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FIFO Worker Hits “Low Point”

May 19, 2023

Over 100,000 people in Australia are FIFO workers, flying in and out of remote work sites for long shifts away from home. The challenging work conditions can be tough on mental health, making these workers vulnerable to developing problems with alcohol and other drugs. That was the case for Corey.

“I had hit a low point in my life. I had a bad alcohol problem and was dependent on drinking far more than I should have been,” – *Corey, a fly in – fly out (FIFO) worker.

For Corey, drinking had become a way of life. Working in the resources sector, he would come home after lengthy shifts away, with plenty of time and reasons to drink.

“I’d come home and drink. I’d get bored and drink. I’d go out with my mates and drink. The people I hung around, all liked drinking. After all the good times we’d had, we just didn’t know any other way.”

But the alcohol was starting to have an impact. Corey said his health was affected, including his mental health.

“I was angry all the time. Then there were the hangovers. I started to have problems with my relationships, with my friends and family. My partner at the time was supportive… we’re not together any more. Alcohol was a huge factor in our break-up – the biggest cause.”

Corey said there was not much to do when back in his rural hometown. Drinking was the norm and it was a cycle he didn’t think he could break alone.

When everything started to unravel, he realised he had to do something to change. He was losing those closest to him and he was depressed. In desperation, he went to the doctor and was sent to Drug ARM.

Corey accessed the specialist support he needed in our Creative Options Program, attending a total of 12 one-hour sessions. This made a world of difference.

He described his counsellor as “brilliant!”

“She challenged me on why I was drinking and helped me to understand the underlying causes. She would ask these basic questions but they really got me thinking,” he said.

“Questions like ‘why do you drink’, ‘what sets you off’, ‘why do you get angry’.”

Thinking deeper about his drinking, being motivated to change and looking at healthier alternatives to unwind have all helped Corey to make significant reductions in his drinking, putting him back in control of his life.

It’s now been over a year, since Corey last engaged with Drug ARM, yet because of the support he received back then, he’s still drinking at much lower levels.

“My friends aren’t happy about me not going out as much, but they do understand it,” he said. “I’m definitely drinking a lot less.”

These days when Corey gets stressed or bored, instead of reaching for a drink, he is more likely to pick up a colouring-in book, or a book to read.

“I know it may sound strange… but I like colouring and reading. I’m reading so many more books now!”

Corey’s story of dependency is not isolated. It’s not new.

The stress and isolation that comes from working away from family and other support networks, as well as the irregular hours, long shifts and constant transitioning, has been found to lead to poor mental health for many FIFO workers. The effects are compounded for those workers returning to rural towns where there’s not much to do during their extended time off in between shifts, putting them further risk of problematic substance misuse.

If you can relate to Corey’s story and are having problems with your drinking, consider getting in contact with Drug ARM or reaching out to your GP for support near you.

*Corey, not the client’s real name. Changed for privacy reasons. Stock images used.

If you’ve been watching the news lately, you’ll know the disturbing statistics that men are at higher risk of suicide and substance use. Volunteer or donate today to help men like Corey find new, healthier habits and leave substance dependency behind.

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