July 2019 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Peter’s Addiction Recovery Story

The story of how Peter came to hit rock bottom is one of desperation, then a springboard for getting the help he needed to recover from alcohol addiction.

At 67 years old Peter wasn’t expecting to be heading to a drug rehab clinic for treatment of alcoholism. 

He’d lived and worked in the bush where having a few beers was the norm, and where he’d never given having a drink a second thought. 

However, a traumatic event at work was the catalyst for his descent into an alcoholic hell.

Peter shares his incredible journey.

My introduction to alcohol was unusual to say the least. I’m originally from Holland, and at the age of 15, my parents decided to go back to Holland and I was to stay in Australia.

They arranged for me to stay at a friend’s place. My parents drove off and I proceeded to find the house I was to lodge at.  I knocked on the door, only to find out that my parents friends had moved on.

Here I was, standing on the side of the road, with a suitcase and no money. I wasn’t sure what to do or how to feel, so I walked along the side of the road, kicking a rock as I went.

I ended up at the local pub. Luckily, I knew the people that owned it – I think I went to school with one of their kids. Anyway, they gave me a place to stay and let me off the hook a bit because I had no money.

However, I had started my apprenticeship in panel beating and spray painting, and had bought the family home from my father.

Somehow I think he collected the rent and I made the repayments. Then, as I mentioned, they left the country and I struggled through my apprenticeship. I did all sorts of trades, not just panel beating and painting.

Around this time, I had my first drink – when I was staying at the pub. After I finished my apprenticeship, I renovated the house and sold it for a tidy profit.

In my lifestyle, out in the bush, drinking was part of the culture. I didn’t drink habitually at that stage, it was just everywhere you went.

There’s a pub on the corner block of every country town, right? 

And they’d yell out your name as you walked or drove past.

I got into motorbike racing, I got into fishing.

I even went on a working holiday around Australia – mostly in the bush.

There was always a drink involved, that’s what you did. But I never drank to the point of intoxication. You went out somewhere and there were always three or four beers – never thought anything of it.

I met my wife around that time, too. We’d actually gone to school together. We married and had three daughters and eventually shifted to a mining town in Central Queensland, which felt like the middle of nowhere.

I worked my way up the ladder in mining.

Mining also had that “drinking culture” – you’d knock off from your shift and have a couple of drinks.

I worked my way up from being on the shovel (as an operator) to overseeing two hundred and fifty men.

I also moved around doing some contract mining work, then ended up at the mine I originally started at.

My mining career spanned 27 years.

One day at work, I collapsed. At the time, I was doing an emergency evacuation, and as the boss, everyone was following me.

I collapsed underground, then the mine had to do an emergency evacuation to get me out. 

After this event, I went to the doctor for a check-up and received clearance to go back to work.

When the bus turned up to pick us up to take us to the mine, the weight of responsibility I was carrying for the safety and welfare of my employees and colleagues was crushing.

It was overwhelming. I could not bear the thought of experiencing another underground fire incident and being responsible for everyone’s safety – especially those men with wives and children.

It was hard because I knew everybody that worked there by name. I felt like I couldn’t afford the risk of another collapse at a time when everyone at the mine would need me most.

I ended up going home and resigning that day.

That was when my relationship with alcohol started to change.

I got a job at the local marina. There was alcohol involved then, but I didn’t have the responsibilities that I had at the mine.

My alcohol use started to increase.

Looking back, I can see that the events at the mine really kicked things up. I’m a hard worker and basically I’d moved to the beach, had less maintenance to do at home, and had fewer responsibilities.

The marina even gave me an account where I could book up a beer when I knocked off and I could finish work anytime I wanted to.

Then I collapsed again, and was found unconscious at the marina. I had to resign from that job because I couldn’t run the risk of walking out on the marina in case I collapsed again and fell into the water.

That was the end of work as I knew it. After lots of testing, including a few trips to specialists in Brisbane, I was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. 

This was the cause of my collapses and it took six years to find out what was happening to my health.

After my diagnosis, I stopped work completely. With nothing to do, the alcohol use started to increase – until exactly what the book says happens – you start off with one drink, then have another and then decide to keep drinking to “fill the day in”.

Then you start feeling crook and then start drinking early in the morning to get over the night before.

 Before long, my drinking led to life turning into a total disaster. My wife and daughters were horrified and soon started monitoring me and tracking my movements in an effort to stop me from drinking.

I even handed over all of my money to them. Anything to make it stop.  But my behaviours persisted.

You still get very sneaky to find a bit of grog. They’d be driving around town to find me if I’d gone out for a walk.

One particular day, I found a dollar coin on the ground. I walked five kilometres to the newsagent to buy a Scratchie.

Then I won two dollars. I cashed that Scratchie in and got four dollars. Then put that in again and I won eight dollars.

