August 2019 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Rosie’s Addiction Recovery Story

Rosie has been wrestling with addiction for fourteen years. Now 33, she has just completed rehab at The Hader Clinic Queensland. Here she shares her rollercoaster recovery story and what she learned that will help keep her in recovery.

I’m 33 now and have just completed a ninety day residential addiction treatment program at the Hader Clinic Queensland. I actually joined the fellowship at age 19, after my first rehabilitation and have had extended periods of time where I’ve managed to stay clean and times when I’ve relapsed, often for a few years at a time.

My drug of choice? I would have happily taken anything and everything, but mainly I used heroin.

I ended up in rehab at the age of twenty. I tried a Naltrexone implant but that only stopped me from using the one drug. That’s when I realised that I had a problem with all drugs. I thought that if I removed one drug, then I’d be OK, but it clearly wasn’t the case.  Things got a lot worse – I had no choice really but to end up doing rehab.

That was probably the best thing that happened to me at the time. I completed rehab and stayed clean for a few years. I did all the things that I’d never been able to do before such as getting a job, renting a house and starting university.

I did a couple of years of a paramedic degree and decided that while I was at university, that I could, “drink responsibly”.

I was young and I still didn’t fully understand the nature of addiction. At the time, I’d never had any issues with drinking alcohol.

Drinking alcohol led me back to using drugs very quickly.  My drinking wasn’t out of control, I’d drink every couple of weekends with my work mates if they were going out – I was working at a bar to support my university studies.

However, the feelings of “obsession” around drugs had entered my head, if that makes sense.

It only took a few months for me to decide that alcohol wasn’t what I preferred, it was drugs. I had actually fooled myself into thinking that if I could drink responsibly, then maybe I could do drugs responsibly.

It was such a delusion of course. Once I separated myself from the fellowship and my friends, I didn’t have anyone around me to combat my delusional thinking.

That delusional thinking got me back into drugs and the lifestyle that goes with it. The user lifestyle, you’ve probably heard it all before – doesn’t need explaining. 

Did I steal to support my habit? Absolutely. It was much worse for me than the first time around. The crime got worse anyway. When I was younger it was more petty stuff that got me into trouble like possession. This time I continued on to violent crime within the community and just really did things that I would never consider now that I’m clean.

These issues still affect me today. I had nearly finished my paramedic science degree and as a result of the crime, could not go back to finish that study.

I guess that it wasn’t meant to be, but I’m OK with that.  I’m studying business and marketing within the creative industries now.

As a result of that relapse I ended up serving twelve months of a four year prison sentence. That relapse was my longest, about four years. Being in prison didn’t stop my drug use, but it certainly was a reality check for me.

I also had to do three months of community service. Life began to get better for me again. I came back into the fellowship. I was still in the maintenance program, accepted and welcomed and spent the next few years working my way off a methadone program. I got clean and stayed that way for a few years.

Then I relapsed last year.

Looking back, I believe that I had quite a full life, which meant that I really wasn’t focusing on recovery. I had two jobs, I was studying – I have now come to a place these days where I’ve realised that I just have to take my time.

I didn’t set out to use drugs that fateful day, they were put directly in my path and I had no defences to counter them with.

I was tired, I was stressed, I had exams coming up – it was a perfect storm. Someone near to me had used and normally that wouldn’t be a trigger for me. I just wasn’t paying attention to my recovery – at the time I was getting to one meeting a week, if that. 

I wasn’t doing step work, or service – all the things that are keeping me clean today.

I can now see where I made mistakes and have come to the conclusion that if I have to slowly plod along at life and take longer to finish my uni degree because I’m putting recovery front and centre, then that’s OK. I’d rather get there and achieve something than lose it to drugs.

I know it sounds crazy but In that moment of relapse I had the thought of “you know what? Stuff it. I’ll come back (to a meeting) tomorrow. I’ll be fine.”

And I did exactly that – I went to a meeting the next day, thinking that, “these people are a complete bunch of idiots here”. 

My head had already started with the distorted thinking – I had unleashed the beast.

It wasn’t until I bumped into my friend, Jay, who’s been in recovery and has notched up ten years clean that things changed.

