right!!!

I have grown, personally, spiritually and mentally as a man.

How do I do it – I stay sober today, in this present moment, now, one day at a time. I can’t control tomorrow, I can only control me, now, today! Who knows if ill drink tomorrow, I can only control now, and I know I won’t drink in this present moment right now, today, that is all I can control – now!!

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Are we wrongly judging criminals?

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Now I have your attention, I would like to say it is my belief, we as a society are casting judgment on people & even looking at those incarcerated through the wrong set on of eyes.

People are locked away for behaviours; But

I am a huge believer in finding the root cause of people's behaviours. The ‘Why’

I would be interested to see the statistics around every person who is incarcerated throughout Australia; and their relationship or links to mental illness & or trauma.

I would go as far as saying, for majority of people, addiction & behaviours are symptomatic of trauma & or mental illness. Many individuals, self medicate to hide the trauma & or illness.

Addictions are also now being widely talked about as a mental illness, and we see many who are incarcerated, are locked away inside on the back of crimes committed whilst heavily influenced by drugs or alcohol.

Knowing the research, addictions & mental illness & now being widely talked about as genetic illnesses (passed down from generation to generation); Are we seeing people locked up for symptoms of illnesses they’re born with?

I understand that people are incarcerated for particular behaviours, fair enough, these certain behaviours are not tolerated in society, I understand this; but what if individuals, when judged on these behaviours, were judged on a history of trauma; because in a lot of cases, the behaviours are directly linked as a symptom of trauma.

What if when they were incarcerated, they were actually rehabilitated?? Instead of just being locked up for a period of time, to have further trauma perpetrated?

What if we actually got to these individuals before the behaviours were part of their daily & normalised habits?

Wouldn’t we be in a better position if we healed the trauma as children, before developing self medicating behaviours as young adults?

See, with people, we see behaviours; but the behaviours are happening for a reason. When we strip back the behaviours, a lot of the time we find substance abuse; strip back the substance abuse, people self medicate & use as a band aid, to cover some type of hurt. Peel back the band aid, that’s when we find trauma and illness.

Wouldn't we be better served healing these traumas and illness, rather than locking these people away - which really, is another band aid.

I've known of individuals who have been locked away, incarcerated, placed in a cell for up to 23hrs a day - tell me how that is rehabilitating? That type of punishment does absolutely nothing positive for a mind that is,

1. Unwell 2. Trying to navigate its way through trauma & illness - trauma & illness that is in many, many cases developed in the womb; a very long time before it is played out in behaviours that get them incarcerated.

The way I see the prison system as is; it’s not working.

We see individuals locked up, do their time (where the problem or root cause lays dormant - ie band aid) - on release, many head back to the exact same environment, with the exact same habits, of alcohol & drug use, a self medicating tool that leads them to behaviours that point them back toward the incarceration system.

As is, there is very little rehabilitation of behaviours; & it is a case of ‘locking them away, & hoping that is good enough’;  because there is no addressing the root cause of what leads those to their behaviours.

I believe, there needs to be a re vamp of the entire system; it is not working.

There are so many people being locked up for their behaviours, and no one talks about ‘why they are producing these behaviours’.

We need to treat people on their traumas & illness - rather than their behaviours, which is happening as a result of covering trauma & addiction (illness).

Heal the trauma & illness rather then locking people away and keeping it dormant for it to arise on their release...

We want to see people correcting or healing certain behaviours; especially when they come into contact with the youth justice or incarceration system; yet we are going about it the wrong way.

When we heal the trauma, we begin to make progress in healing the behaviour.

Heal the trauma, we heal the behaviour

JW

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The Future: There’s No Such Thing

The Future: There’s No Such Thing

I often get asked to talk on the subject of improving our future, to which a lot of my replies I say ‘our past is gone & there is no such thing as the future, so why worry about it’ Until a recent conversation completely flipped my perspective on what the future may hold.

As I was preparing for a keynote at the Healing Our Spirit Worldwide (#HOSW18) Conference in Sydney, an international conference where First Nations people come together from around the globe, to share healing;

I was debating in my mind the direction of which I want my speech to go; when I received a txt message. It was 9:40pm on a Thursday evening and my mind was beginning to wind down.

The txt was from Uncle Paul Gordon, Ngemba man from Brewarrina.