That was enough to buy me two bottles of red.

I didn’t make it home.

I collapsed unconscious on the side of the road. I was found by my wife and children. Then the ambulance and the police turned up and that was the day we had a family meeting.

We decided that I’m an alcoholic.

My daughter had done some research and contacted The Hader Clinic Queensland and I was at the rehab two days later.

I don’t think I had realised the impact of the stress of my mining career.

As the deputy in charge, you couldn’t afford to make one mistake. And running on time is of utmost importance because the machines are expensive to run and every second has to be accounted for.

Plus, you’re responsible for educating the men and even being a bloody psychologist and dealing with absenteeism etc.

I started to drink more in order to be able to cope with these things.

My experience at Hader has been terrific.

I’m the kind of person that takes things on seriously and I thought to myself, “the position I’m in is that I’m coming in here an alcoholic – they’re not going to fix me, but they’re going to give me the tools I need to fix myself.”

And I got that from day one – and I’ve chased that the whole way through. I’ve asked so many questions and I got all the answers that I wished whenever I wanted.

The day I arrived at Hader, my memory was hazy.

My family thought that I was developing Alzheimer’s. I had been to the doctor several times, and I’d been trying to use that as an excuse, rather than blaming the drink.

I think I scored 30% on my first memory exam with the psychiatrist and now I’m scoring 100%. All my memory has come back and I have no sign of Alzheimer’s.

It was all to do with the bloody drink.

The first week I was here, the staff had to put my name on the door of my room so that I could find it. I couldn’t find it without help.

And the shakes I got were tremendous.

The bookwork was illuminating. One of the books asks, “am I an alcoholic?”  Well, that was just “tick, tick, tick, ticking boxes” all the way down the page.

As time went on, I’ve been going through the “withdrawal symptom” checklist and ticking off all of those boxes as well.

The shakes have gone, amongst other things. Everything has cleared. I was even getting hangovers for the first six weeks of the program at all times of the day and night.

I’ve been keeping a daily diary of my time here. Looking back, I can see the changes in my handwriting and my personality.

It’s pretty exciting, actually.

The staff taught me to keep a diary. They check that I’ve written, but they don’t read what I’ve said.

In fact for the first four days, you can’t actually read my writing because my hands were shaking THAT much.

I have a new lease on life. I’ve put on weight and look twenty years younger.

I’m looking forward to seeing my wife again.

I told her not to visit.

You see, I did a bit of a risk assessment and I thought the 400km drive down and back to visit me in rehab was potentially unsafe.

I’ve seen two of my daughters though and the whole family are visiting me for my send off from rehab in a couple of days.

My family have been very supportive and did lots of research on many rehab facilities. A lot of them had day leave, to which I said “that’s no good, I can’t be allowed to leave”.

I knew that I needed to be locked away from alcohol as a starting point.

Hader taught me that to stay away from alcohol, I needed to educate myself and join a fellowship that supports me in my recovery. I have done 85 AA meetings so far and have no plans to stop!

Yesterday, at my meeting, I shared my story about my arrival from Holland on the boat, and what happened with my parents etc. It took me an hour!

But I got a big round of applause from the residents and plenty of questions after.

Now I have a sponsor lined up for when I arrive home.

My wife has already been to a meeting and the Hader Clinic have been in contact with her to help her with my arrival back home and I’ve just finished my plan as to what I’m going to do when I arrive back too.

It’s taken me two weeks but the staff are looking at that with me.

I’ve also got a counsellor lined up at the local hospital once a week, I’ve got a long appointment with my GP booked as well.

I can’t wait to do a comparison of my blood tests, now that I’m healthy again. Hopefully my kidneys and liver are returning to normal.

I still live on the beach and I volunteer on Beach Patrol, which is a four kilometre walk each way.

I pick up any rubbish on the beach, empty the bins and make sure there are doggy doo doo bags available for those with pets. 

That’s not so much fun, but someone has to do it!

Everyone at the clinic has been amazing.

I’ve always had an ability to mix with princes or paupers and we all get along tremendously.

We’re all on a first name basis here.  

I’ve learned a lot from when new people come into the rehab and to see the changes that occur in them is mind blowing.

When someone new turns up, there’s not a lot of eye contact. But eventually they relax.

I’ve been on the buddy program for four new people here already and have loved it.

I’m looking forward to the best days of my life and thank the Hader Clinic Queensland for all their help and support.

There was Only Darkness, now there is Light

Bonnie is a recovering alcoholic and former Australian Defence Force employee who used alcohol as a means to cope with feelings of isolation, depression, hopelessness and breast cancer. This is her amazing journey.

I’m Bonnie, I’m 63, and I’m a recovering alcoholic.

