March 2020 - Hader Clinic Queensland

COVID-19 & Addiction Treatment

In recent weeks and days, the world has been thrown into health and economic turmoil with the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19.

With businesses closing down due to either Government restrictions or lack of trade, many individuals have subsequently lost their jobs and are in precarious financial positions. Additionally, strict border control measures, both internationally and interstate, have slowed the movement of people and trade.

Health and medical services are being mobilised to prepare for the onslaught of coronavirus cases in hospitals, including intensive care units in coming weeks and months.

Access Economics estimates that current annual turnover for illicit drugs in Australia sits at $7 billion dollars. Unlike the wider economy, we have limited knowledge on how it operates, but understand that it is not immune to the disruption being wreaked by the coronavirus.

For an individual suffering from the disease of addiction, the effects of world events are amplified as both health and economic stress are compounded. These effects also mean that specialised treatment for addiction in the current climate is of escalating importance.

Here’s why you should consider treatment for you or your loved one’s addiction issues immediately.

The Effect Of A Worldwide Illicit Drug Shortage Upon Addiction Sufferers

An effect of a shortage of any commodity drives up prices and in the drug trafficking, it is no different. For addiction sufferers, it means sourcing drugs is more difficult, prices are higher and some sufferers may turn to crime and acts of violence to procure illicit substances.

Additionally, an addiction sufferer is likely to indulge in riskier behaviours to get their ‘fix’, for example, using unknown dealers and substituting other substances where the dosage window is precarious. For example, heroin users will often switch to fentanyl, however, it is difficult to titrate the correct doses and overdoses and death frequently occur as a result.

Entering into rehabilitation will reduce these risks.

The Effect Of A Coronavirus Infection Upon Addiction Sufferers

Addiction is classified by the DSM-V as a mental health disorder, however physical side effects that affect a sufferer’s long term health are commonplace. For example, clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune related health effects such as susceptibility to infection, particularly pneumonia.

Compromised immunity or other health conditions place addiction sufferers in the high risk category of patients that may become infected with coronavirus, with the known impact of the virus being particularly severe upon this population. Again, entering into rehabilitation with the goal of restoring physical and mental health substantially reduces risk.

The Effect Of Economic Impact Of Coronavirus On Addiction Sufferers

Many people are losing their jobs and other sources of income as affected businesses shut their doors due to impact of necessary measures such as social distancing and personal hygiene measures. This can put enormous strain on sufferers of addiction and their families. However, in active addiction, the substance of abuse is prioritised over the needs of the family. This has a knock on effect of creating severe family disadvantage – whereas if an addiction sufferer is in treatment, this is lessened.

The Effect Of An Overworked Hospital System Upon Addiction Sufferers

With an increased demand for hospital and medical services as a result of the spread of COVID-19, other medical emergencies, such as a drug overdose may not be able to be given their usual priority. This could prove deadly for an addiction sufferer. Attending rehabilitation or placing a loved one into rehabilitation reduces such risk.

Rehabilitation Insulates Sufferers From Stress And Teaches Appropriate Coping Mechanisms

Residential rehabilitation programs place the addiction sufferer in a safe environment where they can restore their physical and mental health. Rehabilitation teaches sufferers alternative behaviours that allow them to cope with crises and look after themselves and their families.

Rehabilitation also gives the sufferer the ability to source employment after treatment.

For families, knowing that your loved one is safe from the potentially deadly effects of this global pandemic and knowing that they’re learning tools to manage their recovery and life, can be a great source of comfort.

The Hader Clinic Queensland have put in place strict health and management procedures to ensure that client and staff safety is of the highest priority.

References: 

“Alcohol and the Immune System”. Sarkar, D. et al. “Alcohol Research Reviews”. 2015

“Modernizing Australia’s Illicit Drug Policy”. Wodak, A. Submission to House of Representatives Australia, from Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation.

25 Years of Recovery

Wendy, a Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential addiction treatment program support worker has been 25 years in recovery. She shares her story.