We were holidaying in Noosa for Christmas with my family and I was still trying to go to a meeting.  I bumped into him there. Knowing that he would understand, I levelled with him, telling him that I wasn’t well and that I was struggling.

I asked him if there was any chance that he could help and he replied, “yes” and that’s how I ended up coming to the Hader Clinic. Jay is one of the Clinic’s highly valued staff. I am very grateful to him.

I detoxed from the heroin the week before I was admitted into rehab. I was still suffering withdrawal sickness, though I had managed to get through the worst of it.  I had insomnia, and I was sweaty and shaky. I could still move around quite easily though.

My experience of rehab was great. The fact that it was ninety days made the biggest difference – it was a good time frame, given that I’d been exposed to the fellowship before. It was comfortable. There was an excellent therapeutic community within the rehab and surrounds.

The staff were caring and accommodating. It’s a wide open space and the food, the food that was served was fantastic as was the group work. I found the limited contact from the outside world a little challenging – fifteen minutes never seemed like enough. However, it did give me time to focus on myself and learn to “sit” with what I needed.

This time around in rehab, I spent more time helping those who were new to the recovery process which made the time pass quickly. I was also able to work through the 12 Steps with a local member from the community, Janet.

I found that really cool that if I was serious about working through the twelve steps that I could ask someone local for help – and the staff at Hader were very encouraging of that.

Because I got to do that in the time that I was at the rehab, I felt like I was better equipped to start practising what we do on the outside, and that is to help other people with the same issues. I found my day a lot easier if I was OK and I could reach out and help someone else. I could reach out and ask how their day was going and what I could do for them.

What also hit home for me was that it’s a daily program. The staff have all walked this road and keep working at their own recoveries. I’ve never got past two years clean because I’ve let things fall away.  The most profound understanding has been that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in recovery, you still have to work at it.  I’ve got more insight into the connection you have with the fellowship and the importance of a daily routine in recovery.

As well as my recovery, I’m slowly working my way towards finishing my uni degree and live with my partner, who is also a recovering addict and our puppy.  This recovery has taken longer than previous times at rehab where I seem to have landed on my feet more. I still have previous belongings in my life like my house and my car, but emotionally it’s taken me longer to adjust.

My partner works and I’ve only just gone back to uni. You can sometimes feel like you don’t have any other purpose but NA. It can get a bit dull – I just felt overwhelmed with life when I left the rehab.

My dog’s been really therapeutic for me as he gets me out in the mornings and the afternoons for a walk which helps me clear my mind.

My partner and I needed to be separated – it just doesn’t work trying to get clean together – he did his on the outside with the fellowship. We’re very open about our recovery journeys but we don’t directly support each other – we both have separate sponsors and support networks and that works well for us.

If I had any advice for someone contemplating recovery, it would be to go for it.

If you want a change in your life, seek help – people do care and others can help you.

Don’t Give up on Yourself, it’s Never Too Late to Recover

Helen fell into the grip of active addiction as a child and continued her struggle for the next thirty years. Realising that she didn’t want her addiction to kill her was the first step towards a new life.

Helen is the Hader Clinic Queensland’s art therapist who shares her talents and her personal addiction experience helping others in their recovery from addiction. 

This is her rollercoaster journey.

Hi, I’m Helen, and I suffer from the disease of addiction. I’ve been clean since September 22, 2012.

Through sharing my story, I hope that my experience can give others who are suffering from the pain of addiction, strength and hope that they can make a change for the better.

As a child, I have few memories of actually feeling happy. I must have had moments of joy, but my dominant memory is of feeling isolated. 

My mum tragically died when I was just three years old, which left my two brothers and me to be raised by her ex-husband, who was not my dad.

I grew up grieving and confused, and feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt like I had no connections. I had no idea why I felt so alone. 

As I grew up, my Nana tried to reach me, however either she didn’t know how to help me or by then I didn’t want to be helped.

I discovered alcohol at eleven years old and became instantly obsessed with it.

It had the effect of sending me from being withdrawn and sullen into rebellious and angry behaviours, which, at the time, I openly enjoyed.

By the time I was thirteen, my life was spiralling rapidly out of control.

My step parents and grandparents struggled to discipline me. I was already too far gone. I was wagging school, lying, fighting and drinking with every waking breath I could. 

I barely passed high school, but I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was drink and party. I was able to get away with this for several years. 