Uncle Paul’s cultural influence, has been a big player for the reintroduction of men’s cultural practice for not only me, but 100s of First Nations men up & down the east coast of Australia; an extremely culturally rich man having huge positive impacts on in many, many communities.

After we got chatting, I spoke to Uncle Paul about the topic I would be delivering, which was, ‘our way, our future’. It was then did he start speaking with truly profound wisdom that blew my thought process out of the water.

He said, ‘why do we think so much about our future when, the only thing we have is our past’

The comment intrigued me; & with my mind always analysing words & conversation of people, this conversation led me on a completely new direction of thinking, and even delivery of message with my wellness sessions.

Working a large proportion of the year in First Nation communities with #TheEnemyWithin, I started to realise that, if indeed we are going to have and enjoy a plentiful future then it has to be done by remembering connecting to & learning from our past.

If you think about it, even as an individual reading this, every single moment of strength in our life, is built from the knowledge of our past.

The opposing side of the stick is that, every piece of hurt and destruction, particularly in First Nation communities, stems from something that has been removed from us; removed from our past. This has been used as a tool to disempower us as a people; stolen land, stolen wealth, culture, language & one of the most significant traumatic experience was the removal of our kids; the list goes on.

Now you maybe thinking ‘but he just said all of the positive comes from our past & now we are talking negative’ but it is also true their are many negatives from our past, but the very fact we stand here today, shows we are a resilient survivor; whoever you may be, anyone who has come through an adverse situation shows that you are a warrior, that continues to overcome.

Through my recovery, I have often spoke on the importance of staying in the present. So much focus in today’s wellbeing conversation is centred around ‘being present’ yet when you look at it again, we don’t really have a present moment, we only have a ‘moment of presence’; then, in an instant it becomes the past - again relating to the conversation of gaining strength from and through our past.

Majority of people who we look up to, elders, inventors, entrepreneurs, Einstein, whoever - are all people who have lived in a split moment of presence, then it becomes their past.

Another important point to make is that, the future is never guaranteed; nothing is ever guaranteed apart from that moment of presence and our past because it has already happened.

We work so hard as individuals, part of a bigger system; to build our future for the betterment or empowerment of ourselves and our families, yet the answers we need, the answers to end many problems in life, is by learning from and walking hand in hand with our past.

Again, what ever you have experienced, shows that you have got through it.

The future, is nothing but a made up word; a dream, to plant seeds of hope in our minds; but it also creates unneeded expectations, which go on to cause further let downs with individuals. I say, scrap your idea of talking about the future, just live in your moment of presence & connect to, & learn from your past.

Learn from all the stories, the thousands of years of cultural practice & knowledge handed down generation to generation!!

We don’t need to concentrate on the future, a made up word, because when it gets here it’s gone..

As I finished up my keynote at the #HOSW18, I could see the nodding of heads & hear the conversation from elders and First Nations from around the globe.

We don’t need to invest in what’s best for ‘our future’ we need to put money toward revitalising, reviving everything that we had in our past; our culture, our ceremony, our languages - for at least 65,000 years, that stuff has worked. The reasons why our communities are in crisis around the country is because were aren’t doing those things.

We need to connect to, & concentrate on the strengths of our past; because with zero suicides pre colonisation for First Nations people; and now the Suicide rate among the highest in the world;

 

What the old people were doing, was working; what we are doing now, isn’t...

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My recent anxiety struggles; reduce me to tears

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People often look at me, the life that I live and the work that I do and immediately think - ‘he’s got it together’, mental demons are a thing he ‘once had’.

The honest truth is, I live with them and I’m impacted by them more than you think; every single day.

I mostly speak of the depression I encounter, the head noise that spirals out’ve control with thoughts and ideas on Suicide; that is daily.

One that I haven’t spoken a great deal about because it hasn’t impacted on me as much over the years as it has recently, and that’s anxiety & panic attacks. This year my anxiety and panic attacks have been rearing its ugly head.

Recently I have been having panic attacks, some more severe than others mainly due to the control and management strategies I quickly put into place when I feel them coming on.

People notice the amount of travel I do, mostly by plane because of the distance and remote areas. What people don’t understand and aren’t aware of, is that I have been having panic attacks every single time I get on a plane. Every single flight, I sit in my seat to prepare for the journey ahead. Every time I sit on a plane, I am all but convinced this will be my final time on earth.

