March 2019 - Hader Clinic Queensland

It Was No Way to Live

Dan spent sixteen years believing that he had his amphetamine use under control.

However, once he added the trauma of a marriage breakdown to the mix, his using went into overdrive.

Dan’s descent into drug hell culminated in a life devoted to crime and using with little joy in between.

Desperate to avoid jail and rekindle the relationship with his son, Dan knew that he’d reached the end of the line with his addictive behaviours.

Exhausted from the struggle, Dan reached out for help and went to rehab.

This is his story.

I’m 35, going on 36. Born and bred in Brisbane. I’ve spent my whole life here.

I started playing piano when I was six years old and I’m a qualified pianist.

I also ran a few companies. We had a family owned transport company – I ran that for awhile. I also started a company in Darwin.

I come from a decent family, Mum and Dad are still together, we’re a religious family – Dad’s an Anglican Christian. 

My drug of choice was speed, back in the day when I started, so I had my first use of speed when I was 17 intravenously – and I continued to use, right up until I went into rehab last year.

I used for eighteen years.

I started drinking and smoking pot prior to using speed – I was around about fifteen.

Alcohol was also a bit of a problem because when I moved to Darwin for a few years, I decided to stop using speed and became a bit of an alcoholic instead. 

When I returned to Brisbane, I knocked that addiction on its head and took up using speed again.

I guess you could say that I was an active, but functional, addict for the first fifteen or sixteen years but a couple of years ago my life started to go pear shaped and that’s when things started going really crazy.

In 2015, I started getting into trouble with the law.

I ended up having to leave my job so I could deal with the outstanding police matters.

I basically had 56 charges laid against me – I went to court the other day and things were finalised, thank goodness.

When I left my job, that’s when I hit a new low.

I started chronically using, several times a day in fact.

This coincided with my wife and I separating, and eventually divorcing.

That’s when I started using daily and stopped caring about anything.

It was still stressful. My wife wasn’t really aware of my use, as I had kept it well hidden.

We decided to mutually separate as we were arguing all the time.

Looking back now, I know it had 100% to do with my addiction. She knew that I used here and there, but the main thing was that I wasn’t there for her. Never offered her any support. When she had our son, she’d wanted to have a natural birth, but for various reasons needed a C Section. She was pretty upset, but I wasn’t present to support her through it. 

We moved to Darwin three months after our son was born and I started our new business.

She was struggling and having a really rough time dealing with it all and I just wasn’t there to support her through that at all.

We grew apart – because I wasn’t there mentally or physically.

As our marriage fell apart I started using more and more and once we had separated, I really went to town.

I’ve always been dedicated to work, but I … I just gave up on everything. All I focused on was using.

Eventually I started to do everything illegal to maintain that use. Even as I walked out of my company, I had the police after me.

I ended up evading police for a three month period and at my first court appearance had racked up twenty eight charges.

The majority of the charges were about supporting my addiction – seventeen counts of fraud, break and enters, stealing, possession … six drug driving charges.

So life was a mess.

When I separated, we had 50-50 shared custody of our son. But my addiction got so bad, and I was in such a bad place, I had to give that up – and agreed to see him on weekends.

There were two things I never wanted to do – go to jail or lose my son. And I was well on the path to doing both of those things.

There’s no real reason for me to have been destroying my life.

I came from a good family. Dad’s always supported me and always gave me everything I needed. He’d give me money to survive, not for drugs, but I’d spend it on drugs anyway. Once he was shown that he was enabling me, that stopped pretty quickly.

I never really wanted to stop and my stint in the Hader Clinic Queensland is my first, and hopefully last attempt.

I had three big court cases – one spread over sixteen months.

In the meantime I just used more and more. I got a suspended sentence and I thought, “you beauty, everything’s over now. I can stop using so much and get back into life”

But at that stage I was so far gone that I couldn’t stop  – and with the use came seventeen fresh charges. I faced court for that. I ended up getting parole.

Again I decided to try to stop using.

Three months into my parole, I just couldn’t stop. I ended up getting picked up for possession and then driving under the influence.

I got charged with those offences.