I was in the army for 22 years – and I wasn’t a drinker back then, apart from the occasional social drink.

I had a very productive career in the army and achieved a lot.

The only reason that I left was that I was pregnant with my first and only child. I didn’t have her until I was 42 as my career in the army had taken precedence – I didn’t have time for anything else and hadn’t actually met anyone who was Mr Right. My husband was also in the army.

Before I left the army, my husband and I bought an investment property which we now live on. At that stage it had cattle on it and we remained stationed in Melbourne.

When our daughter, Sara, was of school age, we decided to leave the army and the “big smoke” in favour of raising her in a quiet country town.

While that was all happening, my husband was inspired by his neighbour’s winery and we decided to turn the property into a vineyard.

My husband ended up working away from home a lot and I ended up solely running and managing the vineyard, which really wasn’t my cup of tea – but I did it anyway.

I wasn’t really drinking at that stage, but soon after that, my parents moved into the area and I bought them a property close by.

That became a full-time activity in itself as my father was very old school and expected me to come and visit him every day, which I found stressful.

I was on my own – living and working on the vineyard seven days a week, looking after my little girl and trying to look after, and please my parents.

My parents eventually moved into aged care, but the expectation was that I would visit every day.

My daughter was also growing up by this stage and became ill, developing an eating disorder. The stress was tremendous.

From having a highly responsible job managing a lot of people I knew in the army, I came to a property in the Victorian countryside where I knew no one.

During my time in the army, I developed post natal depression (PND) which wasn’t properly diagnosed.

In the country, the doctors were just like those in the army – it was hard to get a diagnosis.

It took a visit from my husband with me to discover that I was indeed suffering PND.

Ten years had passed from the time my daughter was born to the time I was diagnosed, I was pretty desperate by this stage and feeling pretty out of control.

I was trying to deal with my depression, my workload, and this is when I started to drink.

Sara was about 15 or 16.

So it’s virtually been the last ten years and also coincided with my mother developing Alzheimer’s disease.

My father put so much pressure on me to visit every day.

I was visiting her and doing her hair in the morning, then coming here to the vineyard, doing homework with Sara, though she was pretty independent by that stage.

To settle myself down, I’d be drinking away every evening.

Sara was suffering with anorexia, and watching that suffering and worrying about her well being was stressful to the max.

Her mood swings were horrendous. I’d be shut off from her, you know the saying that you hurt the ones who are the closest to you? That was really hard to handle.

I was trying to look after her and do what was best for her without knowing or understanding how she came to be that way.

My mother then passed away.

I was driving away from the aged care facility when they rang and told me. I had to turn around and then go back and tell my father, who was devastated and inconsolable.

The drinking continued to escalate.

It was so gradual, it seemed to creep up on me. It seemed to snowball over the last ten years where I experienced such an abundance of stressful life events.

My father eventually became ill and fortunately Sara had improved and was quite stable.

My husband was still working away interstate. He had an excellent job. I don’t hold that against him, but it was tough not having him around.

As Dad deteriorated, he told me that he loved me – which was a new experience, as he’d been a military man working in secret service type roles.

He became the father I’d always wanted. I spent many hours at his bedside, and one evening a doctor told me to go home and get some rest, that he’d still be here in the morning.

I left, and drank an entire bottle of red wine.

Shortly after, I received a phone call telling me that Dad was dying and that I should come back quickly.

I went there in my PJs, got in the car, despite the wine and by the time I arrived, was told that he’d passed. I stayed with him until the nurses told me that I had to leave.

It was hard coping with the passing of my Dad and I did my best to get back on top of things.

However, now Sara had relapsed back into anorexia and we decided to withdraw her from university and get her into a specialised eating disorders clinic.

It was the worst thing I did.

They put a lot of pressure on her to eat and my visits were punctuated with smashed jars, paintings and generally irrational behaviour.

She was at her lowest point, telling me that she hated me and that everything was my fault. My husband had seen none of this and I felt like because he hadn’t seen it, it was not real. I felt so alone and helpless.

I wasn’t feeling great either and visited my doctor who performed a few tests and dismissed my concerns.

I switched doctors and upon having a mammogram, discovered that I had some suspicious lumps.

My drinking escalated.

It was my only form of escape.

I was now living alone, managing a massive vineyard with only the dog for company. At this stage it was now two bottles of bubbly each night.

I had an appointment at the Royal Melbourne Breast Cancer Research campus at Parkville.

I was assured on the phone that it was only a routine check to make sure that what they had seen on the mammograms was not cancerous and that 90% of patients were gone from the building before lunch.

I was still there at 17:00hrs.

I had had two x-rays, scans, ultrasounds and finally a biopsy of my right breast.

I was exhausted at this stage and starting to get very concerned. I asked the doctor who had taken the biopsy what does all this mean???