That’s when my head begins to spiral.

The way I explain anxiety, is a case of the ‘what ifs’ - what if this happens, what if that happens. Recent bouts have been bought on by, ‘what if’ the plane goes down. The head begins to spiral out of control.

Episodes of anxiety recently I have been reduced to tears. Sitting on a plane, sobbing, wiping tears from my eyes desperately trying to bring my mind to ease.

Of late it had been racing thoughts of my family. What if I never see them again, what if this plane goes down and I never get to see my family, my kids, the people I love and care for the most; what if I never see them again.

Every week, sometimes everyday, I am on a different flight to a different location touring as a mental health motivational speaker with #TheEnemyWithin, so you can imagine the amount of times in recent months, these episodes of anxiety or ‘what ifs’ have been frequent and debilitating.

When I get overcome by this immense negative thought process, it can bring me to tears - not so much the fact that I can’t stop it, more so the emotion behind the thought - that I may never see my loved ones again, that this could be the very day I meet my ancestors, the ones who have passed before me; this could my last day on earth.

In the moment, I need to remind myself to be present; present physically which will help me achieve mental presence. Mindfulness.

My ‘go to’ is rubbing my index and thumb together. This brings my attention to the fingerprint of each finger, rubbing together, with pressure this brings a heat between my fingers - again this physical movement brings attention away from the racing thoughts of my mind; the thoughts of my mind trying as hard as they can to distract me to a negative way of thinking. Whilst I am rubbing my fingers together gaining presence, I also practice a fantastic breathing technique I have spoken about in the past 4,7,8. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds & exhale for 8 seconds.

Using this particular practice which was given to me by fellow advocate in USA, brother and brilliant man Kevin Hines - this technique is said to not only slow the mind but decrease heart rate among other positive things.

As my head slows, I begin to regain control of my thought process and remind myself of another tip I live by, ‘control the controllable’ the truth is, I have no control over flying the plane, the weather or any other variable that may affect the flight path - the only things I can control; are the things I can control.

Having the positive thought process, doesn’t make it any easier to get through, but it is a strategy that works for me and with patience and trust; I know things improve those tough times. I learn to love each second of each moment in a present state of mind - this brings clarity. But it is super tough to deal with and hard to implement; it takes consistency.

I’m my moments of clarity I always come to realise, if this is my last day, then this is my last day - I have to trust that there is a bigger plan and purpose; until and when such day arrives, I just continue to live present and do the best I can with each and every moment of every day.

My management strategies with my suicidal ideation, depression and anxiety, the one thing I have learnt is that, the mind is an incredibly powerful tool when used correctly; it can lead us into the darkest of corners and beat us into submission, or it can empower, lift and lead us into a brighter next moment.

Which are you choosing to let your mind do? Lead you into the dark or lead you to the light.

#RedfernCorroboree18

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Redfern was lit, our aim was to awaken the spirit; a spirit that has been laying dormant for two centuries, since colonisation; an invasion that has left many of our people’s across the country, dispossessed, fractured and buried in trauma for many, many generations.

It started with a group of concerned mothers coming to me asking for guidance. Their young people were tip toeing on a path of destruction which has seen a devastating effect through many of our young people in communities.

The mothers and community members concerned, had seen a lot of positive work I have been doing in communities right across the country & had asked me for guidance on getting not only the young people on path, but ways to lead all people to a better place.

I knew what the answer was for me; it’s the same answer I share in community every day that I am asked to share - the answer for me, was one of empowerment, strength and guidance much bigger than me, it was from the ‘old people’ our ancestors.

I have spoken countless times about what has been my biggest healer. A progressive healing, that has been used for thousands of years - in one word, culture!!!

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Culture has been my biggest healer - it has taught me to live with 5 of the most important values I, and anyone can utilise; I knew this community, Redfern. The spiritual home for a lot of First Nations people along the east coast of Australia - Gadigal country.

I bought along the senior men who reconnected me to this practice and way of life, to the meeting - in sharing we, the concerned community members, were all agreed, a traditional Corroboree would take place; to awaken the spirits, to give a taste of what has been taken from our inner city brothers and sisters; to heal them, to heal country & to wake the old people, who have been dormant for some two centuries.

