October 2018 - Hader Clinic Queensland

I’m a Mother, Wife and Daughter of Addicts

Apart from some flecks of grey hair framing 49 year old Kate’s face, it would be difficult to tell from her smiling demeanour that she’s learned to cope with drug addiction in both her immediate and extended family.

Kate’s journey through addiction with her family is still unfolding. However, thanks to The Hader Clinic Queensland, Kate’s life no longer revolves around managing those in her family with substance addiction issues.

This is Kate’s story

“I’ve got two boys. Brian’s 19 and Steve’s about to turn 18. And I can’t forget my husband, John.

Brian’s the one that’s working in a bar. And the one that was treated for addiction, and is an addict.

His poison was drugs and now that he’s of legal age, he’s been drinking.

Brian’s drug issues came as a surprise to me as I’d always thought that I’d encouraged openness and honesty within our family unit.

He was into whatever drugs he could get his hands on. Whatever he could find.

At 17 he chose to leave home, didn’t complete Year 12 and went and worked at McDonalds. He moved in with a bunch of guys in their late 20s.

I could see in some ways that Brian wasn’t coping, yet he didn’t want to spend any time with me either, even though where he was living was just a ten-minute walk from my office.

I know what it’s like when you’re young and you want to leave home. So I knew not to push him too much but I was the only one who really kept in contact with him.

A few months later, he turned up at our place, looking like skin and bones. And he smelled terrible. It was then I realised something was wrong. Unbeknownst to us, he’d been living in our garage, which was unlocked downstairs.

Eventually he spoke to John’s brother, his uncle, who told him that he needed to speak to us. And he did.

He was abusing ice and worried for his life. He was a mess.

It was then I realised that Brian was the type of kid that told you what he thinks you want to hear rather than what he really feels. He finds it hard to articulate that – and just follows the crowd instead.

I began to put some pieces of the puzzle together about how Brian started struggling with addictive behaviour.

I look back on my side of the family and John’s side too and they were all alcoholics. Every grandparent. And John is too. It just goes hand in hand, right? When the kids were little we always talked about alcohol and about how John is an alcoholic.

The kids always knew about this from the start. Brian was determined not to be like his father, yet he is the spitting image of him. He doesn’t know how to stand up for himself.

Brian’s never accepted help of any kind in his life, even with his homework.

However, he could see that he was in trouble and for the first time, he asked for help. We got him into a residential addiction recovery program straight away at The

Hader Clinic Queensland and he did 90 days of treatment.

However, he came out and went straight off the rails, so we sent him for another stint of rehabilitation which seemed to go well.

He then moved in with us but within a week he’d relapsed, and we kicked him out, three weeks before Christmas.

We saw him again on Christmas Day and we went to see a movie together on Boxing day. Then I didn’t see him until August.

He would communicate sometimes if I communicated with him and he seemed OK with being a Facebook friend.

At the same time, John was giving me heaps of grief and telling me to let him go. He was saying things like, “Brian won’t recognise what he’s losing until he gets to rock bottom. And you need to tell him that his behaviour isn’t good enough to be part of the family”.

I guess by staying connected online, I’m keeping the door open. John says it won’t help him take a look at himself and work things out.

I understand where John is coming from but I’ve been EXACTLY where Brian is. And I guess I know that you can come out of it. And what helped me the most is knowing that despite doing drugs, alcohol and having anorexia, my mother never wavered in her love for me, telling me that she’d always be there for me.

I’ve been able to reframe my perspective on my son’s drug use.

We were lucky that we didn’t see Brian in an ice fuelled rage or anything. But we knew there was something wrong as, before he left again, he was stealing from us.

I realised we had to be firm and show him the door. I do feel sorry for his brother and the relationship that’s been destroyed.

And you can see the same old stories running through the family. I had an alcoholic father that used to beat the shit out of us. And we can see issues in Brian. It’s as if they get into a life situation that they can’t get past, so they recycle the same story and hurts over and over. And when I see this, I want to say, “dude, wake up to yourself”.

What shocked me with Brian’s addiction was that he never talked to me about the feelings he had about being worthless. I felt guilty. I thought that I’d been a good parent. I had an awful first marriage, so I thought I had learned by being what I thought was open and honest with my kids.

As part of Brian’s rehabilitation, I attended complimentary monthly family meetings with The Hader Clinic Queensland which helped me change my life and perspective.

Every time I would go to a monthly family meeting and listen to other people whose loved ones were struggling with addiction, I would have what I describe as a “lightbulb” moment. I realised that if you don’t disclose things, you can’t be helped.

For example, my dad was a terrible alcoholic as well as a philanderer. I have just found out that I have 11 half brothers and sisters!

On the weekends, my mum would pack up a picnic lunch and get in the car with my dad and drive to his mistress. We’d play pool downstairs while my dad was upstairs.

It’s just the weirdest pile of crap that happened – so when things happened to Brian I was of the opinion, “how can you not talk about it?” The Hader Clinic Queensland made me realise that if they can’t tell you, you can’t help them.

When I started attending meetings, I was carrying the biggest weight on my shoulders – the huge mother weight of guilt.

I had wanted to make sure our lives were perfect. I didn’t realise but I suffocated Brian for years with soccer coaching and training. I thought I was making time for my sons, but the actual fact was that I was too busy with being a soccer coach to notice the small things.

It was probably the third or fourth monthly meeting where I had that lightbulb moment. When I went back recently to have a talk I could see that everyone is at different stages of the journey – the further along you get, you can see everyone’s progression and you realise that you have to go through the same steps – even when you don’t think you’ll ever change.

Mel, the director of the Hader Clinic Queensland, shared with me that there are four outcomes of rehabilitation:

  • Win/win – where the client and the family are rehabilitated
  • Win/lose – where the client is rehabilitated but the family isn’t
  • Lose/lose – where both the client and family don’t succeed
  • Lose/win – where the family succeeds but the client doesn’t

We’re at the “lose/win” stage, so whilst Brian isn’t rehabilitated, we’re all better than what we were by a long shot.

John is still an alcoholic even though he no longer drinks.

I found that I probably got more out of the clinic in terms of the relationship I now have with my husband, rather than my son.

Taking the power back in the relationship between myself and John provided a catalyst for change.

