April 2020 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Joe’s Addiction Recovery

After multiple attempts at rehab, Joe’s addiction led him to the Hader Clinic Queensland where he has been “given his life back”. This is his addiction recovery story.

My name’s Joe.

My journey started in Hungary, where I was born in the ’70s. My biological father was a chronic gambler and alcoholic and life was tough from the get go. Needless to say my parents’ marriage didn’t last long. My parents divorced when I was two years old and my mother had to raise me on her own.

When I was eleven, we experienced the Chernobyl nuclear explosion. Being a neighbouring country to the Soviet Union, we were also affected. It was a scary time, with many of us uncertain as to whether we’d live or die from the effects of the disaster. Many people around us died and I recall having to drink this medication that negated the effects of radioactivity daily for a long time. I believe that it’s reopened this year as a tourist attraction.

I was a normal kid who loved playing sports like water polo. When I was nine or ten, my mother met my stepfather and it was decided that we’d move to Germany, then make our way to Australia.

When my biological father discovered that we weren’t returning to Hungary, he was livid.

In a drunken rage, he decided to send his associates after me to kidnap me and take me back with him. That was a pretty hectic time – every time I’d go to school I’d be on high alert for slowing cars, sprinting and running for my life if I was suspicious it was them.

Luckily we were all able to move to Australia despite the dramas and we settled in Victoria. I went to three different high schools and that’s where I got introduced to drugs. At school I was bullied a bit for being “a wog” and ended up in a fight more days than not.

The second school involved meeting a so called group of friends that were into shoplifting and smoking bongs. Tried my first at 15, on the school grounds of course.We moved around a lot, which was stressful, because every new school I went to meant I had to make a new set of friends.

The boys and I would skateboard, smoke bongs, ciggies, steal stuff and plaster whatever we could find with graffiti. It was around this time that alcohol was introduced into my world.

We were all drinking – back then we didn’t have to consume much to get tipsy and stoned. We thought we were the coolest and toughest boys around.

I couldn’t wait to turn eighteen, start driving and buy alcohol legally. I was also hanging out to go clubbing, be an adult and do what adult people do.

In 2000, my parents decided to move to Brisbane, but I refused to go. I was happy hanging out with all of my mates in Victoria.

Life carried on. I got involved in ice hockey, even playing for a good team for a while. Unfortunately, I developed Baker’s cysts behind my knees which started restricting my movements. Even though they can be drained, the cysts are annoying and painful and eventually ended my ice hockey days as a player.

When I was playing, a mate and I decided to go to an Irish pub for an evening out. I remember getting pretty smashed, and in my drunken state, I managed to meet my future wife.

How did I know that she was “different” from all the other girls? She was last to leave the pub.

I started spending more and more time in Melbourne with her. I loved the lifestyle and at that time I was working as a plasterer for a family friend’s company. This would later set me up for the future, only I didn’t know this at the time.

In this role, I did not have to complete an apprenticeship, they taught me absolutely everything and after a year of work I was running my own crew.

My girlfriend and I were madly in love. I moved to Melbourne to be with her, selling my house and setting up down there. I started a new role with a boutique building company, but ended up returning to my old employer.

Our company started expanding and we got involved in commercial sites. I was managing and working on the sites simultaneously and people started to see me as one of the company’s leaders.

We got married and honeymooned in Hawaii, where we argued over trivial crap. We were both alcoholics that drank to assist us in coming down from the drugs we were starting to use.

I began to doubt the relationship, but somehow we stayed together. We even visited Hungary, but there was something that wasn’t quite right.

With lots of drugs and booze involved, our relationship began to become like a rollercoaster that I couldn’t wait to get off. Our addictions gave us that initial relationship spark, but they also caused us to drift apart.

So..at 33, I was divorced. But I was happy as I was with a new lady and ready for a new chapter.

She worked in finance and we lived together in Melbourne.

She wasn’t much of a drinker, but boy, did she love her drugs. In the addiction sense, I was back to square one with this chick, but at least I had a driver.

Things were great. I would drink and she would drive and we’d both be off our faces on drugs at the same time.

I was so happy with this life that I even proposed to her, thinking that this was the life I was looking for and that she was “the one”.

I was wary though. I didn’t want to lose another house so I made sure I paid for everything, while she saved her money. We split after seven years.

Shortly after that, I made my first suicide attempt by overdosing on drugs. My new girlfriend had been suspicious about my state of mind and came home early from work to check in on me. I was unconscious on the lounge room floor.