It was agreed that we wouldn’t chase funding, no one would get paid, this was about self empowerment and healing & this was our responsibility to share with our brothers and sisters - the very way our ancestors had done so for thousands of years.

Date set, venue set - open invitation to come share nothing but, love, respect, humility, care & compassion.

Many hours from the ladies on the ground helped to organise, beds for traveling dancers, sand for a bora ground to dance, food and drink to feed community and those in attendance.

With around 120 men and women & kids, painted in traditional design, the stage/sand was set - although the dancing wasn’t about performance; Corroboree and traditional dance was and always is about dancing for 3 things - Mother Earth, creator father sky, Biame & the old people; our ancestors who forged a path for us to follow.

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I recall the moment we began to ‘mob in’ raise the energy, with calls to the old people, stomping our feet into Mother Earth - it was electric!!! As we zoned in with connecting with our own spirit, I looked up to see the couple hundred people in attendance, reacting to the noise as they could feel the energy lift, and some even running with cameras to take pics and videos - the energy was electric!!

As we made our way into the dance ring, footage has surfaced of lightning like flashes sparking the middle of the dance ring, if I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t believe it.

We danced for hours, calling on the old people to be with us, paying respect and honouring our animal spirit ancestors - it was magic!

Speaking with uncle Shane Phillips post event, he too saw the flashes of lightning and couldn’t explain it - asked how it made him feel;


‘when I stomped and mobbed in with the group, it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my life, you could feel the old people with us’

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Speaking with senior figure of community and staunch activist, Aunty Jenny Munro;


‘Nephew, this is beautiful, our old people have been doing this for thousands of years, this is how we heal’


Warms my heart to know that our culture is alive and well, healing the spirit of people, healing communities!

This event wasn’t funded, we are thankful to have a few necessities donated, but this was driven by community, for community - no dancer received a single dollar, in fact some dancers funded their own flights from QLD, because it is our responsibility to share & heal as people; help those who need;


So often we are led to believe we need to rely on government funding & programs that dictate how we need to behave to better ourselves; when the answer has been here for thousands of years!! The answers is deeply embedded within our DNA - connect to it, live it & love it - culture, the oldest continual culture in the planet!!

In closing I will quote;

’Government won’t solve our problems, self empowerment will - we will’ 👣 

A huge thank yu to all who were involved to help out this together; this is the beginning!!

Thank you to both Jodie Choolburra & Tyrone Gordon for pictures!

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The dislike for white people - why???

Now that I have got your attention, stick with me, keep reading - see it through.

With a heading like that, it is bound to bring out the bigots with racially discriminatory remarks; but in all honesty, it’s nothing new to me I’ve heard them all before. I don’t care.

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The reason I wanted to write it, wasn’t a beat up of white people, at all, it’s actually quite the opposite - many white people have proved me wrong in my judgement over time; How? you will soon find out and for that I am thankful.

Living as a Wiradjuri Aboriginal First Nation man, we make up less than 3% of the country so numbers will show that I interact with far more Non Indigenous (white) people on a daily basis than I do with First Nation people. I have many many, white friends, I even have a child who has a white mother, my grandfather was a white man - so I can’t possible say I dislike all white people; & that is through choice.

What many people don’t know is that, First Nation people of this country carry a generational genetic disposition to trauma that is proven to feel the impact from early colonial days.

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When people have been bashed, beaten & slaughtered for a couple hundred years, the trauma, as you can imagine is multilayered. Physical trauma on top of physical trauma, emotional trauma on top of emotional trauma, mental trauma on top of mental trauma - multilayered for many generations for 230 years; people carrying epi genetics and trauma from colonisation, you can begin to understand the depth of pain but may also understand why many First Nations have a discontent for Non Indigenous people.

I can almost hear the echoes now, discrediting this article, the ‘oh but what ifs’ and ‘don’t blame us for what happened then’ but I ask you to show a tiny bit of empathy because as you say ‘you weren’t around, it’s wasn’t your fault’

We also say..

‘we didn’t ask to have these traumatic experiences placed on us either’

Let me fill you in on an experience that happens with me every single day.

Any time I meet a new person, a new Non Indigenous person, I feel judgement. Weather they are judging me or not I don’t know, but my immediate reaction and instinct is they are judging me in a negative manner.