I was skating home and out of nowhere, it hit me like a ton of bricks – I was buggered, I was exhausted, I was done.

So I called my father, and said, “I need to go to rehab”.

My Dad used Google, found The Hader Clinic Queensland – I wasn’t in any fit state to wait for public rehabilitation – and I was admitted straight away.

I was at the end of the road. My life had been destroyed. I had nothing left.

Any joy I had in using had disappeared, had gone years ago, now I was beating a dead horse.

I couldn’t stop using, I couldn’t stop getting into trouble. It was no way to live. I knew that I was done with using.

When I got to The Hader Clinic Queensland, I knew nothing of NA, the program or any of it.

When I got into the program, I realised that I’d already made progress in the first three steps. I had surrendered and I was willing to do anything that I could because I knew that I couldn’t handle my own life.

I went in and gave it 110% to the program.

I literally gave it everything I had.

Now I’m in transition. I’ve been in transition for about six weeks which has been great. I’m planning on doing a six month transition period and then do outpatient treatment.

I was willing to do anything to get clean and stay clean, so I got stuck straight into the program. Put my head down and did the required work and then some.

Occasionally you come up against people who aren’t as recovery focused as you are. So I just blocked that out and focused on me.

The staff were all great – they were fantastic – I doubt I would have been able to do it without the support of these guys. Even the people in the office are great. They’ll do anything to support you and see you through. The staff at the clinic helped me through everything.

I really loved rehab and for the most part it went without a hitch.

But I did have one drama.

Before going to rehab I was in a toxic codependent relationship with a girl who also used and was in active addiction. And she was pregnant and about to give birth and I wasn’t sure whether I was the father or not. I’m still trying to sort that out.  

I tried to get out of the program to see her and I felt like the staff weren’t helping that happen. However, that mindset only stayed for a few hours as I realised they were doing everything they could to help me.

The first thirty days in the transition house were tough.

It’s a bit of a shock to the system when you get out of rehab. You have to do two meetings a day and due to my criminal history and no drivers’ license I found that hard and often time consuming. 

You check in every day, whether that’s at the house or at the office and by lunchtime you’re off to a meeting. Then I’d go home for the afternoon and head off to another meeting. Those first thirty days were busy.

Since I’ve come out I’ve done a Cert 4 – an accreditation in skills training and become a coach of my son’s soccer team.

Now I’ve got training with him on Tuesdays and Thursdays plus he plays on Saturdays.

Now I’m down to one meeting and managing really well.

I get up and go for a five kilometre walk in the morning, and then check in.

I go to the gym on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays too.

I do a bit of housework, pack lunch, and head off for the day – do my meeting and then catch public transport to meet my son after school. Then I muck around with him for the afternoon or go to soccer.

Later I go home and often do an evening meeting.

I also cook a lot in the house so there’s never a dull moment.

The relationship with my ex-wife has improved too. We’re actually friends.

When I decided that I was going to rehab of my own free will, I phoned and told her. She supported me from the get go, coming up to the rehab facility every weekend to visit.

When I told her, she said, “thank goodness – I never thought you’d ask for help”.

Those were her exact words.

Down the track I’ll be working again. I will probably start another business.

However, that will be awhile.

I went to court on Friday and lost my license for 30 months and got a nine month prison sentence, wholly suspended for three years.

Early recovery is really that first year clean.

I want to have that sorted before I get a job.

I’m giving recovery a good crack, in fact it’s the only crack I want to give it. 

I’m pretty busy with the soccer coaching and the meetings. To put work on top of it would be asking for trouble I think.

Things have a way of working themselves out when you’re clean and sober.

When you’re in active addiction, you just keep digging that hole deeper and deeper.

Recovery is great. Rehabilitation is a gift. You’ve got to be ready and willing to do it.

Rehab sets up a great foundation but you’re the one that needs to want to stop.

I’m an Army Veteran and a Recovering Alcoholic

A little over six months ago my life revolved around earning money to use, rather than earning money to live. I’m Mick and I’m an army veteran, and a recovering alcoholic. This is my story.