I don’t remember anything, except waking up in hospital with all my friends and family around me. Felt like I’d been wrapped up in foil, a bit like a kebab.

I was sent for my first stint in rehab. I completed my time being drunk during the process and my attitude towards my addictive behaviours got worse.

Partying hard was the name of the game. I was getting bored with drugs.. but alcohol? It just kept calling my name. I rationalised that drinking and being drunk 24/7 was a much safer option than hard drugs.

Fast forward another year and I was with a new partner who loved me dearly and would let me get away with my addictive behaviours. Of course, this wasn’t helping me. The support that was being given to me by both herself and her mother enabled my addiction to continue unfettered.

This meant as well as doing illicit drugs and drinking, I’d be into her prescription medication as well. This went on for 18 months. It wasn’t all bad as I was looking after both of them financially, servicing their cars and even paying for hospital treatments. I think they liked having a male around and therefore accepted me, addiction and all.

I tried another stint in rehab. After I left it was straight down to the bottle shop to see if “anything had changed”. Actually, if anything, I could now put away more alcohol than ever. I had completely lost my will to remain sober and it seemed that nothing was going to pull me out of the darkness that was beginning to consume me.

One day after work and an evening of drinking I decided to put myself on the edge of my first floor balcony, reach my arms behind my back and lean forward as far as I could, falling head first onto the driveway.

“Surely that will be a guaranteed way to end it?” I thought.

Imagine my surprise and horror when I woke up from a coma with a split skull, two protruding discs in my neck and collapsed lung.

I thought that, “maybe, something has to change”.

I sold my house, packed my belongings and moved to Brisbane to be closer to my Mum. I also studied and changed my career – and started working in the fitness and nutrition industry.

Picking up work in the industry seemed to come naturally for me – I worked in several gyms and running group fitness sessions was easy for me due to my prior experience managing up to forty crew on commercial sites. I wasn’t short of work, or business propositions.

I even got asked to be filmed training in front of a green screen at Channel Seven. This was the first time I had experienced having my hair and makeup done. It was a long day, shooting, doing various angles and takes of my training, but the camera and lighting crew were awesome. It was such a rush having all these people around you, talking and directing you while you were in the spotlight.

In the background, the relationship I had with my stepfather was growing very toxic. He was emotionally abusive, cunning and manipulative. Even drinking could not suppress the out of control feelings I was experiencing.

Just three days after my photo shoot I jumped out of the ninth floor of a hotel room balcony, thinking that, surely, this was a guaranteed way to go.

I’m not sure how it happened but for some reason, I survived. When I woke up from my coma, the hospital staff informed me that I had landed on the sixth floor. That had not been part of my plan.

Although it appeared on the outside that I was making a speedy recovery, I was angry and upset on the inside. I couldn’t believe that I’d made three suicide attempts and managed to fuck every one of them up. I decided that I’d try and get better and strong enough so that when I decided to try to kill myself again it would finally work.

To my surprise, the hospital offered me a job, which led to more studies and qualifications to be able to pursue a different career. I got a lot of joy out of helping people from all walks of life with various capabilities.

But I was still drinking to get me through the day. I had it timed perfectly. Be at the bottle shop for a 10am opening with all the other alcos (alcoholics) and buy three bottles of wine and a bottle of Vodka.

I’d have a bottle of wine when I got up and at the end of the day I’d have half the Vodka and more wine. To help me get to sleep I’d have the rest of the Vodka and yet again more wine. And when I’d wake up in the night shaking from withdrawal symptoms, I’d down more wine until it was time to rise, repeat and head back to the bottle shop.

One morning at home, I received a phone call from a nurse in Hungary, advising me of my biological father’s passing. I didn’t know how to process those feelings except by using more drugs and alcohol.

I lost all touch with reality.

My decision was simple. I had two choices – I was going to die from overuse of alcohol, prescription meds and illicit drugs – or I was going to jump in front of a train at Roma Street Station.

I vetoed the idea of the train – putting the poor train driver through such an act would have been the most selfish move ever.

Instead I asked my mother to take me to hospital, telling her that ‘I needed help, I was done living the way I had been. That I wanted to change things. ‘

And that’s how I ended up at the Hader Clinic Queensland.

With people that understood. The staff… the staff were amazing. Particularly Mark. He understood the train thing, telling me, “brother, that was me before I entered recovery”.

Everyone gave me hope and immediately I was accepted into the therapeutic community. From the outset, I’ve worked at my recovery every day and continue to do so by going to meetings, doing step work and staying connected with those who really care about me.