She turned to me with no expression of any feelings and said “You have breast cancer and will have to have surgery in both breasts. Most probable chemo and radiation treatment”.

I promptly vomited and almost passed out.

I saw my surgeon that day too who was very kind and said she will be looking after me (she was and is a saint).

All up I had three conservative surgeries to save my breasts but they kept on finding more lesions and eventually I had both breasts removed and reconstruction surgery at the same time.

This all took nine months.

I swore to myself that I’d never drink again after that. I’d been given a second chance and wanted to make the most of it.

Six months later I went on a short break with a girlfriend who said, “Bonnie, do you notice that you drink a lot?”

Inevitably, I started drinking again and my daughter got really angry – “it’s the drink or me” she said.

And I said, “I know I drink, but I don’t have a problem. I can control myself.”

She said with a worried expression, “but you drink a lot.”

When she said that, I was irritated but Sara had already told me that she was worried about my drinking because of my health.

I was suffering from gastritis from drinking too much, I had facial rosacea, I put on weight.

Everything was very negative with the drinking – not only from a health point of view, but that my daughter had noticed and given me an ultimatum.

My best friend put me onto the Hader Clinic Queensland. She said she was going to go there, but said “I think you’d better go there”.

I phoned the clinic and spoke to Hayden. I still didn’t believe that I had a problem. That’s the scary thing.

I had the interview and a week later I was at the rehab.

It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Before I went, I started to cut down and by the time I got there, there was no requirement for me to do a supervised detox.

I was told that I could take a few days to settle in, but I was of the mindset, “no I want to start the rehab and classes straight away, I want to be a part of what I came here for”.

It wasn’t until they gave me all the bookwork and I was actually reading, “what is an alcoholic?” that I realised I had a problem.

There were 29 characteristics and I had only gone through nine, yet had ticked all the boxes. It was then that the penny dropped.

It wasn’t until I read things about hiding alcohol, denying that I had a problem when I really did, drinking on my own, only “drinking socially” in front of others then drinking when I got home.

That’s when I became very aware of the problem and that was really my first day of true recovery.

I got stuck into the program at the rehab.

As soon as I got there, I felt at home right away, because I love having structure – my military background is probably part of that.

I can see that moving to a country town where I didn’t know anyone, where I had no community and no one to talk to as well as no discipline to achieve anything was detrimental to me without the right skills to cope with the changes.

The staff were brilliant. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to be treated but I felt so at home.

As soon as I realised that I truly was an alcoholic, I wanted to participate in the program 100%. I was hesitant about doing any physical work, as I was still getting over my mastectomy, but I worked around that – I got up earlier and did extra walks, which made me feel much better.

The healthy way of eating really helped, especially the “no sugar” part – the nutrition program was excellent – the fact we participated in making our meals was great.

The whole program was very holistic.

Not only did I feel like I was being coached on what drinking does, but they made you feel part of the community, that you weren’t alone – that everyone had some sort of issue there.

Everyone was there for a reason and that made me feel good being there.

The staff were supportive but didn’t stand for any rubbish. I liked how the program supported me both physically and mentally.

Jack the counsellor was brilliant. I’ve seen others over the years but left with no strategies for living.

I was able to say what I wanted to say, cry as much as I needed to, (being military, and my father being old school, crying was a sign of weakness), I don’t think I cried, as I did at Hader but it was such a great release.

I discovered so many things about myself and found out what my home environment was actually doing to me, that I never realised.

When I came home, I didn’t tell people I’d been to rehab, but rather, that I had attended a wellness clinic in Queensland.

I continued the yoga and meditation classes that I started with Paula. I felt at my fittest in many years, when I left.

I had a better temperament too – before I went, I spent a lot of time feeling very angry, but after, I found my tolerance to others and my peace of mind had come back. I was a lot clearer in my thought patterns and the whole experience just helped so much.

Within two weeks of being in the clinic I began to feel a lot like my “old self” – I was exercising, and my brain felt much clearer as a result of not drinking.

Also the best thing was the counselling given to me by the psychologists (counsellor) Jack.

When I left the army, I had seen several psychologists, as I found everything at that time difficult and none of them gave me any strategies or really seemed interested, a bit sad for me.

After rehab I could see that I had been thrown into a perfect storm for addiction – I’d gone from this regimented army career where I was highly decorated and respected to a country town where I was isolated and knew few people, to owning a winery of all things.

Because my husband worked away from home so much, he had no idea – and neither did our daughter for several years.

It wasn’t until Christmas last year that she really noticed I had a drinking problem – and then after a yelling match where I got so frustrated and angry and ended throwing objects around the room at my husband because he was not happy about me going away for 30 days to the rehab; that he realised there was an issue.