Being someone who is in the public eye a little, I have to continually train myself into not making similar judgements - to not think ‘the white man is judging me, to not think he’s trying to rip me off, take advantage of me, rape my wife or steal my children, as this was a common occurrence in early colonial settlement times - again, this is the trauma placed on and within me, I don’t choose to have these thoughts or make these initial judgements. This is conditioning that I have no control of.

Now that may sound like a pretty radical statement, but that’s what trauma does; it sets off trauma responses that enable our mind to fly straight into protection mode. To protect with everything we have against the enemy; again not a logical word to use, but when you are traumatised so much, so deeply - you feel that an innocent person is your enemy.

Please keep reminding your self - I don’t mean to have these initial thoughts, they just happen; that’s not my fault, not yours either - it’s trauma.

But it’s not all doom and gloom; I have many white friends that I interact with in my leisure time and in my professional life, I often speak to in excess of a thousand kids in any one week, with at least 97% of those kids not being First Nation kids - what I’m trying to say is, I make a conscious effort to not let these thoughts and judgements impact 99% of my day.

Just like there are many amazing, caring and compassionate people in the white world, we too have many amazing people in ours.

The question I ask is, why aren’t we given the same amount of respect and or compassion in everyday life.

Yes, we have challenges and negative in our communities, just like you; but we also have many aspiring and inspiring leaders taking charge.

The highest amount of First Nation political figures in federal and state parliament ever, more young people graduating university and year 12 than ever before - our people are moving forward at an amazing rate.

I ask, why are we, labelled drunks, thieves, thugs, and even labelled child rapists, many citing that we would rather keep the perpetrators of sexual and physical in our homes, putting our innocent kids in danger - that is outright ludicrous.

There is good and bad in every race, yet we are told we are living in the past, when it is we who are triggered with trauma every present day. The fact that many, many Non Indigenous men raped and tortured our ancestors, the blood relatives of you (Non Indigenous people), slaughtered and raped the blood relatives of me and our people..

What I am trying to say is, Aboriginal people are triggered with a past that haunts us with traumatic situations every single day, yet we adapt our thinking, show a compassion, empathy and forgiveness toward white Australia everyday in common Interactions, to move forward.

What is stopping you from doing it with us?

Why the continuous negative rhetoric?

Great example is one of my now closest friends, traumatised by incidents involving First Nation people, where she was physically and emotionally beat and bullied for years. I am sure she still gets triggered, but now is one of my closest friends whom will come and ask the question rather than judge in certain circumstances.

It is people like my good friend who are consciously moving through trauma for the betterment of her interactions, education and relationships with the countries first people.

So truth have it, in the first instance, I am traumatically conditioned  to not like white people; But In each incurring moment, I choose to put that hurt and ego in my back pocket, give people a chance and let them guide their own path.

As a country, we are here together, there are hurting people and many traumatised people on both ends of the scale - if we are to move forward through a hurtful traumatic past, to me, it would only make more sense to do it together!!!

How we do that is through, Love, Respect, Humility, Care & Compassion - for each other, no matter the race or colour

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My Mothers Words - Where Did I Go Wrong


‘Where did I go wrong with my son - were the words that came from my mothers mouth as a tear trickled down her face.

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It was a silent moment my Mother & my manager Mel shared at my recent book launch in Sydney.

I have been speaking about my journey of mental illness & suicide since mid 2014 - it will be four years later this year.

When Mel mentioned this conversation with Mum to me, it broke me; my heart ached to think that my mum had thought it was a reflection of her, my upbringing and influence her and my father had on me.

I had not for one minute, in over 3 years considered my parents thoughts and reactions - super selfish of me and definitely could have opened the conversation with my family differently before it came public; but as I mentioned to my youngest sister Jasmine on the weekend, ‘it is those closest to me, that I thought would be most judgemental’ which I know isn’t true, my parents, my brother, sisters they love me - it was my head, the stigma within that was convincing me that nobody cared.

I have wanted to write this article since the day Mel told me of the conversation - it broke me, I knew my mum was hurting, I needed to heal that hurt - but more importantly I needed to educate mum a little to help ease her pain.