I’m 47, going on 48 and come from a small country town. Out near Charleville – and like many kids, I couldn’t wait to leave the place at the first opportunity I had.

So I joined the Australian Army.

I remember the day I went in, because we never forget our enlistment day. We never forget our regiment number, and nine times out of ten, we never forget what we learn.

I’ve tried heaps of times to forget a lot of that stuff but it’s ingrained into my psyche. 

I started my army career in Townsville and spent most of my career up there.

I did a deployment to Cambodia in 92/93 and then a few touring stints. I left the army seven years and 234 days later.

My primary addiction was mainly alcohol and a bit of cannabis. I started smoking weed when I was 15. And gave it up when I entered the army.

I picked it up six years later – because alcohol just wasn’t doing it for me. I had a high tolerance to its effects – and yes, you end up drinking a lot in the army.

Drinking wasn’t frowned upon, nor was it encouraged. But you’re made to participate in events that revolve around drinking – so while they say it’s not encouraged, I think it is.

There wasn’t an event leading up to the start of my drinking habit.

My Dad is an alcoholic and so are all his friends.

Drinking and work were the consistent things in their lives – so you could say that for me growing up it was the norm.

It’s socially acceptable for everyone to go to the pub to watch a game of footy, cricket or even the Olympics. There’s ads for alcohol on TV all the time.

You never realize any of this until you give up – I’m just more aware.

Now I think for the amount of problems it causes, alcohol should be banned.

I knew alcohol was becoming a problem for me, but I never broached the topic with anyone.

I never considered curbing my intake. I just accepted it as part of life and a test of life as well.

I missed positions of rank, or advancement in rank because of my association with alcohol.

And, you know, I did get to the point of thinking, “I’ve got to stop doing this,” because I’d been caught drink driving three times in two years.

The grip it had on me was powerful.

And the scary part was that I didn’t care, nor did I want to admit I had a problem, even when I was at what we call “rock bottom”.

I didn’t want to quit, because it was a release.

It was relaxing.

It was something I could do legally.

I had used marijuana for a long time, but the paranoia that I had as a result of using actually became a hassle. I’d get paranoid about any noise, so I had to stick to drinking.

My turnaround point started with an unexpected phone call.

I was working on an asbestos removal job site in September last year.

We all carry our phones on us in case of an accident or emergency, and one day my phone rang.

It was the RS (Returned Services) Welfare Officer. I had been put in a program to keep me off the streets and they’d provided accommodation as a means of helping get my life back in order.

Despite this help, I still continued my alcohol and drug addiction.

Anyway, this lady, Catherine, rang me and said “what can I do for you, or what can you do for yourself going forward with your life to make it better?”

For some unknown reason I said, “I have to kick the alcohol and drugs”.

She said, “I’ll get you into an addiction treatment program but it will take about 7 to 14 days”

I responded, saying, “No, if you’re going to ring me up and offer me this kind of thing, or want to ask me these questions I have to do this now, or I won’t ever do it.”

She promised she’d ring me back at the end of the work day.

Not expecting anything, I was shocked when she called back within ninety minutes and said, “I’ve got you into a program, I’ll send you the details”.

Even after she’d sent me the details, I still wasn’t sure whether I wanted to do it.

I had been thinking of doing something with the Salvation Army but the program that had been offered to me was located away from Brisbane and I thought it was a good idea as I wouldn’t have any distractions.

So I agreed to do it.

Catherine told me she’d get me in “as soon as possible”.

I informed her that I’d already packed up the contents of my flat and I was ready.

I was at The Hader Clinic Queensland within 48 hours.

I’m a person of God. And I asked for His guidance. I’ve always asked for His guidance to steer my life right. And I think this opportunity was thrown at me because I kept asking for help.

When Catherine called me, I was standing on the roof of a building on the work site.

I thought, I’m working and earning good money, but I’d go home to my flat at night and realise that I had nothing to show for it, my money had been wasted on alcohol and drugs.

I didn’t work to live, I worked to use.

I could see that I was destroying my life.

I’m just sitting there, talking to this lady on the phone who was offering me some help. She said that if I didn’t accept her help, that RS would put me to the back of the line and that I wouldn’t hear from them for another 12 months.

