Bernadette Allen of Koongal is fed up with losing loved ones to addiction
Bernadette Allen of Koongal is fed up with losing loved ones to addiction Jann Houley

'He wanted to change his life' Rocky man dies prematurely

HER friend's "cheeky grin" is a picture Bernadine Allen can't remove from her mind no matter how many tears she cries but all she has of him now is a memory.

Bernadine spent the last 24 hours in shock after hearing her Rockhampton-based friend had died from drug use.

Her friend has not been named out of respect for his family.

His death has sent her into a world of sadness, despair and anger as she poses the question - how many more people have to die before a rehabilitation centre is built in Rockhampton?

Bernadine said her friend had attempted to overcome his dependency on drugs for many years and was successful when he was out of town, but once he returned he relapsed many times.

"The lives we are losing is just wrong," Bernadine said.

"It's proof the rehab needs to be built."

She wants to end the month-long debate about the location of the rehabilitation centre and see construction started.

"He wanted to change his life," she said.

Her friend's death has sparked her desire to show the community what people affected by drugs are actually like.

"People don't understand that the people who go to rehab want help," she said.

"They're not going to be focused on the rest of the world.

"They're not going to hurt them. They're not going to rob them."

People in need were suffering because of stereotypes and misconceptions, Bernadine said.

"It's like people are punishing everyone who wants help because of the ones who don't," she said

"People have got nothing to fear about a rehab."

Bernadine said Rockhampton was full of people who were in need of drug rehabilitation.

"There are people like me all around you and you don't know as they don't look like what you perceive a drug user to look like," she said.

Bernadine understands rehabilitation better than most - she's undergone the process alone numerous times.

She began using drugs as a coping mechanism as a victim of domestic violence.

"I started taking them to cope with my life and unhappiness," she said.

Bernadine then lost two sons in separate incidents and her drug dependency grew.

"I had no way to cope, the only way to cope was to not think," she said.

She wanted to stop using drugs for several years but attending an out-of-town rehabilitation centre was not an option. Having no local rehabilitation centre has cost her three years of her life, but she's more concerned about what the lack of facilities is costing other people in Central Queensland.

She has been sober for more than a year and is studying a certificate three in community services to become a drug counsellor. She hopes to see the centre built soon.