This is how things used to be if he was not happy then I would be the one to suffer and things would not get settled until the next day, but by then the damage was done.

However, after he had read a few things and saw from my reaction that there was a problem, and that I needed to be my old self again, I needed to go.

He was so sorry and said he was being selfish as he would miss me very much but I should go.

After this conversation I had spoken to the Hader Clinic Queensland and that it was important that I go, he began to come around.

During the time I was away, he stopped drinking as well. I was very pleased – he had problems with his weight, he was pre diabetic and had high cholesterol and blood pressure.

When I returned home he had lost 10kg and was no longer pre diabetic.

His cholesterol is great, blood pressure normal and he still hasn’t had a drink.

He’s now very supportive of my recovery and he now understands the extent of my issues with alcohol.

I am so proud of him and he of me. He has done a complete turn around and is now my rock.

My husband is away for work again and I have made sure that I have a support network here that I can call on if things get rough.

I think of all of those kids (I say kids but I mean young adults and adults) I went through Hader with as my family, and I don’t want to let them down, or myself and I don’t want to let my daughter down.

I realise now that a lot of the anger she directed towards me was because she was worried about me.

However, at the time, I was in denial.

The friend that directed me to the Hader Clinic Queensland would say, “I want my old buddy back”, my other friend was getting concerned and could see something was wrong too.

Sara would say, “I want my old Mum back!”

And here I am, “I’m back!” She now has her old Mum back and she also has become such a strength to me; and has also taken enormous steps to get well.

Both my friends have been amazing and great supports.

On reflection, I got to the stage where I couldn’t see a future, my husband was away, my parents had died, my daughter was ill and I was on my own.

I couldn’t see any prospects, I felt really low.

I had to change things while I was at the rehab so that I could have a life when I got home.

I made a list and am actioning these ideas, one by one.

These included getting someone to look after, and lease the vineyard, going to the gym, seeing Sara more, and rekindling my interest in painting and dressmaking.

I have also started a project in turning a property I have into either a B&B or a place to do my hobbies. So far it is looking great.

Also I have been accepted to at an aged care facility as a volunteer and will be writing little life stories for the residence as a keep sake.

Life is looking great.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but before there wasn’t, only darkness.

Simone’s Addiction Recovery Story

Once Simone gave birth to her daughter, her fantasy bubble of perfect motherhood quickly burst and soon the pressures of parenthood, isolation and loneliness saw her turn to ice in an attempt to cope. This is her inspiring addiction recovery story.

Hi, I’m Simone.

I grew up in a close-knit family in the small coastal town near Mackay. It’s the type of place where you know everyone.

I had a wonderful upbringing and have always been close to my parents, brother and sister. 

Growing up, I was a good student too, always bubbly, happy and bright. I love people and being around others – you could say that I’m the extroverted type that lights up the room when they enter it.

I met my ex-husband, at 18 and he introduced me to drugs.

For several years, I used party drugs sporadically – a bit of ecstasy here and there and the odd point or two of speed.  Naturally, I didn’t think anything of it.

After school, I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do, but landed a highly paid job with a mining company and became engaged. We married, bought a house and I fell pregnant.

At this time, I felt I was living my ideal fantasy – the house with the white picket fence, the handsome husband, and now a beautiful baby to look forward to.

My ex started using ice when I was pregnant.

Once I gave birth to our daughter, the fantasy bubble of perfect motherhood with a perfectly well-behaved baby well and truly burst.

I was having trouble coping with the demands of a baby, feeling isolated and feeling lonely.

I turned to using ice with my ex. husband as a means to cope. Early on, I made strict “rules” around my usage – it was only occasionally and on weekends.

However, this use increased when I felt like I couldn’t cope as drugs made me feel motivated to get up and get going.

Drugs were causing my world to fall apart – my ex husband started being unfaithful, and my marriage broke down.

I was absolutely beside myself when we split up – I didn’t know how to cope and the thought of being alone with nobody to “complete” me was horrifying.

This inability to cope would lead to four suicide attempts over the next few years.

Eventually I was hospitalised and diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

After I left hospital, I stopped using drugs for a while as I was feeling much better about life and able to cope.

Then a chance meeting with an old friend, who also used, started the drug taking cycle up again. 

The loss of my marriage was hitting me hard, working in a job I didn’t enjoy was taking its toll as well as the responsibilities of paying a mortgage and raising a child.

I simply did not know how to “adult”, for want of a better expression.

I was depressed, and the best way to numb the anxiety and all the painful feelings was to use ice.

Eventually, I failed a drug test at work. I had to undergo some counselling, which helped keep me clean for a while.

By that stage, I had met a new partner.

A short time after we met, he started using drugs and I started to use again with him.