And you know what? I didn’t want to be put to the back of the line!

I drank right up to the minute that the taxi picked me up to take me to the rehab centre. I had to throw the bottle in the bin, just as the taxi arrived.

I found it testing for the first month – all I could think about was drinking and smoking.

And it wasn’t until I was in the program for ten weeks that my attitude started to change.

I started to find peace again. And that was a big thing for me – and for everyone else in the program with me.

I wasn’t a volatile person, rather I was a controlling one. And everyone was happy when I stopped trying to control every situation.

I’m one of those people that try to control everyone because I don’t want to descend into chaos.

That was a defence mechanism for me. And because I’ve got some other medical issues, I think I was doing that.

Life at the rehab was good – it was structured and I was constantly busy.

There were, of course, breaks in the program but generally everyone would spend their time together talking about the lessons they’d learned or their life experiences and so on.

I never got bored.

When I think about it, I don’t even remember being there, it went so quick.

I found the staff great. I don’t know how Hader Clinic Queensland finds these people.

But it must be a very good selection process because I’ve seen some of the worst people throw the worst sort of crap at them and they’re very tolerant.

If that was me, I’d be punching someone’s lights out.

They’ve all got a great knowledge of the troubles people can be facing and what they’re going through – and I think it’s because they’ve all been through it themselves.

I think if you had staff up there with no real world experience they wouldn’t be able to fix our problems because they wouldn’t be able to relate to us.

And that’s what part of the program’s about – it’s a fellowship of people with the same problems, helping each other.

And when I first realised that, I thought, “how the bloody hell would a therapeutic community work – a bunch of drunks trying to fix each other?”

But it does work.

It takes the shame and isolation out of addiction. We’re all equals here.

There are people who are multimillionaires in the program. They’re at first reluctant to hand over all their power and come down to the level we’re at. I watched this old gentleman – it was hard for him to identify as one of us – and then he “got it” – and he’s great.

Checking in and going to an AA meeting is a fundamental part of the day now.

I missed my meeting on Saturday because I was doing fundraising for the Salvation Army. And I felt a bit frayed at the edges, so when I got home I had to sit quietly and have my own meeting with myself. It quietens my mind.

I am still undergoing treatment as an outpatient through Hader’s transitional housing program.

I didn’t want to go out into the real world straight away because I’d spent so long in addiction.

I use the analogy of rebirthing myself. Pregnancy and childbirth takes nine months, so I figure it’s going to take me that time, plus some to be reborn again completely.

Because I was ex-army and a Gold Card holder I was fortunate enough to have the Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) assist me – The Hader Clinic Queensland is an approved DVA provider so I was able to undertake the residential rehabilitation treatment program at no cost.

So I’m using this opportunity to get every bit of help I can possibly get. Because the first thing you learn is that you really need to build a solid foundation in your recovery. If that’s not there, everything crumbles.

I could have gone back to work I guess, but I decided that it wasn’t an option. I thought of all the other people who are using alcohol at work.

On Friday afternoons, someone would bring in a carton of beer. And if I go back to that, I may start using again.

I want to ingrain this recovery as much as I can into my psyche so that when people do offer me a beer, I can just say “no, I’ve got other things to do” or use the tools we’ve been taught – setting boundaries, you know.

I’ve already had this issue with a friend – one asked me to buy her a couple of bottles from the shop and I said, “no, I can’t, because I’m cooking dinner”. But then that meant I had to go and actually cook dinner, because I don’t want to lie.

My friend knows that I’m in recovery, but doesn’t seem to care about it – now I have reservations about involving them in my life.

I don’t want to put myself in a position where I’m vulnerable. 

I’ve told them what to do to seek help but they don’t want to do it yet. Like me, everyone has their reservations. It’s all fear based. That’s what I’ve learned.

We do, or don’t do things out of fear.

Fear our lives will change, fear that we don’t have any associations or fear of being pushed out of our comfort zone.

A big part of my recovery has been learning how to handle my fears.

Also, it’s been a case of becoming aware of what was making me fearful and learning how to handle those situations. There’s so much you can learn in the program but it means bugger all unless you put it into practice.