Hi, let me start by saying my addiction recovery journey hasn’t been straightforward and I have relapsed on my way. I want you to know that relapse does not mean failure, rather, that it’s just another important step in the journey and that there’s always hope.

I have been working in the field of mental health and addiction for several years and also have ‘lived experience’ with addiction as well.

My story has been one of getting years of “clean time” up and then I’ll relapse. It’s a matter of getting back up and going again. My last relapse occurred after a knee surgery where opioids were prescribed for pain relief… then alcohol became involved… and next minute… relapse.

It’s just that underlying nature of addiction, that tendency I have towards it. Even though opioids were never my primary drug of addiction, taking an addictive drug as a pain killer was never going to work for me, it precipitated me going back into relapse.

I reckon I would have become addicted from the very first tablet I took.

It’s about learning as you go.

I should have disclosed prior to my surgery that I had a history of addiction and that I shouldn’t take opioid medication, however, my sneaky addict brain convinced me, “nah, you’ll be fine, you’ve had an operation”.

I don’t know what I told myself about the alcohol I used with it. That’s how quickly it snowballed.

I was managing four mental health programs at the time, yet addiction still hit me. The trouble was that I was able to maintain a good front professionally, and given my role, I found it very hard to ask for help. I’ve gotten out of control again.

You need to learn your safeguards and how to put them into place, share the warning signs and have a “safety plan’ in place.

Addiction doesn’t discriminate even towards professionals.

I believe there’s a strong genetic component underlying my addictive tendencies.

Once you know this, then learning to manage it, never letting your guard down and being vigilant is the key. You don’t have to relapse on something going wrong, you can also relapse on everything going perfectly right.

I’ve been in and out of recovery for the past 25 years, within the NA fellowship. I did my timeline with my sponsor when I did the Twelve Step program.

I can see where it all started.

I was eleven and I had some friends over. When my parents went out, we all got into the liquor cabinet. We all got intoxicated and very sick. When I came to, I thought, “I have to do that again” whereas all of my friends were completely turned off the idea of drinking as a result.

By 13 or 14 I was smoking weed, sniffing glue, doing anything I could do to ‘just escape’.

I had also been diagnosed with adolescent depression, so using was definitely an escape. However, it really started affecting my mental health. I felt like I could never get on top of it because I kept putting more (drugs) in.

This pattern followed me through high school and my early employment.

At 21, I got work with the airlines and worked with them for nearly fifteen years. I was an international flight attendant so that lifestyle pretty much propped up my addictions.

I identified as a poly-user – I would use anything and everything, just as long as I could feel that high, so I never had any specific drug of choice.

Throughout my addiction, I got repeated arrests for drug possession.

I also got some very heavy charges due to being in psychosis – I even assaulted a police officer.

I was deported from America.

I got married, thinking “that will save me”.

I had a child, thinking, “that will save me”.

I ended up stepping down from the airlines and with too much time on my hands and an unlimited bank account… well, it was a recipe for disaster.

I was fortunate that my ex-husband was clean and sober and could look after our son.

We would do drugs socially on occasion, but I was an everyday user, whether it be alcohol, GHB, cocaine, you name it.

I was incapable of parenting my son.

My ex-husband looked after my son exclusively from the age of two until he was nine, when I got clean for the first time. I can’t really remember anything during this time, birthdays, milestones or special occasions.

My ex-husband and I separated and then when I got my final arrest, and deportation back to Australia, he took full custody of my son.

I had Department of Children’s Services (DOCS) involved.

My son wasn’t allowed to be in my care unless I could produce hair follicles, urine and blood tests proving that I was clean. This went on for about three years.

My son is now 19 and my addiction has impacted him.

He’s been in therapy for a couple of years now. He finds it very hard to attach to people.

That important phase of me nurturing him, I just wasn’t there for it. I’d always push him away because I was high.

We’ve come full circle though, we’ve both been in therapy and he understands that addiction is a disease.

He’s doing well and he encourages me to stay in recovery.

He’s had a few issues with dabbling in marijuana use.

It all came to a head twelve months ago, when he attempted to take his own life.