In talking with Mum, my first words were;


‘Mum I love you, I can’t thank you enough for my upbringing, for everything you sacrificed and the love and leadership you have given me - this illness I have, my mental hurt, my Suicide attempt, had nothing to do with my upbringing, how little or how much I was loved or the way I’ve been raised up til this day; what I experience is a chemical imbalance in my brain that has effect on the stability of my moods and wellbeing - a brain disease, mental illness that is Bi Polar Disorder, with suicidal ideation.

Mums reply was ‘I just thought you were like any other kid, happy outgoing who loved his sport’

The truth is, i was all of that - I was a super happy kid who got along with everyone, but I  kept everything hidden away for no one to see.

Fact being, I could not have been loved anymore I am extremely lucky and grateful to be loved by 2 amazing resilient parents. My parents in fact, have shaped me to be the person I am in telling and delivering my story.

The values I carry everyday, the strength I take from the harshness of our cultural past - is the very reason for my resilience & I am able to connect and help people to heal and understand their wellbeing every single day.

Why it was so important to tell my mum this, and to share this healing of us both through this blog; is because their are countless parents, friends and individuals I meet on a weekly basis who still hold guilt and shame with their shared stories of Suicide & mental illness.


Education is key.


Mental illness is just like a physical illness - it’s just not visible for us to see. If someone suffers a broken leg, we encourage them to head to the hospital to get it fixed, yet when people are battling mentally, we ignore or hide it, lock it away so no one can see.

When we talk physical illness, we take it at face value; no one tells someone with a broken leg to ‘get on with it’

Yet with mental illness, we ignore, tell people to harden up...

It’s time we changed the language around this topic, let’s not harden up, let’s educate ourselves, our loved ones; & let’s smarten up.

I love my mum and my dad, my siblings and all my friends who have supported my journey & I can’t be thankful enough for the upbringing & journey I’ve had to get me here.

Let’s continue to heal through education, empathy and understanding

**Pic - Mum & I after I was selected for the Australian under 15 schoolboy team**

Campfire Healing

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After some reflection on an amazing few days on the West Australian coast, helping to facilitate some on country yarning sessions; it dawned on my why traditionally our Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander ancestors gathered to chat around a campfire.

One would assume, it was because we lived outside and we didn’t have the luxuries of indoor heating or even the warmth of modern clothes .

After sitting around the campfire, yarning about problems in communities, self reflecting on my very own issues I deal with on a daily basis, I returned to my bed that evening and had one of the deepest sleeps I have had in months; not because I was tired, but because the hours of staring deep into that fire my mind began to feel at ease. For hours, sometimes deep into conversation, and sometimes without conversation, just staring deep into the fire before us.

I realised that staring deep into a flame, not having any particular thoughts that are racing in the mind, everything just slows down, when you are staring deep into that fire, your mind begins to heal and those racing thoughts, slow down dramatically.

For thousands on thousands of years, our old people, the ancestors, lived with a much more simple life but I believe there is a lesson in this for everyone.

There is multiple layers as to why something so simple can be so healing.

Firstly, sitting around a fire with others creates community, people to talk to, rather than mindless and often negative content that comes through our television screens, conversation creates interactions that many of us choose not to have anymore.

Having a campfire, usually is outdoors. Sitting and connecting outdoors with our Mother Earth is something that is also very vital in our healing. It has been proven that connecting outdoors, even taking your shoes off and sinking them into the grass or dirt sends a soothing vibration through the body, to help it heal physically, mentally and emotionally.

There is so much learning we can take from our old people, we have survived as the longest continual living culture on the planet, this isn’t by accident - those old people were intelligent, smart and extremely wise.

Finally, I want to share what a senior uncle said to me when I initially started re connecting with traditional culture; Uncle Paul Callaghan, knew of my battles with mental health, mental illness and suicide.

He said ‘young brother, you stick close to this stuff and keep learning about he old people & our old ways, your mental health problems will all but disappear’.

He was right, the more I have connected with culture and the old ways of living, the mind slows down, you think clearer and you aren’t clouded with the negative rut that comes with living in a fast paced, demanding society.

If I can suggest anything for your wellness, get outdoors and start starring deep into a fire - It is a form of meditation - and start Healing.

Paddling Against The Wind, Staying Present & Focus On Now

It is funny how something like recreational paddle boarding can hammer home some of the very lessons that help to build a resilience; the very resilience that helps to keep me alive.

