Life can sure throw some curve balls at you but as the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. That was certainly evident in my case.
Over the past five years, I’ve been on a real rollercoaster journey of choices and changes that led me through some serious illness, a busted relationship to today where I live with HIV, have stable housing and fairly hopeful employment future.
My usual tendency to gravitate towards relationships that were not necessarily in my best interest was the first warning flag I ignored. Trust (or lack thereof) was a key theme in these relationships and this was absolutely the case with ‘Geoff’, my last partner.
We met under the influence of methamphetamines. While this gave both of us a lot of confidence which replaced any anxiety or hang-ups about sex, in my experience, substance use has never been a good start to a relationship.
As a sero-discordant relationship, while he was HIV positive and I was HIV negative, we never let our sero-discordance get in the way of a good time! Our relationship and our mutual dependence to meth lasted for the next five years.
Looking back, it seemed like we were both high for the duration of the relationship. We definitely didn’t practice safe sex, although from time to time it crossed my mind that I might be positive. It wasn’t a thought that hung around for very long. While I was high, I was engrossed in staying there and finding as much pleasure as I could regardless of the realities that were around me.
For the last year of our relationship I was ill. I felt like shit. The sensible thing to do would have been to go see a GP. I did the complete opposite instead and reached for the meth. I wanted the party to keep going and I definitely wasn’t ready to come down to earth yet.
Eventually I got so sick I passed out and was taken to hospital via an ambulance. It was there I was diagnosed with both Pneumocystis Pneumonia and HIV.
Again, logic would dictate that I follow my doctor’s advice and stay in hospital to get the treatment I needed. Again, I did the complete opposite instead. I discharged myself and ran back to my partner and meth. These decisions continued with more hospital admissions (via ambulance) and more self-discharges.
Eventually, the cold hard slap of reality finally sunk in, when I was faced with the real prospect of death. This time, I stayed in hospital for some much needed rest, recuperation and medical treatment (3rd times the charm, right?).
Around that time, I also finally made the decisions to not return to my (now) ex-partner and meth. The hospital social worker suggested I apply for social housing as a way to get a stable place to start taking care of myself and keep myself healthy.
Once discharged from hospital, I moved in with a family member and trotted off to the local housing office with application for housing assistance. It came as a bit of a shock when they told me I needed to go away and apply online. This was despite standing in a housing office with a completed housing assistance application in my hand! I had no access to the internet and I certainly didn’t have a computer. Help!
I contacted my hospital social worker and she suggested I call Positive Life NSW and get in touch with their Housing Support Officer.
Positive Life’s Housing Officer supported me to complete the application for housing assistance together and we collated the ‘truck load’ of supporting documents and evidence needed for assessment. He further assisted me by advocating for me to move into transitional accommodation. This is a way I could access immediate housing. I accepted the transitional offer which completely took the stress out of my precarious couch surfing situation while I waited waiting for FaCS Housing to assess and approve my application for permanent housing. He came with me when I viewed the transitional property and also when I signed the lease. He also helped to arrange furniture support via one of the local charitable organisations.
The bureaucratic assessment of my application took many long months and after a few more hurdles, I have been priority approved. I’m just waiting for a suitable offer of social housing.
Today I’m in a place where I can look at other job opportunities and together with my housing security, I am feeling confident for whatever the future may hold.