I have infinite patience but I was tired of nagging him to stop drinking. Eventually I was able to say to him, “I no longer want to put up with this”. I said, “I want to move on with my life and I don’t need you in it, but I want you there.”

And this is where he began to take me seriously. He sought help in the form of AA meetings and counselling.

He’s asked me if I ever worry if he’s going to drink again but I say, “That’s your choice honey. If that’s what you want to do, I’m not controlling you. You control yourself”.

The journey with him has been on and off and I can still see addictive tendencies.

I’ve come to realise that giving up alcohol or smoking isn’t a lifestyle burden, it’s a lifestyle choice that I make so I can better every day. You realise that there’s a connection to believing your addiction is love – the thing is that there are many types of love.

I looked forward to the family nights at the Hader Clinic Queensland which would often revolve around a workshop or different theme each month.

There was a great one about guilt, and enabling.

I thought I was at the lower end of being an enabler. I never gave him money. I guess I am in some way by maintaining that tiny bit of contact.

They also talk about the effect addiction has on other family members. My other son, Steve, is what’s known as a “ghost” – the person that doesn’t say anything and tries not to interfere. We’ve had to discuss with him. It’s really good to understand it.

I’ve also learned that nobody’s perfect and we’ve all got a bit of everything happening – I have learned heaps through watching how other families are coping.

I used to think that I just had a bad vibe – bad dad, bad boyfriends, bad first marriage. However, with counselling I learned that if I hadn’t been through that I wouldn’t have stayed with John or been able to cope with Brian. I have had enough experience now to stay “this is just another step”.

These are some of the key things I learnt:

  • Sometimes I think you need awful experiences to cope.
  • I have learned to become better around setting boundaries with Brian. He knows I won’t drop anything or stop my life to help him unless he asks. We’ve had a couple of meals together which was nice, but I don’t expect anything. In fact, I gave a talk at the clinic that night and described treating him like a cat. You have to ignore cats, then they’ll come to you.
  • A lot of addicts say that they think you want to “fix” them but I truly want Brian to come to that conclusion himself. I tell him that I’m not there to solve his problems. Of course I would like more contact. He’s 19 – who cares about your mum at that age?
  • There’s always someone else worse off than you. I’m just grateful that I met Mel, Olivia and the team at the Hader Clinic Queensland. Otherwise I’d have lost the plot with Brian.

My advice for families with loved ones suffering from addiction is:

  • Cherish those monthly family meetings. If you need to go more, do so. Sometimes you don’t realise how they can help because you’re afraid. It’s all part of the package at the Hader Clinic Queensland – you do get out what you put in.
  • Forgive yourself! That was my biggest lesson. Forgive!
  • Nobody stays the same – even addicts. John is living proof that addicts can be trusted and often it’s great because they’re so predictable.
  • Enjoy the good times. There’s lots of sh*t but there are good times too.
  • Your life shouldn’t revolve around the addict. Put yourself first. This was easier said than done at first but I’ve just been on holidays – and spent money on myself.
  • Everyone has an experience to offer and learn from even if it’s very different from yours.
  • Sometimes what you think is a “place of love” is not that place at all.
  • Learn about family dynamics and what to do about it. I was an enabler and John a persecutor.

I’m now looking towards the future with my family. I hope that Brian gains insight into his addiction and uses the tools given to him in rehabilitation and accepts that it’s up to him to change.

If you have a family member struggling with addiction and need help, I wholeheartedly recommend contacting the Hader Clinic Queensland. I cannot praise their family counselling programs enough. They have changed my life.

More family stories

Our son is an addict, what do we do?
Breaking the cycle of addiction – a parent’s story

Related articles

Addiction support – the dos and don’ts
Nature or nurture, what causes addiction?
5 ways to support a loved one with addiction
Establishing family boundaries

Are you an Enabler?

When someone you love is in trouble it’s natural to want to help them. Whether it’s lending a hand with some bills, providing emotional support, or doing some chores for them, it feels like any little thing to get back on their feet must be good.

Helping your child, parent or spouse through a bad situation is a kindness. But when your loved one is an addict who isn’t willing to seek treatment, these actions can enable them to prolong their addiction. It can also create a co-dependence by making the enabler feel needed and more in control of the situation.

So, how do you know if you’re enabling or helping? It can be a fine line, but the main difference is whether your assistance is allowing them to avoid getting help for themselves.

Examples of enabling someone with addiction:

  • Ignoring bad behaviour or dismissing it as a phase.
  • Paying your loved one’s share of the bills such as rent, electricity or car repayments.
  • Bailing them out of jail or hiring a lawyer.
  • Giving them cash or buying groceries.
  • Letting your loved one take out their anger on you.
  • Paying for counselling services before they’re ready to commit to recovery.
  • Taking out loans on their behalf.
  • Giving them a job or making excuses to their boss if they miss work.
  • Doing their housework or driving them around.
  • Taking care of their children so they can go out.
  • Paying for their drugs or alcohol.
  • Putting your loved one’s needs ahead of your own.

A key part of active addiction is manipulating others to get what you want. This may be to avoid being discovered or going into treatment. Your loved one may try to make you feel bad and suggest you don’t want to see them get better if you don’t help. Addiction affects the whole family and family issues and broken relationships are common.

Remember, addicts must make the decision to participate in treatment themselves. Enabling them allows them to avoid making that decision. It can also be a financial and emotional drain on the rest of the family.

Losing their job or facing eviction may be the shock your loved one needs to see how out of control their life has become. Watching that happen is hard but may be in your loved one’s best interest in the long run. None of us has the power to change someone else’s behaviour¾we can only choose to change our own.

The best thing you can do to help is encourage them to seek professional treatment. Regardless of whether your loved one begins treatment, attending group therapy or personal counselling can you break the cycle of enabling someone with addiction.

The Hader Clinic’s family intervention services can help you start the conversation and encourage your loved one to accept treatment. Once your loved one is on the recovery journey, our family therapy can support everyone in the family work through their individual trauma and to improve family relationships.

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – Tilly’s Story

At nineteen, even though she stated that she was staunchly “anti drug”, Tilly did not understand that she was an addict – that there can be a genetic predisposition towards addiction which often manifests itself as a result of a traumatic event.

Growing up, Tilly’s life wasn’t always stable. Originally from Sydney, her parents divorced when she was a child and she moved to Brisbane with her mother and step father. In this time, Tilly changed schools three times and spent a lot of time being ferried between the two cities.

