January 2017 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Mark’s Recovery Story

For more than half his life, Mark* has been living a lie. Mark’s colleagues know him as a responsible guy, capable of delivering projects on time. Mark’s family know him as a high functioning heroin addict.

When he was 17, Mark started dabbling in drugs. Now 39, Mark describes his childhood as growing up in a reasonably functional dysfunctional upper middle class family in Brisbane.

‘Around the age of 21, I was using heroin to the point that I was suffering physical withdrawals,’ Mark says.

Mark was also trying to finish his universities studies, working full time and maintaining a social life. He realised something would have to change.

‘I knew I couldn’t work and maintain a habit. I would probably end up going to jail because you’ve got to make money somehow, whether from dealing or rorts. I really didn’t want to go there,’ he says.

‘I tried numerous things – rapid detoxes, injections of vitamins, seen doctors, naltrexone – but by the age of 23 I went on maintenance on methadone.’

During his 14 years on methadone, Mark continued to use heroin as often as he could. He was also holding down a professional job where he managed up to 50 people at a time.

‘I think some people knew, but they wouldn’t have said anything. Some people wouldn’t have known,’ Mark says. ‘I suppose the people who care about me probably knew something was going on, and they probably had a sneaking suspicion of what it was.’

Three years ago, Mark hit a low point. He couldn’t get out of bed or go to work. His father suggested it might be the methadone, so Mark started cutting back his treatment. He started relapsing in the past year.

‘Heroin is my drug of preference,’ he says. ‘All the other ones, like methadone, they’re just poor substitutions. They help so you don’t suffer as severe physical withdrawals, but I wouldn’t choose them.’

Because his parents both moved to Australia as adults, Mark has no extended family in Brisbane. His family was close knit. His heroin habit prevented him from forming real relationships, particularly intimacy with women.

‘I was identified by my job and I was living two lives. I was living the life I was at work, and with my family, which involved a lot of lying and deception. And the life with the people I was using with. And I was even isolated from that group significantly,’ he says.

‘That’s all I was – what I did at work and slowly killing myself. I didn’t know how to have relationships, I didn’t know how to be a friend.’

Mark has been involved with NA for a few years, but he found himself using heroin on a semi regular basis. His habit increased until he was no longer able to go a day without using.

‘I got to a point where I couldn’t stop. I tried,’ he says. ‘I tried detoxes at home, I tried just gritting my teeth, but I just couldn’t do it.’

To fund his habit, Mark stole money from his family. It was this that lead him to recovery. When his family confronted him, he opted for rehab.

‘They asked me to make the phone call, to put the willingness in for that,’ he says.

Having tried to quit on his own, Mark had three requirements for rehab: they had to offer detox, it had to include a 12 step program, and, most importantly, they needed to take him immediately.

‘To take someone to detox is a huge rarity in the rehab world. They want you to detox before you come,’ he says. ‘If I could detox myself, I probably wouldn’t be in such a problem. It’s a really big struggle for most people. If you could stop, probably life wouldn’t be that unmanageable.’

Mark started his rehab in mid-2016, transitioning after detox. There’s a huge jump between rehab, an institution, and the real world, he says. Hader’s transition program softens that experience and gives people time to readjust to sober life. It helps people manage while they’re setting up their new life.

‘I knew that it was not good for my recovery to live with my family. And that I needed that time to be able to find a place to live and to find a job,’ Mark says. ‘I’m well on my way. The growth that I’ve had and the joy in my life from doing this process is indescribable.’

Now Mark is able to relate to people and form connections. He feels like a completely different person. It takes work, but the benefits are significant. Mark’s family relationships have improved. He’s in regular contact with his sisters, and he’s working hard to maintain a different dynamic with his parents.

‘My relationship with them has been one where I’ve been very dependent on them. So I need to not be dependent on them. I still see them. I talk to them a couple of times a week,’ he says. ‘I catch up with them once or twice a week, but I limit that so I don’t get into old patterns and behaviours in regards to that relationship. It’s just a change.’

For the past 18 months, Mark has been learning to paint and draw. He’s discovered an unknown talent and developed a range of skills. It’s helped him tap into his creativity and go to different types of meetings.

‘I just painted. I just gave it a crack,’ he says. ‘At the end there was a gallery showing and I sold a couple of pieces for charity. It added to the greater good.’

For Mark, it’s important that people considering rehab understand that reality.

