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Former drug addict who turned her life around now working as counsellor in Mackay

Ms Snell says she spent most of her 20s abusing drugs and alcohol.  (ABC Tropical North: Hannah Walsh)

It wasn't until Rebecca Snell had made plans to end her own life that she found the strength to start over.  

As a self-confessed former drug addict and thief, Ms Snell said once she hit rock bottom, it took two long years to turn her life around.

She has now started her own counselling service to help others and said her own troubled past was the "fuel" that kept her motivated.

"My father died when I was young and I adapted really bad coping mechanisms to get through because I was very angry," she said. 

"I was addicted to drugs, abusing alcohol, in unhealthy relationships, dabbling in crime.

The mother-of-three said the first six years of her son's life were very chaotic — she was abusing drugs and alcohol, her marriage broke down and she became suicidal.

But it was that desperate time which prompted her to seek help.

Her son is now 18, has two younger sisters and Ms Snell has been clean for 12 years.

'Breakthrough' counselling

Ms Snell called her method "breakthrough" counselling and said it was not like traditional one-hour sessions. 

Instead, she sometimes sits with people for as long as it takes. 

Rebecca Snell shared her story at a recent event hosted by employment agency Community Solutions, in Mackay. (ABC Tropical North: Hannah Walsh)

"A lot of first instances are trauma dumps ... and then we can work with the skills and techniques to get their breakthrough.

"We don't want to be dragging on therapy for six months, having an hour a fortnight where you come in and barely get your issues out and have to go."

She now works with people facing their own addictions, as well as domestic violence victims and those diagnosed with cancer.

"I know where they're at and I really do have compassion for them."

Free program supporting single parents

Ms Snell said she utilised a free program available to her in Mackay, called ParentsNext, which is funded by the federal government and helps disadvantaged parents, with children under the age of six, find work or study opportunities. 

"When I first started, I had a really bad attitude about it ... I thought it was just another thing to do," she said.

Single parents can be referred to the ParentsNext program through Centrelink or can join voluntarily.  (ABC Tropical North: Hannah Walsh)

However, she quickly learnt the women involved in running the program had the resources to support her career ambitions. 

They helped her to enrol in study, provided 12 months of business coaching, purchased her first laptop and even got her car fixed when it broke down. 

Jillian Alleaume is the ParentsNext project officer in Mackay, Cannonvale, Collinsville and Bowen. 

She said the team had more than 600 clients and worked with about 40 to 50 people in a week. 

Community Solutions recently held an open day in Mackay to show people what support is available through the service.  (ABC Tropical North: Hannah Walsh)

"We've got funding we can use for various things … even if it's not work or study related...we've got playgroups and different activities," Ms Alleaume said. 

Ms Alleaume said the most common challenge for single parents at the moment was affordable access to childcare. 

Ms Alleaume said they have funding available and are looking for more participants to join the program.  (ABC Tropical North: Hannah Walsh)

Making trauma your 'fortress or fuel'

Rebecca Snell believes humans are resilient creatures. 

"We will do anything we can to survive, even if it means grabbing hold of something that's not good for us," she said.

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