The effects of ice made him abusive – mainly emotionally and mentally, then physically. I got the courts involved and domestic violence orders were put in place.

At work, things were going from bad to worse.

Two years after my initial drug test failure, I stumbled again. This time my employers weren’t so sympathetic – I lost my job. At the time, I had wanted to resign and wish that I could have done it on my terms.

After my termination, I went a bit haywire on partying and ice – all the while my state of mind was becoming more fragile.

I decided to upend my life and move to Townsville.

In hindsight, this was the worst thing I could have done as I moved from the only real support that I had – my family.

My family were aware of my use, but I always used to deny it and reassured them that I was fine.

I wasn’t.

I was involved with ATOD and managed to stay clean for a while.

Then my ex-husband had my daughter for a weekend and didn’t return her.

I was beside myself and suicidal. Eventually after a two-month court battle I had her back.   

She was my sole reason for living and I tried to pick my life up for her.

I wanted desperately to be happy and rid of the continual anxiety and depression I was feeling.

In Townsville, I was trying desperately to make connections, to make friends but all the “friends” I ever made were users, or even worse, dealers.

My partner used to tell me how naïve I was, how trusting I was, and he was right. I was so desperate to have human connection that I was oblivious to the warning signs.

My life was starting to reach a crisis point.

I was so broken, so numb and desperate to end it all.

I stood on a cliff, looking out at the stars, willing my deceased grandmother to “give me a sign”. I saw what I thought looked like a shooting star.

“Perhaps this is her telling me to stay for my daughter,” I thought.

However, I was a complete mess – I didn’t know how to solve the hole I found myself in. 

After my home was raided just before Christmas and I took the rap for possession of an ice pipe that wasn’t even mine, I came to a decision to break things off with my partner.

By then I was suicidal again, I hated using, I was angry with myself, I had lost myself and I had lost my spark.

At Christmas time I visited my family.

They were shocked to see how far I had fallen.

My sister asked, “how can we help?”. They were all sitting around crying, everyone except for me. I was simply too broken to care.

I had exhausted every avenue to me except “getting help” and my family found The Hader Clinic Queensland. 

They chose The Hader Clinic Queensland because of their experience with dual diagnosis – that is, addiction is often accompanied by other mental health issues like depression and anxiety (that was me!), as well as having the Family Program.

My ex-husband took my daughter and when I asked him if he would let me see her during rehab, he surprised me by saying “of course”.

He was living with his parents and I knew that everything would be OK.  

When I knew that I was going to rehab, I became a nervous, agitated wreck.

I was able to withdraw from drugs a few days prior to going in. I must have been anxious as I was prescribed Valium and think I slept for a week.

By the second week though, I felt refreshed and ready to tackle the program.

I spent a lot of time working with the psychologist.

I spent a lot of time working on shame, grief and guilt making peace with my past.

I was also taught to learn to “sit” with my emotions rather than running away or using drugs. It was a revelation to me that I could actually do it.

During my time in rehab, I started feeling more like my old self – the perennially bubbly, cheerful Simone who is always up for a chat and who loves to meet, and be with people.

I had times when I got sick of rehab and wanted to leave, but inevitably all of the girls I met in there enticed me to stay.

As I mentioned, I love connecting with people and The Hader Clinic Queensland taught me that this is an integral part of what makes me who I am.

I especially appreciated the connections I made with the support workers who, having been through addiction, understood what I was going through.

I’ve also made a few good connections in the therapeutic community and have a sponsor.

My plans are to move to Rockhampton, where my ex-husband lives, get a job, and co parent our daughter.

However, what I have learned from the Hader Clinic is that I need to put my recovery front and centre if I am to succeed.

The first thing I did was visit the town and make sure there’s a therapeutic community that can support me and keep me focused on my recovery.

I didn’t rush back home either.

I chose to undertake the three-month transitional housing program so that I could really honour myself and my recovery. I am so glad that I did because it’s improved my self-confidence and belief a million times over.

My other big learning is that you truly have to want and believe in recovery.

For me it was a choice between suicide, running from my problems or doing the hard work that it takes to get better.

I’ve seen many people who are half hearted about rehab – and I see them relapse.

Living an addict lifestyle is a special kind of hell I don’t wish to return to.

It hasn’t been a walk in the park but it’s been worth it.

I am excited about the future.

When I was in rehab, counselling showed me how much I like to connect with other people – I would love to be able to support and help people with drug and alcohol addiction – the support workers at the Hader Clinic made all the difference to me due to their lived experience.

I’m looking at enrolling into a Diploma of Alcohol and Other Drugs/Mental Health so that I can help others.

Today, I am the most content and happy I have been since I had my daughter all those years ago.

The bonds I have with my family are stronger than ever and my ex-husband and his family now know everything and are supporting me in recovery as well.