‘This is an institution where people are getting clean off drugs and alcohol and reintegrating into life,’ he says. ‘I may not have enjoyed every minute but that’s not its purpose. I’m very grateful.’

*not his real name

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – Faith’s Story

When Faith started using drugs aged thirteen, it felt like an innocent attempt to gain confidence and have more fun in life.

However, over the course of the next twenty three years, Faith’s drug taking descended her into a life of addiction, pain and brokenness. As she slid into addiction, she lived to use drugs, believing that they were the only way she could function.
Faith Before and After Her Addiction
The disease of addiction deceived Faith into believing that she was a “highly functioning addict”, after all she had a decent job, three beautiful children and an upmarket home.

Faith describes the beginning of the descent into drug hell. “At thirteen, I started smoking marijuana and began progressing to other party drugs like GBH, ketamine and cocaine on weekends. I entered into a relationship with an abusive man and soon was smoking marijuana every day.”

Last year, Faith’s twenty three years of taking drugs finally took their toll. Faith had discovered ice and GBH and was using daily. Fuelled by GBH, Faith wrote off her car in a high speed crash, resulting in dismissal from her job. Her life became unmanageable. “I did anything to get money – to support my habit, to support my children and pay for my home. I put myself in stupid situations to fund that”.

However, it was too late. Her three children were removed from her care by DOCS. Traumatised by this loss, Faith went off the rails, reporting that she went harder on the drugs than ever, so that she could numb the void.

“When my kids were taken away from me, I didn’t want to feel.. all I had known for twenty three years was drugs. I numbed my emotions with drugs.”

Faith’s turning point occurred after coming home in the early hours of the morning to discover that she’d locked herself out of her house. She tried jumping the fence to get in, which result in a broken wrist. Faith recalled, “I took a look at myself in the mirror and didn’t recognise the reflection staring back at me. I was not only broken physically, I was broken inside. I knew that I couldn’t get off the drugs by myself. I couldn’t even do that for my kids. DOCS were involved and I couldn’t even provide a clean urine screen.

I was devastated that I couldn’t change for my children and researched and sought out rehab.

Faith describes the first ninety days in the rehab clinic as one of the hardest things she has done, explaining that while the physical withdrawal was tough, nothing could have quite prepared her mentally for what lay ahead. “I was stripped of everything I had become comfortable with,” describing the situation of packing her bags to leave and “get out of there”. Yet, an innate voice within told Faith that she needed to do this “more than anything else in the whole world”.

Describing the turmoil, Faith shares, “emotions were coming up that I’d never experienced or been able to handle without drugs. The Hader Clinic loved me back to life. They helped me, they gave me the tools to deal with these emotions. I was stripped back to “raw”.”

At the forty day mark, Faith experienced an epiphany about her drug use, realising that the disease of addiction did not have her best interests at heart. Becoming spiritually aware, she began to understand that the way she’d been living had been getting her nowhere and if anything, was getting her into more trouble. “I knew without question that I needed the help and surrendered to everything.”

After spending ninety days in the residential rehabilitation clinic, Faith continued her journey to recovery in the Hader Clinic’s transitional housing program. The transitional housing program aims to integrate the experience of the real world with the rehabilitation process, providing a supported step by step path to reentering the world as a recovering addict.

The impact of the transitional housing program on Faith was profound. Faith explains, “this was a wake up call – you’re wrapped up in cotton wool in rehab so that you can be stripped raw and begin to work on yourself. When I got to the transition housing, I felt like recovery had really started as I had to learn to manage triggering situations, I had to be accountable to the Hader Clinic by attending check ins and meetings. Rehab alone hasn’t kept me clean – it’s the transitional housing and recovering on the outside where my hardest work has been done. It’s the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I have ever done.”

Faith has also learned how to receive support from others and give support in return – and most importantly, learned to reconnect with herself.

Life without drugs has opened up opportunities for Faith.

She’s now studying a Diploma of Alcohol and Drug Addiction, and it’s her dream to help and support other addicts, adding that, “you can only keep what you’ve got by giving it away. The study is hard work, but nothing is easy in life. I have had the hardest six months of my life, but they are also the best six months of my life. I believe nobody walks into rehab by accident. Upon reflection, I am blessed to have the disease of addiction. I have learned about myself, I have gained the tools to learn how to live life and I am grateful for the opportunities I have every day.”

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