Today I found myself on a stand up paddle board doing my best, whilst paddling into a wind that was almost sending me backwards.

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It was in this time that I was given a gentle reminder, to stay present, to focus at the task at hand. Everything in my head in that moment, was telling me to head back to shore, the lake is too long, how on earth will you ever get to the other end..

It is in my personal moments of depression, vivid thoughts of suicide & darkness, that I can call on the same very tools as I used today; you see, today when I was paddling into that wind I was looking so far down to the other end of the lake, it seemed like an eternity. Add on top the head wind, the questions of why, how, and when I would get through this current tough time.

Many would think ‘what on earth has tough times in suicidal ideation and paddle boarding into a head wind got to do with each other’ - and for the most part many people would be right, they have nothing to do with each other, but it is the same tips I am about to share, that have everything to do with getting out of both situations.

On the paddle board today, I gave myself the very advice I’ve used in many life and death situations; STAY PRESENT & FOCUS ON NOW.

I may have been paddling into a head wind, but I was making progress, slowly, but it was still progress.

In tough situations we often look at ‘how can I get to the end’ when really, all we should be thinking is, just build on what we have right now.

In order to count to 100, I first have to count to 1 & then 2 & then 3 & 4 & 5 etc.. don’t look at what’s long and beyond, for that paints a dark picture and feeds the demons of doubt.

Today, the demons of doubt were loud and clear, when paddling into that wind, just like the times we are in mental anguish, the doubt is there and it focuses on telling you what you can not do and tries to convince you everything you are not - don’t listen, stay present & you got this..

Just by staying present in those tough times, helps to build your resilience, helps you to fight back against #TheEnemyWithin.

Today, realistically, I wasn’t having a tough time in having suicidal thoughts, but I used the very same tips and advice as if I were - STAY PRESENT & FOCUS ON NOW.

In your moments of darkness, it is the most simple, yet most effective things you can do - STAY PRESENT & FOCUS ON NOW, BUILD ON YOUR SITUATION, 1% AT A TIME

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Paddling Against The Wind, Staying Present & Focus On Now

It is funny how something like recreational paddle boarding can hammer home some of the very lessons that help to build a resilience; the very resilience that helps to keep me alive.

Today I found myself on a stand up paddle board doing my best, whilst paddling into a wind that was almost sending me backwards.

IMG_1207.JPG

It was in this time that I was given a gentle reminder, to stay present, to focus at the task at hand. Everything in my head in that moment, was telling me to head back to shore, the lake is too long, how on earth will you ever get to the other end..

It is in my personal moments of depression, vivid thoughts of suicide & darkness, that I can call on the same very tools as I used today; you see, today when I was paddling into that wind I was looking so far down to the other end of the lake, it seemed like an eternity. Add on top the head wind, the questions of why, how, and when I would get through this current tough time.

Many would think ‘what on earth has tough times in suicidal ideation and paddle boarding into a head wind got to do with each other’ - and for the most part many people would be right, they have nothing to do with each other, but it is the same tips I am about to share, that have everything to do with getting out of both situations.

On the paddle board today, I gave myself the very advice I’ve used in many life and death situations; STAY PRESENT & FOCUS ON NOW.

I may have been paddling into a head wind, but I was making progress, slowly, but it was still progress.

In tough situations we often look at ‘how can I get to the end’ when really, all we should be thinking is, just build on what we have right now.

In order to count to 100, I first have to count to 1 & then 2 & then 3 & 4 & 5 etc.. don’t look at what’s long and beyond, for that paints a dark picture and feeds the demons of doubt.

Today, the demons of doubt were loud and clear, when paddling into that wind, just like the times we are in mental anguish, the doubt is there and it focuses on telling you what you can not do and tries to convince you everything you are not - don’t listen, stay present & you got this..

Just by staying present in those tough times, helps to build your resilience, helps you to fight back against #TheEnemyWithin.

Today, realistically, I wasn’t having a tough time in having suicidal thoughts, but I used the very same tips and advice as if I were - STAY PRESENT & FOCUS ON NOW.

In your moments of darkness, it is the most simple, yet most effective things you can do - STAY PRESENT & FOCUS ON NOW, BUILD ON YOUR SITUATION, 1% AT A TIME

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