"How I survived a decade of drug hell"
LUCY Gentle has woken up from a nightmare.
Consumed by addiction, she was more readily able to accept going to jail than the idea of giving up drugs.
Now, 11 months after she checked into Hervey Bay's rehabilitation centre Bayside Transformations, Lucy, 27, is clean and is about to become the first female graduate of the centre's program.
Living on the Fraser Coast, Lucy said she was aware of a growing drug problem in the area.
Lucy says lots of people contact Bayside Transformations in the hope of combating their addictions - and she hopes sharing her story will help more people reach out for the help they need.
A year ago, Lucy admits she was in hell.
Her path to addiction started early, smoking cannabis and cigarettes by the age of 12 before moving on to alcohol, then speed, then ecstasy and finally, at only 16, ice.
She now believes she was using drugs to deal with a range of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
Lucy says at the height of her mental illness, she contemplated suicide.
Lucy's partners drew her further into addiction and she worked as a stripper for six years to fund her habit.
Then, finally, on the Gold Coast, the law caught up with Lucy and her then-partner.
To evade police, they moved to Rockhampton, but the ghosts of addiction followed them there.
Alone after her partner left her, she was consumed with fear.
At what was possibly her lowest point, she remembers selling other users drugs that was really Epsom salt, or brown sugar mixed with saliva, whatever she could sell to make some money to fund her own addiction.
Then Lucy faced court and was ordered to attend rehabilitation sessions.
At those sessions she met Darren Yates, a man she can't speak of highly enough.
He told her about Bayside Transformations, his Christian treatment centre, and that the program would take a year.
Lucy rejected that outright; the idea of spending a year at a Christian centre trying to beat her addiction did not appeal to her.
But then Darren asked her to trust him. And Lucy did.
It was the first time she had trusted someone in years, having lost contact with her friends and family because of her addiction.
Lucy spent a week in a Brisbane hospital to detox, with Darren paying for her treatment, and then went directly to Bayside Transformations.
Lucy said it was a turning point, not only because of Darren's intervention but because she started to "get real" with herself.
"I wouldn't allow myself to think I was a drug addict," she said.
All her previous attempts at rehabilitation had failed.
Lucy could not get out of bed or get dressed without using ice.
She remembers turning up to court-ordered rehabilitation already high from substances she had consumed.
"I was fried going there," she said.
But something was different this time.
Having been through a detox process, spent mainly eating and sleeping, Lucy was given total support at the Hervey Bay treatment centre.
It has been 11 months now since she has consumed any kind of drug - even cigarettes - and Lucy says she is determined to stay on track.
"I'm completely free of drugs and I never thought that would happen," she said.
"This place has changed me inside and out."
Changing lives is a priority at Bayside Transformations.
While every client is different, Hervey Bay campus director and manager Tina Embrey said they all worked towards the common cause - to help pick up the pieces of their lives and once again become functioning members of the community.
Ms Embrey said the campus had a high success rate since opening in 2010, with five people already graduating the program this year and another four soon.
"They were big ice users ... and came from horrific backgrounds, and seeing them change their lives and transform after 12 months, going on to uni and getting work - it's exciting."