He’s much better now, however, he has definitely inherited the family tendency towards addiction and depression.

With poly-use I do believe there are underlying genetic factors and your environment pulls the trigger.

As a little boy, my son would come in to check that I was still breathing. There’s been a lot of trauma there, which will take a lot of work to heal.

When I came into recovery two years ago, I had to start educating him because he was a lot older.

We really had to look honestly at the whole situation – how it had affected both of us and what we had to do to work through things.

My last relapse lasted eighteen months.

As I said, I was working in the industry and I held so much shame and remorse around my situation.

Relapse had come through a side door and I didn’t know how to ask for help.

It finally came to a head, with one of my best friends (who is a detox nurse at another rehab) recognising that something was amiss.

She came to me and said, “I can see what’s going on and we need to get you help”.

It was a relief, to be honest. I felt really cornered.

A message I want to give to people is that we addicts get very good at manipulation and putting up all these masks to cover up.

Since I’ve been working at Hader Clinic Queensland, I’ve seen more and more professionals struggling with addiction.

I just gave a talk to some of them about the cycle of addiction and it’s been good for them to hear each other speak and agree that we get very good at putting up these masks.

We still work, we still keep up this front, but sooner or later it all comes crashing down.

The myth of being a “functioning addict” is alive and well.

The reality of it was that when most people met me for the first time, I was high on drugs and turns out they didn’t really know me at all.

To them, my behaviours were the norm, so I could carry my disease and nobody would be the wiser.

You do need to be honest with yourself and with others and identify what’s going on.

What we think is manageable in the height of addiction… once you get clean, you begin to see that it was very un-manageable. We think we’re managing because we’re not as bad as others.

Drugs have cost me self-respect and my spirituality.

For a good portion of my life I’ve been a walking shell of a person.

It cost me my marriage, my son’s health and well-being, and of course there are the legal ramifications. I’ve spent many admissions to mental health units in psychosis and each time I’ve relapsed the psychosis has come back faster, and worse than ever before.

Clean, I’m the calmest and most loving person you could met. But once I put that substance in my body, I become aggressive, can’t stand to feel cornered and I act out that way.

Someone I don’t even recognise.

The best thing about the Hader Clinic Queensland’s addiction treatment program is the holistic approach that is taken to recovery.

While I live a really strong 12 step program and am getting better at working it all the time, The Hader Clinic Queensland also offers additional clinical support.

Some people believe that all you need is the 12 Step program to become well again, and for many of us, that is not realistic. And this is where having access to the clinical team, the psychologist and the psychiatrist are so important.

The therapeutic community aspect is fantastic.

I love that our clients share their stories and come and “give back”. We have a mixture of both lived and non lived experience on the team and both sides are equally valuable. Everyone brings something to the table.

I do love working with our Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) clients.

They go through so much serving our country, and it’s wonderful to see that they have access to such a fantastic program here. I love doing the Psych Ed work here too – in terms of treatment, The Hader Clinic Queensland has its finger on the pulse with up to date methodologies and treatment models.

Knowledge is important for us in recovery. The education aspect is intense but it’s worth it.

Sometimes relapse is part of the story. But each time it happens and you go to rehab, you’re continuing to be educated. It’s OK. It’s a good way of saying, “what happened, and what can I do differently?”

It’s great that The Hader Clinic Queensland has seven and thirty day “option outs” in their program as it means that if somebody relapses, they can come back and start again. Because relapse is a part of many people’s cycles.

We encourage our clients to get involved with, and really take ownership of our therapeutic community.

When they do, I can see their self-esteem begin to skyrocket, especially when they get their first buddy and they have to show them through the program.

It’s those little things that so many people take for granted. When your self-esteem and confidence is that low, they are the things that start to breed a little bit of hope.

I envy those who come into treatment and remain clean from the start, but statistics show that this often isn’t the case, so the experience, strength and hope in that message if you relapse is, “get up, shake off and go again, because you will get stronger each time”.

For me, as part of working my 12 Step program, it’s important for me to share this experience, strength and hope.