When Tilly was eighteen, she experienced painful trauma when her best friend passed away. Soon after she began to experiment with drugs, starting with ecstasy and weekend party drugs, quickly progressing to cocaine, and eventually ice.

For Tilly, being controlled by drugs made her feel out of control.

She tried her best to remain functional, completing a Cert 3 in hairdressing and a Diploma in Make Up and and tried to keep a job working in retail, and a steady house.

However, this didn’t last. “Eventually everything fell apart,” reports Tilly. “The last two years became unmanageable, I couldn’t work, I resorted to crime. I was very unstable.”

Tilly further describes life in active addiction. “Everything in life became around getting the next hit. Wake up and try and get the next hit. Everything is around getting the next hit and seeing how much money you could make in a day. As well as the drugs, there was lots of compulsive behaviour that came with it. If I wasn’t using, I was gambling. I was trapped in this cycle for eight years.”

There were some attempts made at rehab, most being thirty day detoxes. However, Tilly would fall back into drug usage as soon as they were completed. By this stage, Tilly’s family had disowned her and she was living on the streets.

She shares, “I definitely knew deep within, that I needed to go to rehab. I was living like a pig, I was on the streets. I had no hope for my future and honestly thought

I would have ended up dead sooner or later.”

Although Tilly understood the need for rehabilitation, her addicted mind believed otherwise, and getting Tilly to the Hader Clinic required a strong intervention from her family. She describes that the physical detox isn’t so bad, but the fight to stay clean and free of drugs is the biggest battle.

Tilly managed to detox four days prior to starting Hader’s ninety day residential addiction treatment program. She describes “feeling in la la land” for the first thirty days and didn’t realise the extent and depth of the program.

The structure of the program – daily meetings, chores to perform, counselling etc – was confronting, making Tilly realise that there was a lot more work involved in the process of rehabilitation than merely detoxing.

Over the course of the ninety days, Tilly had her moments of wanting to quit and go home and describes these challenges.

“I thought, ‘this is too hard’. All I felt I had known was the environment of substance abuse and I needed to stop and learn how to be myself again.”

Living in a community of recovering addicts and learning to relate to, and share with others, presented an unexpected challenge to Tilly as well.

“When I was using, I was a rock star, I was queen of the world, I didn’t need to relate to anyone else”.

Detoxing and spending three intensive months working on herself made Tilly realise how much of her being she had lost to drugs. She shares that her drug use had made her lose the ability to feel and recognise her emotions and learning to understand and appropriately deal with these feelings also presented a challenge.

At the sixty day point, Tilly decided that she was going to stick the rehab process out. “If I didn’t break the cycle, I would have lost all hope for living. It’s hard work, but I need it.”

After Tilly completed Hader’s ninety day residential program, she moved into the Transitional Housing program.

While she embraced the “cotton wool” environment of the rehabilitation facility, having intensive support whilst tasting “real life” has been beneficial.

She explains: “when you get out it’s about being able to put the tools you have learned in rehab into practice – going to the NA/AA meeting, doing and reflecting on daily readings, and journaling – that really helps. I also have the other members of the house and the Hader Clinic as a support and guide.”

Tilly describes a typical day in the transitional housing.

“We get up at 7.30am, just as you do in a normal working day. We have a group check in and meeting and report/share about our last twenty-four hours. Then we head off for an NA/AA meeting. We have some free time and in the evening, have a community meeting. We focus on twenty-four hours at a time, share stories and support each other.”

Transition hasn’t been without challenge as Tilly reports her wobbly moments.

“There are lots of triggers for me – music, certain locations in the environment. However I always have the support of the crew in the house. I’m attending counselling and learning to sit with the triggers and ride the wave.”

Tilly couldn’t speak highly enough of the support workers at the Hader Clinic, reporting that upon admission she had a bad attitude and was hard to deal with. For her, what was great about the clinic was that many of the support workers had experienced addiction who understood what she was going through.

She states, “it helped me to respect the staff and understand what type of life was truly possible.”

How does Tilly feel no longer using drugs or alcohol?

“It feels great to be free of it. It wasn’t just one substance, it was about three. I needed it when I woke up, when I went to bed. I still get really emotional. I am enjoying learning to live in the moment, to smell the coffee, to be present with my family. Now, I’m actually hopeful for the future. I’ve enrolled to study a Diploma of Beauty Therapy and want to develop my career as a beautician. The future holds more stability – I want to be good with my family, go to Uni, get my driver’s licensee. My independence and freedom is coming!”

More information

Women’s Addiction Treatment

I Was An Army Officer. And An Ice Addict.

Peter, whose name has been changed to maintain confidentiality, is a former Australian Army officer who served in Somalia, Rwanda (during the Kibeho massacre) and completed three tours of Afghanistan. Peter completed our residential treatment program for ice addiction and, at the time of writing, is seven months clean. This is his addiction story.

I had a good upbringing in Northern Queensland with a loving family; mum, dad and a younger brother. I had always wanted to be in the military, so as soon as I turned 15 I joined the Australian Navy as a submariner and transferred to the Australian Army later on.

My army career was excellent. It was fulfilling and engaging. After further education at Sydney University I was promoted to Officer.

To take up a post as an officer, I had to do a stint away, and was transferred to Darwin, working as a Signals Officer for the Artillery Regiment.

Whilst I was there I bought a house with my wife and our kids were about to start high school. Life seemed good, but I had to return to Sydney after my secondment to Darwin. By then my wife had secured a very good job and was hesitant to come back to Sydney. So we decided that I would be “married unaccompanied” for the next few years with me moving to Sydney and her staying in Darwin.

I came back to Sydney and accumulated a lot of operations (in the field) experience. I served in Somalia in 1993, and Rwanda in 1995. I was on the ground during the traumatic Kibeho massacre, and I also did three tours of Afghanistan.

I eventually came back to Australia and one day I literally woke up feeling terrible.

I immediately sought help for my mental health. It’s easy in hindsight to see what was going on. It wasn’t PTSD, it was rather a litany of smaller, yet significant factors that were contributing to my anxiety and depression. My wife and children were living in Darwin, I was alone in the barracks, and since arriving home had started to lose confidence in my career prospects and myself. It felt like my self-esteem had been slowly nibbled away and I hadn’t even noticed.