I’m going to do some cleaning work. It’s therapeutic. 

I’m also very involved with the Salvation Army – so I’m thinking that I’d like to forge a career path there. Service is part of AA – if you give to others, it comes back to you. I think that’s true.

My story is a gift and my recovery is a gift.

I never wish to disrespect that gift. I have been given an opportunity by the RSL – there are many people out there in active addiction that will never get the opportunities that I’ve had.

I asked for help and I have to take it whether I want it or not – that’s how I look at it – I have no choice but to do it to the best of my ability.

I keep myself levelled by going onto the streets. The homeless shelter. I started doing that because the RSL have put together a program that helps ex-soldiers get off the street – it’s a veteran’s support program.

I got help through them and I often think “how can I pay them back?” Because they’ve given me a start that I never would have had by myself. I thought I’d volunteer at the shelter. And I’ve been doing that for two months now.

It’s very grounding. It makes me see where I’ve come from.

And that was in my mind when I was talking to my friend who wanted me to buy those bottles – I just don’t want to go backwards. I’ve come this far, I don’t want to be on the cusp of falling of the edge. I won’t do it.

The support from people down at street level is encouraging too.

They’re so positive. They say, “Mick, you’ve changed” or “Mick, you’re looking great.” It’s good when you can’t see it.

It’s great to be feeling healthier too. I used to be skinny and kind of drawn out.  It’s great to be getting my life back on track.

With the help of the Hader Clinic Queensland and the Returned Services League (RSL), my life has been completely transformed.

My Relapse and What I’ve Learned from It

Hi, I’m Joy. I’m a recovering ice addict and recently I relapsed. I’d like to share my story of how the relapse occurred and what I’ve learned from the experience.

I attended the Hader Clinic Queensland sixteen months ago for ice addiction treatment – you can read about my recovery here.

Unfortunately being an addict the potential to relapse is always there.

It’s important to realise that a relapse doesn’t mean failure, but rather gives you and your family an opportunity for further personal growth and understanding around the nature of addiction.

Recovery can be likened to gardening  – a garden requires watering, care and maintenance. If a garden is not watered or cared for, the plants become sick and have the potential to die. If an addict does not continue to work on recovery, they have the potential to become unwell again very rapidly.

Prior to the relapse, I’d been clean for 16 and a half months.

They say in that in recovery you need to do five things

  • go to meetings
  • get a sponsor
  • get a home group
  • do service
  • do step work

So I was keeping up with doing these things, most of the time.

I originally did three months of residential addiction treatment at the Hader Clinic Queensland, then three months in their transition house and three months doing an outpatient program at the clinic.

For the remainder of my time clean I was working the program myself.

I was trying to get back into “life” and I was working at my step father’s café.

The shifts were pretty early – I started getting up at 3.30am to be there by 5am and I was working nine or ten hour days.

It was exhausting, and the last thing I felt like doing after work was heading off to an NA meeting – and this began to slide.

There is a saying that “whatever you put in front of your recovery, you lose” and in this case work became my number one priority.

I thought, “I really need to focus on my job”. My step dad was thinking of taking on a new café and wanted me to be involved. It sounded exciting, but I didn’t realise that in terms of my recovery, I was getting a bit ahead of myself.

So this, in a way, created a bit of a storm.

I was vulnerable, and although the signs were there, I brushed them aside.

I had learned from my time in rehab that you can often see a relapse coming before it actually happens.

I was overworked and overwhelmed.

In recovery we used this acronym, H.A.L.T.S – which encompasses the feelings of hungry, angry, lonely, tired or stressed.

I reckon that I was all of these before I picked up the drugs again.

The relapse started by heading away to Byron Bay for a weekend with a good friend, who is also in recovery. 

By that stage I’d let my meetings slip away and had lost contact with my sponsor, so all of those recovery tools that I’d worked at and tried to solidify had started to fall away.

So when I did go away, I felt like I had no defence against that first drink. A bottle of champagne that I knew would be there and that usually wouldn’t bother me was consumed rather quickly.