I’m looking forward to the rest of my life with my daughter – happy, healthy and drug free!

Cocaine Destroyed my World but Rehab Brought it Back

Hi, I’m Caroline. I’m a former advertising executive and I struggled with a cocaine addiction before it blew my world apart. This is my story about how I came back from the brink.

My addiction happened so slowly I didn’t even realise it was an addiction until the end, when it was too late.

I was working in the advertising space in Sydney when I first starting using cocaine, and tried to get away from it by moving to Melbourne.

I was earning a lot of money pretty early on in my career, and I had no idea how to manage it. Not that I’m blaming what happened on that, but rather, I’m trying to paint a picture. I was young and had a lot of money.

I started using cocaine and then hoped my move to Melbourne would help me stop (it didn’t) and my drug use got really bad. My reputation started to deteriorate as a consequence.

I tell people that I resigned from my job to go to the Hader Clinic Queensland, but the reality is I lost my job. I ended up having to do some things that weren’t right to pay my debts to drug dealers. I lost my house, my car and my job. And I lost myself.

It all blew up when I started prioritising paying for drugs over paying rent and other debts so in the end, I had lost my job, I was two month’s behind in my rent. I just had to flee. I had dug a hole so deep that the only way out of it was telling the truth really.

I remember the day that I was confronted at work by management about what was going on. I was driving to work thinking that it was all going to come to an end soon and that the only way out of it was just to be honest about my struggles. I just wanted it to be over.

I was lucky enough to be able to secure a bed at the Hader Clinic Queensland otherwise I would never have had the opportunity to attend.

So, that’s how I ended up there. Everything with work kind of came crashing down. That was the biggest part of my identity and my life. I moved out of my place in Melbourne and my partner and I simply walked out and left everything there. We flew to Queensland, thanks to my mum’s help and the help of family getting our stuff packed up and out of the apartment in Melbourne.

They talk about some people being born with a predisposition towards addiction. I don’t know if I was that. I went through a lot of trauma as a kid, but I don’t remember that much. My psychologist at the Hader Clinic Queensland reckons that I dissociated from a lot of those experiences, hence the hazy memories.

Anyway, I remember always living well beyond my means and having obsessive behaviours, plus all the things that go with it. Every time I used drugs early on, say as a teenager, I would always be the one who would secretly have five times more drugs than anyone else but not tell anyone.

That kinds of tells me that upon reflection, that I was always going to end up here. It just didn’t start that much earlier because my two previous partners were quite introverted and anti-social. I catered to their needs and never saw my friends or went out.

When I got out of my previous relationship, I started partying pretty hard. When I met my current partner, she was outgoing and displayed many of the same traits that I did.

I got introduced to cocaine when I was living in Sydney through some friends and I just remember thinking that it just had me from the beginning. I just never wanted to stop, I was just that person that never wanted it to end.

I’ve always been a big self sacrificer and I’ve always found it difficult to express what I’m  feeling, what I need and what I want. I think maybe using gave me some sense of self control.

Somewhere down the track, you cross that line without even realising it, and suddenly it’s not fun anymore. It becomes a thing where you’re on that hamster wheel and you can’t get off. But you don’t that’s happening until it’s too late.

I’d make half-hearted attempts to break the cycle. I’d binge use and then swear never to do it again. I was hating it and didn’t want my life to be like that and you’d pick it up again once you started to feel OK.

I’d only buy a small amount thinking, “I’ll just do one night only, just one” and that would be it. But that was never the case. Once I had that first hit, I was gone for days.

Initially, I felt like the drug gave me superpowers and I could go to work. However not sleeping for two to three days at a time meant that it became unproductive. I would tell myself that I needed it to get stuff done, to clean the house or whatever but nothing gets done.

When I moved to Melbourne, it didn’t take long to realise that I had more drug dealer contacts than I had friends.

I hadn’t spoken to my mum for a couple of years, I slowly drifted away from my whole family over the years. But when things all came crashing down, I had to tell everyone – my mum, dad, and my siblings.

I went into rehab with ten days’ clean under my belt after leaving Melbourne. Cocaine is such an expensive drug, so I probably couldn’t have used it even if I had wanted to. I was just at the point where I was happy to stop.

Once at the rehab, I was feeling so beaten. At that point I was so willing to recover. I took it all in from the get go. There were people struggling with being there, the program and its rules. I don’t think some people could understand why the rehab was set up a certain way.

That wasn’t my experience though. I could see that everything in rehab was designed to teach you something. I really loved everything about it. I had a room to myself, air conditioning, a bed, a safe space. I felt really good there and I actually didn’t want to leave.

What helped me the most in the rehab was the education classes and psychology. I also loved the discipline and the routine and I really tried to use the time to set some behaviours for myself that I could carry to the outside because I’ve always been the sort of person who’s been inconsistent, always sleeping in and not so great with self care.