It doesn’t have to be fluffy, i.e. you’re going to live a life beyond your wildest dreams. I like to keep it real. The residents say after a few weeks, “Wendy, we know …vigilance, vigilance, vigilance!”

That’s my message.

If relapse happens to you, this is what you have to remember.

Relapse isn’t failure in the long term. If anything, it’s just experience.

The sad part is, when we do relapse, there’s a percentage of us that don’t make it back to chalk it up and try again. So recovery is a gift.

All we can do is move on and learn from it and remember, there’s often no trigger for a relapse.

In my case, I let my guard down, I became disengaged and stopped working the program – and before I knew it, the addictive behaviours came sneaking back.

Within our fellowship, we call it an ‘action’ program.

I can watch people come in and work the program like steel, yet the rest of their life is chaotic.

Our program is about putting the 12 Step principles into all aspects of our life, rather than just the meeting room. It all comes down to moral conduct, holding yourself accountable and taking action.

We addicts are all good talkers. That’s what we do best. The excuses we make to get our hands on a drug!

We had a discussion about it in group education recently – once clients realised the level they sunk to in order to procure drugs they don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

It’s all about taking action which really counts.

With knowledge, we have the power to do something about it.

I’m glad that I can make that difference at The Hader Clinic Queensland.

The Challenges and Rewards of Working at an Addiction Treatment Rehab

Jay, the Program Manager at the Hader Clinic Queensland, shares a personal insight into the challenges and rewards of working with clients who undertake the residential addiction treatment program.

The Hader Clinic Queensland’s “whole person” approach changes lives for the better and while my role is often challenging, it is highly rewarding.

Seeing clients change is what gets me out of bed every single day. It can be very demanding, but when you see the positive shifts that happen in peoples’ lives, it makes it one hundred percent worth it.

It doesn’t really take much, especially in a supportive environment. To see that positive change in people, really makes it worthwhile and makes the hard days easier to deal with.

A particular challenge is when a client leaves rehab before they give the program time to start working.

Their addiction, their alcoholism, their disease is so powerful, it’s talked them out of the door before they’ve even tried to give the program an opportunity.

You just know that they’re heading back to a poor-quality life. That’s the hardest part – seeing them leave before those positive shifts happen.

Many of our clients describe their behaviour when first admitted into rehab as “intolerable”, “impossible” and “wayward” – and they came into rehab kicking and screaming and fighting the program.

For me, I don’t find this aspect of rehab hard at all.

Let’s face it, we are dealing with people who are really broken, whose perspective of life is really skewed, and this just comes with the territory.

That’s addiction. It’s never a surprise. It’s the norm if anything.

Because we’ve got such a great multidisciplinary team, we have staff with lived experience right through to the psychologist and psychiatrist, and we can always find that language that we can communicate with a person.

We can give them an understanding of why they’re doing what they’re doing, why they’re thinking the way they are thinking and how we can get them over the line and engaged in their next phase of recovery.

That “early recovery madness” is really normal, it’s part of the whole recovery process.

It’s all about being compassionate and understanding, and helping them understand why they are the way they are. Every behaviour serves a purpose.

We look past that behaviour and we really begin to focus on what that person really, really wants.

That’s the other rewarding part of my job, where you see people come closer to what they actually value in life, once they’ve gone through that initial phase of detoxing and beginning to engage with the addiction treatment program.

They are usually completely different people to the way they present on admission.

That’s what we see with 99% of our clients.

They come in presenting one way – they’ve had to do this to survive their addiction, whether it’s denial, fear, resentment, isolation, blame, whatever…. When you remove all of that over time, you begin to see who that person really is.

And more importantly, they begin to see it too.

They often tell me, “I haven’t felt like this in twenty years! I’ve forgotten who I am. And now all these years later, I have to get to know myself”.

Often an addiction sufferer simply hasn’t had that space to allow change to happen, plus they haven’t had a group of professionals around them to give them that guidance, to provide insight to help them come to those conclusions themselves.

When they’re out there on the street addicted to the drama of it all their drug dealer isn’t pulling them aside and saying, “hey you, let’s work on those core values of yours”.