By then it was 2012 and I was 2IC (second-in-command) within my squadron. My role involved looking after the sick and wounded returning from their tours.

One gentleman I looked after had become a paraplegic after serving overseas. I helped organise housing, medical appointments and so forth, which was quite stressful.

These series of events were like a perfect storm, I was burnt out and exhausted, both physically and mentally. I was depressed, anxious and was letting my previously healthy habits of physical activity and socialising with my friends fall by the wayside.

Then I tried ice.

I had never previously engaged in any drug taking behaviour whatsoever. I didn’t smoke and hardly drank, so it was an out of character moment for me when I tried ice. I was out one evening with a policeman who offered me the drug. I accepted and as soon as I took a drag on that ice pipe all of my problems and worries seemed immediately to be fixed. I felt proactive and had a good deal of energy.

However, that wasn’t to last. I was addicted from day one. I remember waking up the next morning thinking, “where can I get some more?”

I started using several times a week in the privacy of my room at the barracks. Sometimes I’d use with doctors, lawyers and policemen and soon I realised that I had a problem.

I was ashamed, and rationalised that the only way I’d get out of it was by discharging from the army. My wife was shocked, the army was my life, my family.  Thinking that this fresh start was an opportunity to stop using, I moved back home. It didn’t work.

A few months later I was asked to come back into the army but my addiction continued. By now I had started to use intravenously and I felt like I had no hope. Rather than being caught up in a party lifestyle, I was falling deeper into an existence of shame and seclusion. My depression and anxiety were now starting to spiral out of control – I was acting against all of my personal and army values. I had always been so proud of my career in Defence and valued serving my country above all else.

Every time I shot up, I thought, “what the hell is wrong with me?”

I knew that I had to come forward and ask for help. I had tried beating out the need for ice by myself over the past 18 months and I was desperate. Nobody had suspected a thing, not even my wife.

Eventually I mustered up the courage to come forward to my Commanding Officer, who was extremely supportive. Initially, I felt a sense of relief – this problem was going to be sorted once and for all.

However, it was a nightmare. The Army, despite its best intentions, didn’t know what to do with me. I completed a detox in a hospital, then was left in my barracks room to my own devices. It was a disaster. I was alone and overwhelmed by cravings. I relapsed again and again.

I was sent to a rehab centre in Brisbane.

Unfortunately, you were allowed outside to go out and do things like buy a coffee. While out one day I witnessed a drug deal happening in a park across the road and it gave me an idea.

Even though I had struggled with drug use, nothing physically bad had ever happened to me. What if I deliberately made something bad happen – would I then be finally motivated to make the drug use stop?

So I went and bought as many drugs as I could from my dealer and then used as much as I could, in alleys and streets. For five days the army classified me as a missing person. I was shooting up in parks and living rough, hoping that I could demonise my using. I wanted to make drugs seem so appalling that rehab was the only option. I pushed it to the max and I used and used until I had to call an ambulance. Surprisingly, I was discharged from hospital within a few hours and it was back to the barracks.

Eventually, I posted a positive drug test. Defence decided to post me back to Darwin to be with my family.

After all my drug abuse, there wasn’t one unit that would take me on and it was decided to send me back on long-term convalescence. There was stress around whether my employers were going to kick me out over my drug use or medically discharge me. Lawyers got involved. After a lot of stress, I was medically discharged. I dealt with it the only way I knew how – by using ice.

My wife cut me off, she didn’t know what to do with me. I ended up on the doorstep of a Government rehab centre in tears. I lasted three weeks. It was very regimented but the program was based on punishment. And there were a lot of people there with ankle bracelets on from the local prison which was pretty disconcerting – they had jumped at rehab so they wouldn’t have to spend as much time in jail.

Nobody wanted to be clean.

As soon as I left, I started using again. This time the Department of Veterans Affairs got me a place in a private rehab facility in Adelaide. It was a 12 week program. I got in there very keen to do the right thing, but didn’t realise that I was fighting the system. I was trying to control everything, I thought I was back in the army and I was bossing my fellow addicts around and complaining to the staff. I was asked to leave two weeks before the program ended.

I thought I was fine, but I wasn’t and I used again within two weeks of leaving.

I went back home and fell into a pattern of craving drugs and seeking out sexual encounters (ice enhances libido).

Ashamed, I packed up the car, left and moved into a motel where I spent my days shooting up.

I even missed my mother’s death and funeral. I came back home to a message on Facebook from a woman I didn’t know claiming that she was my sister and that my mother had died. It turned out I had another three siblings that I knew nothing about. I was traumatised by the revelation and that just compounded things – I kept using, I moved to Brisbane and became homeless.

Eventually a charity that assists homeless veterans, Veterans 360, became aware of my situation, found me, and eventually got me into The Hader Clinic Queensland.

I was truly past rock bottom and I knew that this time, I was finally ready.

Learning to relinquish the desire to control everything has been a challenge but this time I knew that I would have to practice acceptance if I was to get better.

The staff at The Hader Clinic Queensland supported me, challenged me and have helped me to live just for today, one day at a time.

My biggest hurdle has been hanging onto my past but I’m looking forward to the future. My wife has asked me back and we are slowly rebuilding our lives, one day at a time.

Today I am seven months clean and consider each day I move forward to be one of celebration. I am starting to feel like my old self again. I feel hopeful for my future. After working with the Hader Clinic Queensland, and taking one day at a time, I can now truly say that recovery is possible.

DVA Approved Provider

The Hader Clinic Queensland is an approved provider of residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation services for eligible Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) patients. Eligible DVA clients can now self-refer to The Hader Clinic QLD for immediate admission. For more information please visit the Department of Veteran Affairs’ website  or call us on 1300 856 847.

Signs Of Addiction

When does social alcohol or drug use become an addiction? Social drinking and drug use is common, so how do you know when you or someone you know is addicted? Can you recognise the signs of addiction? It’s often harder than you think.

First, trust your instincts. If you’re worried, there’s probably a reason. Addiction is a disease and like other diseases, there are signs and symptoms you can look for that will help you identify addiction.

Increased consumption of drugs or alcohol is an obvious sign of addiction, especially if it is daily or even several times each day. When casual use turns into dependence, the user can feel they need the drug to function. Larger amounts of the drug are needed to achieve the same feeling.