After ninety days of residential addiction recovery, I moved into the transition house. I’m in no rush to go back to work. I’m still learning to process my emotions which I’ve never done sober. It’s been challenging often feeling angry and learning to sit with that.

Finally, I’m looking forward to the future. I’m grateful to the Hader Clinic Queensland for giving me my life back.

Living with an Addict During COVID-19 Lockdown

Living with someone suffering from addiction can be challenging at the best of times but the current COVID-19 lockdown is likely to be compounding the difficulties you are experiencing.

It is important to realise that there is still help available to you and your loved one suffering from addiction and, if needed, you should not hesitate to seek it.

We have put together some useful information below including how to look after yourself and your loved one.

Be prepared

During lock down active addicts might:

  • Become agitated as their supply dwindles and going out to replenish it becomes more complicated
  • Experience social withdrawal as they are no longer able to see their usual circle of fellow users
  • Experience “cabin fever” as they are no longer able to maintain their usual routine
  • Use more frequently than usual to alleviate the boredom and ward of anxieties related to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Experience feelings of paranoia as conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 pandemic are rife all over social media

Recovering addicts might:

  • Experience stronger cravings than usual, as the added stress of lockdown gets to them
  • Become anxious about losing their support system as they are no longer able to attend support groups
  • Feel overwhelmed by the disruption of their hard-won routines – especially if they are no longer able to go out to work/have temporarily lost employment due to pandemic related closures

Dealing with an addict during lockdown

Here are some useful guidelines to keep yourself safe when dealing with an addict during lockdown:

Dos

  • Make sure you have emotional support – this can come from friends, family or professional support persons
  • Remember that you cannot control your loved one’s behaviour
  • Learn about addiction as an illness
  • Set healthy boundaries (i.e. stand firm on the restrictions of lockdown, now is not the time to have gatherings at your home, even if you might have previously preferred your loved one to use their substance of choice in the safety of your premises)
  • Listen to your loved one when they are willing to talk
  • Look after yourself – eat well, get sleep, exercise, leave the house for a breather
  • Find out about addiction treatment options in your area, so you will be ready when your loved one wants to start their recovery

Don’ts

  • Don’t try to shield your loved one from the consequences of their addiction (i.e. pay their rent, buy their groceries)
  • Don’t make excuses for your loved one when they neglect their responsibilities at work, school or home
  • Don’t search the house for alcohol, drugs and paraphernalia
  • Don’t berate, lecture or nag your loved one about their substance abuse
  • Stay away from ultimatums and emotional blackmail (i.e. If you loved me, you wouldn’t do this!)
  • Don’t let your loved one draw you into endless rounds of passing the blame or justifying their behaviour
  • Don’t get into arguments when your loved one is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Don’t take your loved one’s outbursts personally and do not take on the responsibility for their condition
  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you could solve your loved one’s substance abuse problems, if only you tried hard enough

Starting addiction treatment during lockdown

Being in lockdown your loved may be more willing to undertake a residential addiction treatment program. Not only would this be beneficial to your loved one, but it will remove any immediate issues that you are facing.

If your loved one enters into addiction treatment during lockdown, it will allow you to focus on your own needs for a while, without feeling as though you are neglecting your loved one.

Enabling

The temptation to enable your loved one’s addiction, just to keep the peace during an unprecedented situation like a lockdown, can be strong.

However, once you begin to learn about the cycle of addiction, you will realise that any crisis in an addict’s life has the potential to become a turning point.

By enabling your loved one’s addiction and protecting them from the consequences of their actions, you are doing them a disservice. Yes, watching your loved one suffer is heart-breaking; but you never know which disaster may be the catalyst for permanent change.

We recommend taking the time to learn more about enabling.

Online Support

Actively seeking out online support groups ( i.e. https://thefirststop.org.au/family-support-services/) for friends and family of addicts can feel a little odd at first; after all, you’re not the one struggling with substance abuse, so you may not think that you are in need – or even deserving – of help. It’s only normal to feel a little weird about taking such a big step, but you will be surprised how much it can improve your situation.

Let’s face it: Loving an addict is hard, especially if you live together.

It’s a constant emotional strain, it often goes hand in hand with financial struggles, and the unrelenting feeling of uncertainty is incredibly draining.

Families and friends of addicts commonly experience strong feelings of helplessness, inadequacy and anxiety; they can become depressed and socially isolated under normal circumstances – but in exceptional situations like this it is absolutely essential to take steps to ensure you don’t become completely disconnected from the outside world.