At that time I didn’t consider myself to be an alcoholic, or even an addict anymore because after a certain amount of time in recovery you feel like you’re on top of it all. Alcohol wasn’t even my primary addiction.

However once that bottle of champagne was consumed I found myself drinking another bottle, just as fast.

Then, I was suddenly down at the bottle shop buying a four pack of Cruisers.

Then there was some rum and coke and more wine.

I knew that wasn’t normal consumption. I felt terrible, so ended up getting some MDMA capsules down in Byron. The next thing I knew the horrible drug fuelled obsession had come back.

After the weekend was over, I tried to rationalise it, telling myself that “I had only drunk alcohol and taken MDMA, but I hadn’t done ice and I was fine”.

I started going back to meetings, pretending to be clean. But it wasn’t helping me.

Two weeks later I was drunk again and when my inhibitions were low that I thought I’d call my ice dealer again.

And that was it – back on the ice.

My relapse continued for seven weeks.

Towards the end I was lying to my mum about it. I didn’t want to have to go back to rehab so I told her that I was going to get well on my own, that I was going to go to meetings, that I was going to get it together.

However, in that last week, I used every single day and lied about going to meetings.

My parents weren’t fooled.

You go from sixteen and half months sober to not coming home and behaving erratically. Yep, all the signs were there.

I’m really glad they pushed me into recovery again because addiction can really spiral out of control, quickly.

I went back to into the residential addiction treatment program at the Hader Clinic Queensland.

I felt guilt and shame going back but it was worth going back.

I did five weeks up there, a month in the transition house and now I’m doing an intensive outpatients program. 

I feel that was the refresher I needed – and I encourage anyone that relapses to keep going back.

When I went into the residential program for the second time, my mindset was different.

I felt that sharing my message and experience could really help others – especially around the mindset of “I only have a problem with drugs, not alcohol” – I relapsed on a drink, and it took me straight back to my drug of choice.

I now have a better understanding of what it means to be an addict and I’m more accepting of it.

I understand that the compulsion and obsession to pick up the drugs is still there but I have more insight than I did previously.

It humbled me to be back in early recovery again, you forget how hard it is.

What I really took away was the notion of abstinence.

We can’t have “just one” of anything, as it will make us really sick. I really try to keep focusing on that.

Being a “success story” was another pressure I didn’t expect.

People looked up at me. I’d gone back up to the rehab to “give back”. I’d spoken at institutions and shared my story and here I was – relapsed and feeling unsuccessful. It was a big blow.

I’ve come to realise that it’s OK, that I’m human and flawed, and don’t have to be perfect.

It’s not about falling, it’s about getting back up.

It’s about staying connected with my family and support group.

Addiction hates connection – I should have picked up the phone at the start because everyone has been so supportive – my NA group friends, my family and the staff at Hader Clinic Queensland. 

It was a case of me coming clean and being honest.

Yes, I f****d up but I’m so glad I got past it and did it.

Moving forward, I’m just putting one foot in front of the other again.

I’m looking forward to my future and taking it one day at a time.

I have an amazing sponsor that I travel to see weekly.

I’m willing now to take my recovery even further than before.

I’m trying to see the relapse as a blessing because any hesitation I felt about being an alcoholic has been put to rest. I know now that I can never touch a drink ever again.

I am also very grateful. Many people die when they relapse because they go back to using the same amount of drugs that they were doing at their worst and overdose.

I shared my experience of relapse at a Hader Clinic Queensland’s family night. It was good because it’s important for family members to know that relapse can, and does, happen.

I’m still doing the intensive outpatient program and I’ve reduced the amount of hours I’m working.

I have learned that I need to continue to put my recovery front and centre in my life if I’m to continue to stay well.

My family are very accepting of the fact that I need to take time out for my recovery.

I’m still planning on staying in contact with my sponsor – I admire what she’s got and the support she gives me.

But let’s face it, addiction is a disease. Even when I’ve been clean for ten years I’m going to have to be vigilant.

When faced with being “all or nothing” it’s better for me to choose “nothing”” and be OK with that.

That’s the reality of addiction and part of who I am.

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