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.