Support groups, if nothing else, will prove conclusively that you are not alone.

Thousands of families and couples are impacted by addiction to drugs and/or alcohol; and even though their struggles may not be identical to yours, there are enough similarities to create common ground for discussion and mutual support.

Simply being in an environment where you don’t need to feel ashamed in some way of your situation can provide incredible relief.

Being able to openly talk about the hurdles you face every day when trying to deal with an addict’s erratic outbursts, unreliability and emotional blackmail, is a very cathartic experience.

Every time you attend a support meeting or even just talk to a support worker on the phone, you will come away stronger, saner and better able to deal with the next curve ball that comes your way.

Stay connected

Another important thing to keep in mind is that your loved one’s addiction should not bring your own life to a stop.

This is of course easier said than done in a national lockdown situation, however, social distancing does not equal a total cessation of socialising.

Even though the Queensland government has asked us to observe self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing rules, you still can

  • Go for a walk with a friend
  • Visit a friend or family member at home/have them come to your house. Two visitors are allowed on any private premises, although keeping a safe distance while you are hanging out is encouraged
  • Go and exercise on your own to clear your mind. Going for a walk/run/bike ride is not a restricted activity.
  • Call and/or video call a friend. Just because you can’t hang out at your favourite coffeeshop anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t get a take away brew, make yourself comfortable at home and have a virtual date with a friend or family member.

Where To Get Further Help And Support

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Family Drug Support – National service supporting families affected by alcohol and drugs, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – 1300 368 186
  • CounsellingOnline – Free alcohol and drug counselling online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • ADIN – Australian Drug Information Network
  • Al-Anon Support for parents and children of alcoholics – 24-hour Help Line 1300 252 666

Domestic Violence in Lockdown

Stressful situations, like the current COVID-19 crisis, often see an increase in domestic violence and when living with an addict, you fall into a higher risk category to experience this. If your loved one is showing signs of becoming violent towards you or others in your home – or if you fear they might turn to violence – it is important to know where to turn.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Queensland government has approved substantial monetary support for Domestic Violence Support Services, so do not hesitate to contact any of the following services for help and advice:

NOTE: If your loved one is having a violent outburst and you and/or members of your household are in immediate danger, you must call 000. Queensland police takes domestic violence calls very seriously and will come to your assistance immediately.

Robyn’s Addiction Recovery Story

“That first drink was super intense, the excitement of it felt intoxicating. From that moment, I couldn’t put it down.”

I’m Robyn. I’ve just turned 24 and I’m Brisbane born and bred. I’ve spent the last twelve years working in hospitality. At the moment I’m studying to become a nurse.

My foray into active addiction started at fourteen or fifteen. There’s maybe a mental health component as when I was growing up my mother was diagnosed with Bipolar disease. She was a huge binge drinker and this was a big issue for me.

I thought that my mother’s experience would scare me off alcohol, but it wasn’t to be. That first drink was super intense, the excitement of it felt intoxicating. From that moment, I couldn’t put it down. After that, I would be trying to drink or do drugs with any chance I had.

In those teenage years there was also a lot of partying which included all of the party drugs that go with it.

I had a fairly strict upbringing. Being the eldest, I was the “test and trial” child and I felt a lot of pressure growing up. My Mum is now considered stable but she definitely had her moments along the way. She was misdiagnosed at first and ended up being on a cocktail of all the wrong drugs, which ended up in a lot of medication abuse.

At nineteen, I entered into a relationship with an abusive alcoholic. Within that relationship I was raped. This experience now gave me a valid reason to abuse drugs and alcohol. Plus, I liked it.

My alcohol abuse really took off. I added weed and party drugs in there for good measure. I abused this combination of substances for quite a while and then I was introduced to meth. This turned out to be a pretty hectic addiction, especially in the last year. I had dabbled in it previously, but nothing like this.

It would be fair to say that if it wasn’t meth, it was something else. There was always something in my system, whether it was prescription drugs or alcohol. Alcohol was always my “go to” though, it’s legal and cheap and it was accessible where ever I went.

I went to my first rehab in 2018 – because my mum gave me an ultimatum. She said, “you either go to rehab or I’m dropping you in the Valley right now”. I was even considering being homeless because I knew I would have been able to survive. Plus, I would have been able to do what I wanted for a really long time. I didn’t think my life amounted to much, there were times where I felt quite happy at the prospect of dying. I had no purpose in my life.

The rehab itself was residential and I was there for seven to eight weeks. It was a public facility, and the first week I went into transition, I relapsed. There were AA meetings, but I felt like I was just a body in the room going through the motions. There was no “12 Steps”.