As use increases, your loved one may be fixated on their next drink or hit. This inability to focus on anything else can lead to relationship problems, trouble at work or school, and changes to personality.

The financial impact of dependence can be significant. Many addicts find it difficult to keep a job. Your loved one might go into debt, ask for money, or even turn to stealing or other criminal behaviour to pay for drugs. They may practice unsafe behaviour such as unprotected sex or sharing needles.

Addiction also has physical effects. You may have noticed your loved one has lost or gained a lot of weight or lost interest in their appearance. They may feel unwell more than they used to –  headaches, nausea, aches and pains are common symptoms of addiction. Mood changes such as paranoia, depression and anxiety are also warning signs of addiction.

Signs of addiction: Drug use

  • Increasing drug or alcohol use
  • Denial about extent of drinking or drug use
  • A reliance or dependence on drugs or alcohol to function
  • Inability to stop using drugs or alcohol despite consequences

Signs of addiction: Physical changes

  • Sudden weight changes
  • Marks on the skin
  • Changes in sleeping habits, including insomnia or sleeping more
  • Headaches
  • Dilated pupils
  • Red or watery eyes
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor physical condition
  • Nausea
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Pale, flushed or puffy face
  • Poor co-ordination

Signs of addiction: Changes in behaviour

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Anxiety
  • Blackouts
  • Memory loss
  • Telling lies
  • Arguing
  • Stealing
  • Borrowing money
  • More secretive
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and presentation
  • Avoiding friends and family
  • Missing organised events or activities
  • Drinking or using drugs to relax or improve getting to sleep
  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking in the morning, or secretly

Addiction and mental health disorders commonly occur together, particularly depression and anxiety. Mental health conditions can increase the risk of addiction so signs of substance abuse should be carefully looked for. People suffering from mental heath issues may attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.

Signs of addiction: Social changes

  • Inability to focus at work or school
  • Missing work or school
  • Relationship problems or social isolation
  • Money trouble

Signs of addiction: Drug paraphernalia

You may find objects that are commonly used for drug use. These can include:

  • Pipes – These can be made from various materials including glass, wood and plastic
  • Needles – These are used for intravenous drug use, for example injecting heroin
  • Cigarette papers – Used for smoking drugs
  • Bongs – Typically used for taking Marijuana
  • Miniture spoons – Often used in the process of making drugs injectable

I think they are addicted! What do I do now?

If you feel your loved one’s use of drugs or alcohol use has become an addiction, there are ways you can help, but recovery from addiction can only happen if the addict is willing to make changes in their life. With support, they can start to get their life back on track.

Broaching the topic of addiction is tricky. An addict who does not want to stop taking drugs or alcohol will likely deny there’s a problem. They may get angry with you or remove themselves from the situation.

You may be considering a family intervention, but it is important that you speak to a drug and alcohol addiction professional first as, to be successful, an intervention needs to be carefully planned and orchestrated.

We also recommend you also watch the Understanding Addiction video to learn what addiction is and how people using drugs get caught in a cycle of addiction.

Our Son Is An Addict, What Do We Do?

Drug addiction profoundly affects families. For those closest to the addict the effects of addiction are especially traumatic. Relationships and family dynamics quickly change and it’s important to know this is a normal situation and that through the correct addiction treatment, families can heal together.
My Son Is An Ice Addict

Last year DJ completed our residential addiction treatment program for ice addiction. We asked his parents Carol and Wayne to share their experience of his addiction so that they can help other families suffering from the knock-on effects of addiction. This is their story.

DJ became addicted to ice after years dabbling with recreational drugs. His ice addiction completely debilitated him and stole his life. DJ is currently 30 years of age and was in the grip of ice addiction for nearly five years.

Carol says that DJ experimented with recreational drugs like ecstasy and cocaine at parties. Because he limited himself to weekend usage, DJ thought he had a “handle” on it. DJ was working full time and appeared to be managing well. Carol and Wayne remained oblivious to the beginnings of his addictive behaviors.

DJ eventually moved onto ice, and like the drug usage before it, DJ believed that he could control his use of it.

However Carol and Wayne became increasingly worried during the first twelve months of his ice use. Concerned, they questioned DJ, who angrily denied any addiction to drugs, screaming that his parents didn’t know what they were talking about.

Scared to confront DJ further, Carol and Wayne began to see further effects of his drug use. “He was starting to slip at work, he was avoiding his friends, and he was avoiding us,” Carol says.

By the second year of his ice addiction, DJ had left his job and had moved to crime to fund his habit. His home started to deteriorate. He further isolated himself from family events and the mounting concern of his parents.

Carol and Wayne started to feel desperate about the situation, and decided to come down hard on DJ, confronting him and telling him that he needed to “fix” the situation, not realising at the time, that an effective intervention would likely require professional help.

“We were hoping that DJ would understand his situation was dire, and that he needed help. We didn’t want him to lose his home, so we helped him with his mortgage in the hope it would propel him to go to rehab,” Wayne says. However, they didn’t realise that they were inadvertently enabling his addictive behaviour.

The family also had mounting concerns about the psychotic episodes DJ was experiencing.

“Things got so bad that he’d built a surveillance room in his home with cameras inside and outside the house. He had thought that people were out to get him – and chasing him because he had started dealing drugs. I went to visit him one day and he was passed out. I attempted to wake him but couldn’t rouse him. That was the day I contacted the Hader Clinic,” Wayne says.

However, it took over six months for Carol and Wayne to actually get DJ into rehab.

Over those months there was plenty of family conflict about how best to handle the situation. Carol and Wayne were frightened of the consequences of an intervention and feared it would push their son away.

Then one day, everything changed.

While on a business trip to Townsville, Carol and Wayne received an unexpected phone call from a solicitor telling them that DJ was in lock up, charged with significant criminal offences and a variety of drug related charges.

DJ’s immediate choice was to go to jail or be bailed and agree to attend rehabilitation. Immediately, Carol and Wayne contacted the Hader Clinic QLD where

Hayden (client liaison) assisted them with the bail process and getting DJ to consider rehabilitation.