The changes that an addiction sufferer can make in three, six and twelve months is profound.

You see people at three months, six months, twelve months, two years, ten years and they’re forever evolving and growing, changing. It’s a continuous journey of recovery.

Definitely what they’ve thought to be true in the first ninety days of their program is completely different eighteen months down the track. They’ve grown up.

They gain more insight, try new things and challenge themselves. They become more connected with what they really value. Their whole world changes because their perspective on everything starts to change.

Basically, they grow into different people.

What they thought they liked a year ago changes. They find new hobbies, new partners, new careers, all that sort of stuff. And it’s all as a result of them learning to make better decisions for themselves, which involves the removal of all drugs and alcohol from their life.

We’re very focused on long term connection and support.

Everyone who’s in the Transition Program participates in a “give back” program where they return to the retreat and communicate with the newer residents in the program, giving them support and feedback through their journey.

It offers the opportunity to open up, get vulnerable and just connect with each other, because when they come back to visit after finishing their ninety days, they really have established a connection and bond with those who have just started because they can share and understand what it’s like to be in their position because they’ve lived it.

They can encourage those who are struggling with tips on how to get through the early phase, to give them hope that if they can just hang on long enough, they will be successful., for example, sharing “this is what I learned to get me through this phase..hang in there, things will get better.”

There’s a ton of reassurance.

What this also does for those who participate in the “Give Back” program is an opportunity to be of service to other people. One of the principles we really try and teach our clients is “get out of yourself, and think of, and support others who are doing it tough as well”.

We often get people returning on a regular basis to our Sunday NA meeting which is held on site. They’ll come and share their milestones when they get twelve months clean, eighteen months clean, multiple years clean etc.

They share a message of hope. These clients came into treatment broken with no sense of direction and their lives are now completely different.

We encourage everyone to stay connected. It’s all too common to see someone toward the addiction being so completely isolated and disconnected from not only themselves, but those around them.

There’s a saying we have;”the opposite of addiction is connection”. Connection goes a long way.

One of the biggest factors I believe in for successful recovery is having support. Once you remove that support, it’s hard to go it alone.

In rehab you have that support 24/7. Once you leave it’s important to maintain that support through fellowship and the like.

One of the other great components of our program comes from our family coordinator.

We support the family through their loved one’s recovery. It gives them the opportunity to learn some skills in how to support their loved one, but also how to put good boundaries in place. Plus, how to recognise warning signs.

As a result, both parties get a much better understanding of each other. They’re able to start to have a more productive relationship, just by changing the dynamics. There’s often a shift within families that happens as well.

That is a fundamental part of our program.

Not many treatment centres offer that – they focus on the individual and forget that they’re part of a bigger ecosystem. However, we see it as an essential part of the bigger picture. It’s definitely an advantage.

Overall, I think we try and break down each individual component of the program.

We try and work on many different levels with our clients. For example, if someone is doing “check-in”, it’s not only them being able to check in and identify their feelings, it gives some of them who may be suffering from anxiety, for example, a platform to manage those feelings and to learn to voice their feelings rather than retreat to a place of avoidance and non-communication.

Over ninety days, it becomes much easier for them.

What that translates into when they’re back in the community is an ability to communicate their needs better, rather than falling away and feeling like they haven’t got a voice to be heard.

You don’t go to rehab, undergo the program and get kicked out. Everything that’s done in the program is transferable to real life, no matter who our clients are, where they come from and what they do for a living, or whatever their financial or social status is – that doesn’t come into it.

All the skills taught in treatment positively affect all aspects of life.

That’s one of the most beautiful things.

Initially they come into rehab and really lack emotional intelligence. Over time you start to see them develop emotionally, where they can interpret not only their reactions to situations that come up but that of others as well.

It builds connection.

I can’t see any scenario whether it be family, employment or sporting club where this isn’t of benefit. They get lots of teaching, support and development of these skills to understand themselves and others.

It’s a most rewarding job, and please remember, there is always hope!

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