Then, I fell pregnant at seventeen.

Naturally, I was completely unprepared for motherhood. 

My addiction was so cunning that the birth of my beautiful son was not enough to curb my drinking.

By this stage, I was also using illicit drugs.

When my son was three, I surrendered him to his father, admitting that I was utterly incompetent to parent him.

To this day, my heart aches with regret.

However, at this time I just wanted to get back to serious party mode. The more I used, the more terrible my life choices became. The men I chose were all emotionally damaged, just like I was.

I couldn’t handle money, I couldn’t keep a job, my life was was completely without purpose and I was just twenty one.

For the next twenty three years my whole life revolved around alcohol and drugs. 

Every relationship I started involved alcohol and drugs. It was a crazy, crazy ride.

Domestic violence, arrests, driving under the influence, blackouts, “geographicals” (location changes) – you name it, I did it all.

Drugs and alcohol turned me into a person that was dishonest, unreliable, volatile and cunning.

I manipulated and stole my way through life thinking that it was my right. 

I moved from one relationship to the next, from one town to the next leaving a trail of destruction and disappointment behind me.

My talent as an artist was the only valuable contribution I made to society, however, I would use that talent to get way with unacceptable behaviour. 

I believed my art was the only thing about me worth anything, eventually I lost that as well.

I believe that, at times people tried to love me, maybe they even did love me, but I only loved whatever I could take to could get me out of it. I loved the feeling of being high and smashed.

I was utterly broken. I was completely lost. I was slowly killing myself and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

My brother loved me anyway, even as he watched me dying, inside and out. I’m not sure how he did that, and why he didn’t walk away. 

Finally, I reached a point where I wanted to change my life.

I began to slowly realise that I didn’t want to die. I also knew that I couldn’t keep living the way that I was.

You see, I made so many attempts to stop and failed every… single… time. 

Failed miserably, failed magnificently.

It seemed that psychiatrists, doctors, police, judges, family and my parents couldn’t help me.

I wouldn’t listen, I couldn’t hear them through the cravings. I believed I needed the drugs to deal with how I felt. 

Being straight was unbearable but active addiction was a living hell.

Picture this: I had nothing left, no friends, no relationship, no family, just that one unshakeable brother who never gave up on me.

I was 41kg, skin and bone, I smelt bad and was extremely ill. My kidneys ached, I drank and drove every day and I rarely ate. 

I was beginning to understand that I was living on borrowed time. I had to change but I didn’t know how.

I had tried getting help before so I didn’t see how AA or NA would be any different. Out of desperation I attended anyway. 

I remember being two days sober at my first AA meeting only because I was too ill to drink.

I don’t remember anything that was said at that meeting but I remember leaving with the tiniest whisper of hope. I went to another meeting the next day, and another the day after that. 

Suddenly I found myself 5 days sober for the first time I could remember in over 25 years.

Then I stretched it out to ten, then thirty days. I was amazed. 

I was frail, fragile, emotionally immature and I felt like an alien on a new planet. I had escaped death, now I needed to learn how to live again.

I did exactly what my sponsor said, I worked my way through the steps and I went to meetings. I worked at helping others and I made amends where I could. 

I spent every day in AA so that I could live.

I learnt who I was, I learnt to forgive and I learnt to really love.

Through my association with the fellowship, I was becoming a person that I could actually like.

Slowly I began to regain my self esteem and respect. It was the beginning of my new life.

Finally, I found connection.

I connected with people in the fellowship who knew what I had been through, I connected with my sponsor who gave me unconditional love, and I connected with a power greater than myself.

Today, I am almost seven years free from alcohol and drugs.

Tears of gratitude fall down my face as I write this – yes, tears of gratitude and joy.

My brother is proud of me.

My son is back in my life and thinks that I’m a good person, this is a miracle! 

I have healthy relationships today with good people. 

I’m fit and strong and a part of my amazing community. I care for myself, and I care for others. 

I can face adversity without the need for alcohol and drugs.

I have art back in my life and today I have the privilege and joy of using it to help others like me. 

Without the program of AA and the community within both the AA and NA programs I have absolutely no doubt I would not be here at all.

My life in recovery is a gift and so is yours.

Don’t give up on yourself, it’s never too late to recover.

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