To Carol and Wayne’s surprise, DJ agreed to go to rehab whilst visiting the Hader Clinic QLD. However, once he left, excuses began. “There were lots of “I will go to rehab, BUT…” type statements,” Carol says, and “I’ll start on Monday”. However, they remained resolute and decided they weren’t backing down.

When it was time to attend the clinic, DJ didn’t show up until the last minute, keeping Carol and Wayne nervously waiting not knowing if he was actually going to come.

For the first time in two years, Carol and Wayne were able to relax knowing that DJ was safe in the rehabilitation centre.

Wayne says that DJ’s rehabilitation was the beginning of a process of reflection about themselves, their relief, and the realisation that they had been carrying the burden of DJ’s addictive behaviors.

“Everything the Hader Clinic had told us to expect in regard to DJ’s behavior was text book – and it helped us understand the rehab process and the role we were playing in enabling DJ’s addiction,” says Wayne. “DJ was in denial during the first week, “cured” at thirty, forty-five and sixty days and it wasn’t until Day 85 that he actually agreed he was an addict! He had thought that because he did not inject, that he was not an addict!”

When DJ came home for his first weekend away out of rehabilitation, Carol and Wayne were terrified. “We had to relearn our approach and understand that we needed to come from a place of tough love and not enable any addictive behavior at home,” Carol says.

However, the path wasn’t always smooth sailing. Twelve days after completing the residential program, DJ acknowledged he was struggling outside of the rehab environment and knew he needed to engage in a supportive program.

DJ then undertook Hader Clinic QLD’s Intensive Outpatient Program. To further support and help DJ in his recovery, Carol and Wayne contacted acquaintances who were also in recovery, sharing their stories and support with DJ.

Carol and Wayne have learned that rehabilitation is about communication, sharing of feelings and appropriate boundary setting. “We had to learn to let go – we had to learn that we have a right to live our lives and we have a right not to let DJ’s addiction control us”, Wayne says.

Undergoing counselling at the Hader Clinic QLD helped them realise that they were living the addict lifestyle and were being consumed by the drama active addiction brings. “We have now learned to ‘detach with love’” says Wayne, which has brought many positive changes to their family unit.

Their tips for other parents? “Respect for each other and open communication are key. And don’t be afraid to seek professional help immediately!”

Read more stories

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – A Parent’s Story
Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – Joy’s Story

More information

Family Intervention
Family Issues

Support groups

If you are looking for an anonymous support group please consider:
Alcoholics Anonymous
Narcotics Anonymous

Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – Harriet’s Story

Harriet, whose name has been changed to maintain confidentiality, recently completed our 90 day residential addiction treatment program and intensive outpatient program for her alcohol addiction. This is her addiction and recovery story.

My journey with alcohol was centred around the idea of “fitting in”.  I had started drinking in my teens, using alcohol as a solution to depression, anxiety and the pain from an unresolved childhood trauma. In my mind, alcohol helped me become socially acceptable. When I was sober I felt like I was just taking up space and felt worthless.

My self-esteem and self-worth were so low. Alcohol gave me what I didn’t have: the courage to talk to people.

My low self-esteem was reflected in a number of abusive relationships I found myself in. At 20, I unexpectedly fell pregnant. It was a wake-up call and I chose to have the baby.

My life had been so out of control and painful that I knew it would be a challenge, but I saw it as an opportunity to settle down, grow up and do something meaningful with my life.

I hoped I could raise my son with the compassion and protection that I yearned for as a child. My parents did their best but they had no idea how to handle the trauma that I’d faced.

Events such as moving back home with my parents, coupled with the shame of being a young, single mother reinforced my self-worth issues.

Later, moving into Housing Commission accommodation and applying for a single parent pension was a traumatic experience, which further impacted on my self-esteem.

I was trying to do the right thing and I didn’t want to claim assistance, but I had to accept that I couldn’t do it on my own. I thought that if I kept doing the right thing, things would get better. I was determined that this was not going to be a long-term solution.

After being accepted for a traineeship with a large organization at the age of 25, I met my now husband. My immediate reaction was that he wouldn’t be interested in a flawed, insecure single mother. I threw in the ‘kid card’ and warned him that I wouldn’t be good for him. Yet he persisted, and I thought that if I went for a simple cup of coffee with him, he’d be repulsed for sure because he would see who I really was.

I am glad that his persistence paid off though, as he is my rock and greatest supporter.

As I approached my forties, my alcohol use started to escalate. I had new worries. My now grown up son has drug addiction issues of his own, and that, combined with the huge change that his moving out of home for the first time brought, left me feeling rudderless and without a sense of purpose.

After my son moved out, I felt disconnected. I had been a Mum since I was 20 years old and he was my world. What was my purpose in life now?

I no longer knew who or what I was and all those old feelings of worthlessness, insecurity and poor self image came flooding back.

The intensity of these feelings hit me like a sledgehammer, crippling me to the point where I began isolating myself from others. I started secretly drinking as a means to numb the pain.

I hid my addiction well. Nobody (other than my husband) had a clue about my situation.

At my husband’s urging, I attended a three-week detox clinic. It was three weeks of air-conditioned comfort, food and a few classes. That was it.

I also saw a psychiatrist who prescribed anti-addiction medications such as Campral and Naltrexone, but within a week or two of being home, I began drinking again as I devised ways to get around the medication.

Over the next two years, I descended further into the grip of alcohol, and took unthinkable actions to procure alcohol that horrified me, such as stealing money from others.

I was feeling a sense of self-detachment and every day was a matter of survival until I could get that first drink. Then I continued to drink until I passed out.

I was still holding down a full time job, although I don’t know how. It was awful.

The continual obsessive-compulsive thinking was the worst.

I hid alcohol. I always had a bottle of wine in my work bag, believing that was the only way I could get through the day, even though I didn’t drink before work or at work due to the organisation’s random drug and alcohol testing.

As long as I had that bottle with me, I knew that I could head straight to the public toilet after work and drink it and that got me through the day.

I then started missing days of work, rationalising that I deserved time off, that I was stressed, however the reality of it was that I was taking a day out to drink myself into oblivion.

My husband was aware of my drinking but didn’t know how to talk to me about it. The final straw came when my husband, believing I was at work one day, discovered that I was instead sitting in my car at a park, drunk.

Petrified of his reaction and wanting a way out, I quickly swallowed four Valium tablets and continued to drink.