I wasn’t ready mentally. I went to the rehab for my family, I wasn’t there for myself from the outset. Before rehab I was admitted into an involuntary psychiatric ward to detox as they knew that I was going to rehab.

When I was in there, I got sexually assaulted again and my family wouldn’t talk to me for a month.

I was as fragile as all hell. I knew going in there, that I would eventually have to start my “doing life” shit alone. I had felt like everybody had let me down. There was no “safety” in anybody. I didn’t have any friends that I could trust or rely upon.

After that first stint at rehabilitation I moved out of home. I realised that I could survive, even if I didn’t have a job because I was on the NewStart allowance. I realised that I was accountable to no one and that I could do as I pleased.

That year led to super heavy meth use, I was doing sex work, doing whatever by any means to survive, it was really crazy. I really don’t remember much of the past year.

I got kicked out of my apartment and decided to try and go back to public rehab because I knew I really needed help and I also knew how to use and drink in there and get away with it. It was so fucked up. At this point I really thought that I couldn’t be helped at all, doing all of this in a treatment centre whilst heavily using.

Got booted out of there eventually, and spent a couple of weeks at home.

I was at my lowest of lows. When you don’t think things can get any worse, it really does.

I tried to take my own life.

I cut my wrist with a steak knife and got sixteen stitches. I couldn’t care about the cut. All I cared about was the Fentanyl they were giving me. I was that sick.

My parents really reached out. Dad’s a shift worker for the government and he reached into his superannuation to get me into the Hader Clinic Queensland. And it’s saved my life, I really mean that.

I was really ready for rehab this time. If I hadn’t gone, there’d be a good chance that I’d be dead by now.

My parents never enabled me, ever. I always had to steal, which is probably the worst part. When I was about to go to rehab, they put me into complete lockdown. Even though we live out in the country, they wouldn’t even let me go for walks. They knew I’d simply catch an Uber into town to get a fix.

I was really contained, because as you probably know, if an addict wants something, it’s amazing the lengths they will go to in order to make it happen.

I tell myself that I can be that smart and that resourceful with my recovery these days.

I didn’t know what day I was going to be admitted to rehab, however it transpired that I was drinking the night before, probably 25-30 standard drinks, then I had some Seroquel in the morning so I could sleep it off during the day.

Then mum came home and told me to pack my bags, that I was going to Hader that day. My body was so blocked up and dehydrated I couldn’t even do a good UDS (urine drug screen) for a week and a half.

They had me on a drug reduction, but that didn’t do too much because I was a heavy benzo user as well. Otherwise, the rest of my body felt wonderful for withdrawing.

I was completely desperate. I was so happy to go to rehab.

It took me a bit to settle in which surprised me, given that I’ve been to two rehabs already.

However, on feeling more settled, I began to feel welcomed.

The biggest difference was that I was now part of a therapeutic community rather than just being another number at residential rehab.

Psych ed taught me the value of community and the fellowship in rehab taught me how to make connections with others, how to communicate and how we were going to be able to use these skills once back in the real world.

Finally, I in was also in an environment where I felt safe. It was so much safer than what I’d been exposed to previously. There was no drug use, no illicit substances. This helped me feel safe.

I learned tools to deal with challenges to my safety and stability which will happen, regardless, in the real world.

It was awesome not having a phone and the staff were completely and utterly supportive. I tried to get as much as I could out of the staff as they all have lived experience and are completely relatable. Mark, Robyn and Maria were particularly helpful to me. They were paramount to my recovery.

Even though the first couple of weeks were hazy, I feel like the switch was flipped when I went to my first meeting in Cooroy. Even though I’ve been in and out of meeting rooms, at this particular meeting I thought, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to do ninety meetings in ninety days”.

I started to look forward to doing a meeting every single day. From that first meeting I knew that “shit was changing.. right now”. I didn’t feel like “a body in the room” anymore. I wasn’t just “talking the talk”, I was now actively engaged and involved.

Since I have left rehab, I have moved back home with my parents. I am participating in the intensive outpatient program. I’m looking to extend that period out for another month. My priority is getting to a meeting, finding a home group and placing my recovery first.

My family are supporting me as well by attending Al Anon. They’re getting more understanding about addiction as a disease and discovering things about me that they just never knew. They have been very supportive.

Despite all the world uncertainty, one thing is for certain, my recovery comes first.

I cannot thank the Hader Clinic Queensland enough for saving my life.

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