While I was in rehab, I put a lot of energy into getting up at 6am and exercising and getting that routine going.

I remember the first psycho education class. It was about the Karpmann drama triangle and I just cried. I spent a lot of the first few weeks in tears because I was having all these lightbulb moments. The classes taught me a lot about relationships and boundaries, anxiety, mental health and addiction. I found all of that really great.

I think the best thing the rehab is that it’s part of the 12 Step fellowship program, because it  introduces you to a new way of living. That’s the thing that will help keep you clean on the outside even though rehab gives you the opportunity to reset and refocus.

Throughout the whole process, the relationships I have with my family have improved as well.

The other thing in the program that worked really well for me were the one on one counselling sessions I had. I found them to be really beneficial and it uncovered a lot.

I think that’s important because the program really strips you bare and the counselling  helped fast track the progress that I made.

I finished the 90-day program at the Hader Clinic Queensland about 8 weeks ago now. And already my life is better. I’ve decided to stay in Queensland because of the connections I’ve made here. I’ve been approved for a rental property and am back in full time work in marketing.

I still just try to live in each day, but I cannot thank the Hader Clinic Queensland enough for the support and help that they’ve given me in reclaiming my life back.

Common Fears about Recovery and How to Get Past Them

Being scared about entering an addiction recovery program is normal. It is common that people are hesitant and apprehensive about entering rehab.

Let’s face it, it can be very confronting to admit a problem with substance abuse, let alone taking the steps to learn to live without it in your life.

Here are some common fears and barriers experienced by addicts and how you can get past them.

Detox and withdrawal from the substance of addiction

Many addicts worry about what will happen to them when they try to withdraw from an addictive substance.

This may be based on previous attempts to withdraw from the substance, where they have experienced unpleasant and severe side effects and wish to avoid a repeat performance. 

Depending on the substance of addiction and the length of addiction, a medically supervised withdrawal period is often the best option.

Whilst an addiction sufferer will experience withdrawal symptoms, the benefit is that they are medically supervised and supported throughout the process.

Good treatment programs also help clients deal with the psychological aspects of withdrawing, providing them with tools, tricks and guidance to help them stay on track.

Loss of identity and building new connections

Often an addiction sufferer will fear losing their identity without having the addictive substance by their side.

Often a sufferer’s social connections will revolve around procurement, and use of an addictive substance. They may feel like they are losing their friendship circles.

If an addiction has its roots in feeling vulnerable, shy or socially awkward, it can be confronting for a sufferer to face these feelings for the first time without the masking effect of drugs.

Treatment programs help address these fears and feelings as addiction sufferers begin to discover who they really are without drugs and alcohol in their life.

Rehabilitation offers sufferers a chance to create a new beginning as they learn to understand, nurture and love their drug free selves.

As for losing “friends”, it is true that a recovering addict will leave many of them behind with the abused substance.

However, rehabilitation and attending meetings such as NA and AA provide addicts in recovery with a supportive, therapeutic community.

Importantly, strong bonds and friendships can be forged within a fellowship, especially as there is a deeper understanding of how one suffers in addiction and there is mutual support in staying clean, healthy and sober.

No more fun

In the simplest of terms, long term substance addiction, alters the pathways in the brain that allow you to experience pleasure. Heavy drug use has the effect of ‘burning out’ those pathways.

Therefore, it’s important for a recovering addict to understand that they may not experience heightened emotions for months as the brain begins to repair itself.

The repair process can be assisted by practices that incorporate gratitude into a recovering addict’s life.

Such practices include guided meditations, yoga and attending group meetings. We encourage these practices both inside and outside of the rehabilitation program.

Facing up to the past

Sometimes a traumatic event can precipitate a fall into addiction.

Or it can be that an addict has done things that they’re less than proud of, such as lying and stealing to be able to continue their addiction.

In both scenarios, a structured recovery program provides an opportunity for a sufferer to look back on their past and make peace with it.

In the case of severe past trauma, we can provide expert counselling with a qualified psychologist and psychiatrist. 

Recovering addicts often report a sense of relief when they own up to their past actions, make amends and apologise.

Individual counselling, tailored to the recovering addict can also help heal, reframe, and make sense of past trauma.

Fear of failure

Many addicts in recovery fear that they’re going to fail.

After all, perhaps there have been several unsuccessful attempts to stop using before this particular attempt in recovery. 

While the statistics suggest that relapse can occur, our philosophy on recovery is that every time you attempt to recover is a chance that you give yourself to succeed – you cannot succeed without trying!

Most recovering addicts that adopt a “you get out what you put in” mantra in their recovery usually stay clean and sober.

You can read some successful addiction recovery stories here.

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