My husband gave me his first and only ultimatum: “It’s the drinking or our marriage.”

I admitted that I needed help and we went from one detox centre to another, only to be turned away.

Then we found The Hader Clinic Queensland.

I truly believe there was a higher power working for me that day. Coming to the Hader Clinic Queensland was the hardest, yet best thing I could have done.

Even on my admission day, I consumed a couple of bottles of wine before leaving home. Despite going into rehab, I couldn’t control my drinking for even one day.

During the ninety-day residential treatment component, I started to sober up and realised that I was physically and mentally broken and desperately needed help.

I was grateful for the opportunity to push the pause button and get my shit together despite the shame of knowing where I was.

I decided that I was going to give the 90 days my best shot. I was going to strip back all the lies I had been telling myself and others for years and be completely honest. I was desperate and scared, but I wanted to be free.

The intensity of the emotions that surfaced as I relived my childhood trauma without using alcohol to numb the pain was overwhelming.

Exhausted by the ferocity of these emotions and desperately wanting them to stop, I contemplated suicide.

However, I decided to pray for guidance: “If I go to sleep and it is Your Will that I wake up tomorrow, then so be it. And if I don’t, then so be it as well.”

My perspective was different when I woke up the next morning, thinking, “wow, I got through that”. I began to realise that these emotions would continue to overwhelm me if I didn’t confront my past and find new, healthy ways of dealing with them.

I began to realise that I was suffering from a disease (alcoholism), and that that disease needed treatment.

My experience at the Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential program taught me the value of the therapeutic community, which is based on self help and support.

It helped me learn about myself, gain self esteem and self respect, learn about others and foster mutual respect, while establishing and maintaining appropriate levels of responsibility, authority, language and behaviour that were important and valued by the community.

The formal structured groups and individual therapy sessions with a registered psychologist allowed me to utilise and develop skills such as communication, decision making, problem solving, empathising, reaching out, helping and teaching in a safe, supportive environment.

Even the most basic activities, such as doing laundry, cooking and maintenance, were therapeutic as they enhanced my personal growth and assisted me to improve the life skills necessary to manage my ongoing recovery outside treatment.

I was also exposed to daily AA/NA meetings.

This allowed me to identify with other addicts and alcoholics through their stories, which described where they were, what happened and where they are now. These stories showed me that long term recovery was possible, even for me.

My life is very different now than when I was in the grip of addiction.

In my journey, I have learned that addiction is a cunning, baffling, powerful, progressive and fatal disease. I’ve also learned that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, but connection.

I am a very grateful recovering alcoholic who is sober today thanks to the grace of my Higher Power, the Fellowship and the 12 Step program of AA and NA. This program has taught me not only how to stop drinking, but also how to stay sober and live a meaningful life, one day at a time.

I will always be an alcoholic and as such this disease continues to try and isolate me and make me think I’m cured. But if I don’t pick up the first drink and I stay connected, help others and remain grateful, I know I’ve got a chance of staying sober and happy, just for today.

Recovery is a journey, not a destination and I must put it first so that everything I love in life does not have to come last.

Since leaving treatment I have travelled overseas, been on a cruise and returned to full time work. I am also repairing my relationships with my husband, my son and my family.

I have attended AA/NA meetings at sunrise on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii, and on board a cruise ship. I continue to go to meetings during my lunch breaks, every weekend, and most evenings.

By doing what is suggested by members that have been sober for longer than me, listening to newcomers, sharing my story honestly, being of service to others and using this program as a blueprint for my life, I am able to accept myself and have a life that is better than I could ever have imagined.

I also return to the residential treatment facility once a month to share my story with the current residents and give back what has been freely given to me.

Addiction gave me a life of isolation, fear, darkness and despair. But recovery has given me a life of connection with others, purpose, limitless possibilities and hope.

As my addiction was progressive, so too is my recovery. It just keeps getting better and better.

It’s not always easy but it is definitely worth it.

More information

Women’s Addiction Treatment

Ice Addiction in Women

Drug use by females is on the rise and due to the way drugs effect women differently to men we are seeing an increase of ice addiction in women.

Ice addiction – it’s not just men

Drug addiction has traditionally been considered to be a male issue but drug use is now on the rise in females. Unfortunately women are less likely to seek treatment for their drug and alcohol addiction issues.

We find there is a shame and stigma in being a woman addicted to drugs, particularly if you have children.

Why women get addicted to ice

Women become addicted to ice due to a range of different reasons, including physical, genetic, traumatic issues, mental health and social expectations.

Ice addiction in women – it’s in the genes

Genetic factors, such as women being smaller and metabolising drugs differently to men, influence the more rapid progression of ice addiction in women.

Compared with men, women are more vulnerable to the effects of drugs, requiring smaller amounts to be hooked faster.

Women also experience a higher risk of disease and face more serious, and severe, long term health problems as a result of using drugs.

Mental health and body image

“I used ice because it made me lose weight. What I didn’t bargain for were the scabs that showed up all over my body and an inability to sleep for days on end”.

In women, trauma and co existing conditions, particularly depression, anxiety, trauma and eating disorders often precipitate, or exist with, drug taking behaviours.

In particular, concerns about body image, shape and size often drive women, who are unaware of the side effects, to use ice as it is a potent appetite suppressant.

A recent study shows that 35% of people with a substance use disorder also have an eating disorder and it is prevalent with ice addiction in women.

Former addict and author, Jenny Valentish, states, “Eating disorders are very female coping mechanisms. Any act of aggression against one’s own body is also an act of regaining ownership of it, which can be particularly appealing to a woman with little autonomy.”

“I used ice because I didn’t want to feel”

Jenny Valentish also believes women are also more likely than men to abuse drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medicating the symptoms of mental illness.

This is borne out in the concurrent rise of reporting of mental health issues and ice addiction in women.

Addiction and domestic abuse

Women with family members and intimate partners who also use, are often victims of domestic violence and abuse.

A UK study showed that women are twice as likely as men to experience interpersonal violence and abuse.

Fear of domestic violence, personal safety, and safety concerns of their children will often make women resistant to addiction treatment.

Furthermore, if a woman considers her role to be central to the stability of her family, or fears that she will lose her children as a result of her drug taking it will make her less likely to seek treatment.

If she is being financially controlled or manipulated by a partner, this can also prevent access to treatment.

