How we can walk it out
“Nine years ago today I was doing raids on Taliban positions and now I’m doing these walks,” Cowaramup man Dan Kozyrski told the Times in the lead-up to Anzac Day.
Better known for his busy Black Sheep Deli as well as the odd stint of community activism, the former soldier says his life has finally turned around after years of dealing with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“And it feels like I’ve found my life’s purpose,” he said.
Mr Kozyrski has launched Southern Fire Wellness as a holistic bid to help community members struggling with their mental health, but who also don’t want medication or to run a battery of psychological tests and exams.
The new business will draw upon a range of other holistic practitioners across the Cape-to-Cape region, including Wadandi elders, with Mr Kozyrksi taking clients on nature walks.
Along the way, mindfulness, ritual, ceremony, and “taking time” will form the backdrop of his approach to helping people recentre themselves.
“I think anyone goes through that much hell and walks out traumatised and then has the ability to heal, with help, has an obligation to others to help them through that fog,” he said.
“I want to provide a service for the community and for those who don’t want to deal with psychologists and medication, but want help.”
Although Southern Fire started with Mr Kozyrski’s interest in contemporary shamanism, the ex-soldier told the Times he felt he’d been heading towards his calling for many years.
“If none of this had happened, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” he said.
As a younger man, Mr Kozyrski joined the Australian Army and served stints in East Timor and Afghanistan.
He quit in 2012 and undertook three years as a fly-in, fly-out worker, which he said only made matters worse.
“I was pretty broken from 2008,” he said. “I was on a downward spiral with PTSD and anxiety.
“By the time I left the military, I was pretty messed up and that was compounded by the time up north.”
He credits wife Nikola Paget with unstinting support through years of borderline coping, including times when he considered opting out completely.
“I’ve found a way to live with that,” he told the Times. “Not dispel it completely.
“And I want to offer (clients) a toolkit they can use every day.
“You may have experienced pain, but you don’t have to continue that way for the next 30 years.”
Southern Fire has a six-day retreat coming up in September and plans to support the FIFO sector, with Mr Kozyrski talking to big mining companies about offering more help to workers based in the Cape-to-Cape region.
Search for Southern Fire Wellness online on Facebook and Instagram for more.
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