“I used ice because I needed to stay awake and maintain control in an abusive relationship. I was scared of what might happen if I fell asleep. I had no idea I would become addicted so quickly.”

Ice use is becoming increasingly common in domestic violence scenarios.

Ice stimulates the release of the neurotransmitters, dopamine and noradrenalin, which are both associated with the “flight or fight” response.

Heavy ice use can elicit agitation, hallucinations and psychosis which often makes the user feel threatened.

Combined with the “fight or flight effect”, ice can render users to experience heightened strength and stamina and become violent towards others.

This is described as an “ice rage”, which can last up to twelve hours.

Ice addiction treatment for women

The Hader Clinic QLD provides specialised Addiction Treatment for Women.

Our Residential treatment program provides a safe environment for women to begin the process of treatment, and recovery from ice addiction.

Additionally, The Hader Clinic QLD provides family therapy. Research from the NAATP that shows that women fare better when support is offered by their families.

NAATP research also demonstrates that women respond better to treatment and are likely to maintain recovery when they are placed in a supportive network of other women who are committed to complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol.

The Hader Clinic QLD provides individualised options for treatment and understands the unique characteristics and needs of female clients.

Further information

Women and addiction
Dual Diagnosis – Mental Health and Addiction
Women’s Addiction Treatment

Need help?

Call The Hader Clinic QLD today on 1300 856 847 for a confidential discussion about how we can help you.

Nature or Nurture? What Causes Addiction?

We hear a lot about addiction as a disease but is it something you can ‘catch’ or something you’re born with? It’s natural to wonder why someone is an addict, whether there is an underlying genetic or environmental reason. There is no one answer.

There are genetic links to addictions such as alcoholism, but children are also influenced by the behaviour of those around them. If a child is raised in a family with heavy drinkers, they may see drinking regularly as something that defines adulthood. Children may also participate in the rituals of drinking, viewing acts like fetching another drink from the fridge as important tasks in family life.

Other factors such as depression, social isolation or anxiety can contribute to dependence and addiction. Taking drugs or drinking to feel more confident socially or to feel less alone may lead to a dependence. So too can using substances for self-soothing and self-medication for people with emotionally or physically unsafe home lives. Some people may develop a habit of ‘taking the edge off’ or having fun with friends that over time becomes a compulsion.

Some people are predisposed to addictive behaviour, whether it’s drinking or drugs, gambling or sex. This may be due to a sensitivity to stress that is eased in some way by the addiction. It could also be learnt behaviour from seeing relatives use substances to escape trauma or unhappiness.

In truth, every person’s addiction is different so it’s impossible to pinpoint a single cause. Whatever the reasons, the body’s response to drugs or alcohol can trigger physical and psychological cravings for more and this can lead to addiction.

Genes don’t cause addiction and neither does an unhappy family life. Many people who are the children of addicts do not go on to develop an addiction. Similarly, not every unhappy childhood leads to a life of addiction and despair. While children of addicts have been found to have a higher risk of addiction, whether this is caused primarily by genes or environment cannot be conclusively determined. Having a higher risk doesn’t automatically mean they will become addicts themselves.

What is true, though, is that recovery is not possible until a person can recognise the triggers for addictive behaviour. Identifying and eliminating or minimising triggers is an important step in the journey of recovery.

Through counselling and group therapy, we can help you to understand the emotional, mental and physical prompts that drive you to drink or take drugs. Our family therapy and addiction education provide the support and tools to help you move forward and regain control over your life.

If you would like to know more about the causes of addiction and our addiction treatment programs, please call or email us.

Misconceptions About Women With Addiction

When we imagine a person with addiction, many of us will picture a man. There is a perception that women are less likely to become addicts, but this can be harmful for women looking for help and support. Tackling the misconceptions about women with addiction can help to smooth the way for women to start their journey to recovery.

Here are five common misconceptions:

Most addicts are men

The truth is, women are just as likely to become addicts as men. The social pressure on women to have a career and a family can cause immense stress that may lead to self-medication through drugs or alcohol.

Women are also more vulnerable to violence at home and in public. They may start using drugs to cope with physical, sexual or psychological abuse and the shame associated with being a victim of abuse. This shame similarly prevents them from seeking help before active addiction takes hold.

Addiction is the same for everyone

While there are often similar themes, each addiction story is unique. Alcohol is often seen as a normal and even necessary part of socialising and it’s acceptable for women to talk openly about needing a drink to cope with stress at work or home. The flip side is that it’s socially unacceptable for a woman to become ‘messy’ or drink to excess. This social expectation leads to feelings of shame that contribute to the addiction cycle.

Women aren’t as affected by drugs or alcohol

Men and women experience addiction in different ways. Often, physical differences can mean women become addicted faster with less exposure to substances. This process is called telescoping. Women are also more predisposed to depression due to both external and physiological factors that can lead to addiction or make the effects worse. Fluctuating hormones may trigger feelings of not being in control and a woman may start taking medication or drinking.

Recovery is easier for women with addiction

Recovery is a process that takes time, commitment and support. There is no easy path to recovery and women with addiction in general require as much assistance as men.

Once a person is in active addiction, changes to brain chemistry make it hard to resist using substances. Greater amounts are needed to feel ‘normal’. The telescoping effect often means women are sicker when they enter rehab and need more intensive treatment to recover.

Men and women have the same triggers

The causes of relapse are different for everyone with addiction, but for women in particular they may be more emotional than situational. The trauma that has contributed to addiction can have lasting effects that trigger shame, guilt and relapse.

Women are more likely to ask for help

The social stigma and trauma associated with addiction are a deterrent for women seeking assistance to recover. Shame about drug or alcohol dependence and the contributing factors such as domestic violence or sexual assault can be a powerful barrier.

Women are more likely to be the primary caregiver for children and elderly parents that may prevent them from entering residential addiction treatment. These family responsibilities can also lead to financial barriers that exclude or delay women seeking treatment.

The Hader Clinic Queensland has extensive experience in treating and supporting women on their recovery journey. We offer a safe environment for women and services (that are LGBTIQ-friendly) to support women on their path to a healthy new life.

Find out more:

Women’s Addiction Treatment
Women and Addiction
Ice Addiction in Women
Breaking the Cycle of Addiction – Joy’s Story

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