July 2020 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Mac’s Addiction – His Mother’s Story

Discovering that her son was an alcoholic came a complete shock to Mac’s mother, who had no knowledge of his excessive drinking.

Hi, I’m Mac’s mum, and this is my story about my son’s alcohol addiction.

Mac had a good childhood.

His father was a police officer and we were happily married for forty-two years.

We had a stable home, and a loving family environment, so sometimes it’s puzzling how this illness of addiction happened to Mac.

I first became aware that Mac was drinking when he went into the army.

However, because he wasn’t at home, we weren’t witness to any alcoholic behaviours.

Because he travelled so much for work, we really only saw him periodically, even staying with him at his home.

During these times we weren’t really privy to any odd behaviour – Mac always seemed like he was OK.

I remember visiting four or five years ago, I’m not certain of the exact timeline and he was living with a girl, she had a drinking problem.

The family situation there was a bit volatile – he didn’t have children and she did.

There were often times where he said that for various reasons that he didn’t want to go home.

Was that when he started drinking more? I really don’t know, can’t answer that question.

When I stayed with him for a few days during that time, he was working.

He’d get up in the morning and head to work and come home as normal people do in the evenings. I’d see him consume three or four beers, nothing I considered unusual.

Three years ago, I recall him being with a partner who was drinking heavily and started becoming aware over the last twelve months that things weren’t “quite right” with Mac. He would say things to me like, “I can’t take it anymore! But don’t worry, I won’t do anything silly!”

This did ring a few alarm bells, but not wanting to be interfering and controlling, I just let it go.

I wanted Mac to feel he called always talk to me.

Towards the end of last year, I was aware that he’d gone to court and lost his driver’s license.

It was at that point my awareness grew into a knowing that something was very wrong.

Shortly after, he told me that he was going to rehab and I helped him with his “life admin”, looking after things while he was in rehab like his phone bill and car registration etc.

Since joining the Hader Clinic Queensland addiction treatment program Mac has opened up and told me a lot of other stories about his drinking habits – which go back way further than this.

When he tells me some of the things that happened to him with his drinking in the past, I realise that he was lying to me back then – but I always believed him (he was always a very honest kid).

Last year he’d say that he’d “had one beer” and I thought nothing of it. I didn’t realise that “one beer” was actually “one carton”.

Not knowing a great deal about addiction, I didn’t know that people lied to cover up their addiction, that when he said after losing a job, that he “couldn’t come home”, that he was ashamed and didn’t want me to see him like that.

The way Mac speaks to me now indicates to me that he has no intention of going back to his previous life.

I keep reminding him and encouraging him that he’s been given this wonderful opportunity to turn his life around by the RSL and the Hader Clinic Queensland. I think he was in a pretty bad way before he was admitted.

I know that Mac wants to help others who are in a similar situation to what he was.

No more truck driving.

I’m really happy to see that he has some opportunities with the RSL.

But most of all, I’m happy and very thankful that he’s in recovery – Thanks to Hader Clinic Queensland- and that each clean day is a win.

Mac’s Alcohol Addiction Recovery

32 years in active alcohol addiction. 250 days clean. Mac has finally found his freedom.

My name’s Mac and I’m an alcoholic. I spent thirty-two years in active addiction and in December 2019, I entered rehab for addiction treatment and gained my freedom. This is my story.

I probably had my first drink at the age of 16. Both of my parents drank alcohol, but never to excess and there was always alcohol in the house. After that first drink I wasn’t tempted to continue, it just didn’t seem like an issue.

It wasn’t until I joined the army at 18 that my alcohol use escalated.

At that time, it was an inherent part of Defence Force culture – you had to drink in order to fit in and be socially accepted.

It was part of the indoctrination and training as such. For example, when officers of a higher rank visited the base for meetings etc, alcohol was always served.

Drinking was not just about mateship, but reward – if we did a good job as a platoon, we would be rewarded with alcohol.

I did my initial three year service and then decided to leave the army to work and travel around Australia.

There’s not many parts of Australia that I haven’t been to – I’ve worked in every State and Territory.

In the rural areas, life revolved around pub culture. Before I joined the army, I worked in a pub in Tasmania where I developed a taste for beer.

I worked in the transport industry working in wide load, heavy haulage truck driving. It was a lifestyle where you only worked during the day, and you had all afternoon or evening to drink. There wasn’t really anything to stop me from drinking.

Eventually, I got married and lived up near Mt Isa.

We did a travelling holiday and worked there.

My wife was a nurse, and didn’t enjoy living in Mt Isa. She didn’t enjoy me drinking.

We moved back to Brisbane, where our marriage deteriorated and we mutually agreed to go our separate ways.

However, she had her own demons to deal with. My wife who was much younger than me, was also an alcoholic, who drank heavily, and lost her own mother to suicide as a result of alcoholism.

I remember that she felt traumatised by her childhood.

Despite the separation being mutually agreed upon, the split had me falling into a deeper hole.

I lost my license for the first time.

I continued to live in Brisbane – and spent the next ten years working in the transport industry. Eventually I lost my driver’s license four times due to drinking. I was lucky that my employer kept me on.

The last (and final) time I lost my license was in September 2019.

I was asleep in my parked car, got breathalysed and lost my license for not being in proper control of my vehicle. That led me to making the admission that I had a problem with alcohol, that my life had become unmanageable, and that I needed to do something about it.

I never drank at work, or during work hours. However, as soon as those hours finished, I would start drinking. My work hours were all over the place though.

As soon as I went back to doing interstate transport, this would mean that I could be drinking at any time of the day.

I could do a Brisbane to Melbourne and get in at 2 in the morning. If I knew that I had a ten to twelve hour break, I would start drinking before the truck’s engine had even begun to cool down, it was that bad.

I was indulging in this behaviour seven days a week. Every day was a day to drink. There was never an alcohol free day, let alone stringing a week of clean days together until I came to Hader Clinic Queensland.

I looked at Hader Clinic Queensland about four years ago.

However, when I realised that the DVA and Hader Clinic Queensland were aligned, I approached my local RSL, and they pointed me in the right direction.

They were very welcoming and keen to help me with my addiction. T

hey pointed me towards The Hader Clinic Queensland and on the 12th December, 2019, I walked down the stairs into rehab.

Until I admitted I had a problem, rehab would never have worked.

Even my local RSL branch knew that I had a drinking problem and had tried to intervene, but I wasn’t ready. RSL Queensland’s support and guidance led me down the path to rehab and I couldn’t be more grateful.

We tried self-help and the Open Arms program (who were fabulous), but it soon became evident that I required extra support and when they asked me if I would be prepared to go to rehab, I jumped at the opportunity.

The first week was a bit rough as I had to detox.

Thank God for Hayden and the team at Hader Clinic Queensland.

I had no idea what rehab was about.

I thought that I would go in there for ninety days, come out, and be able to drink like a ‘normal person’.

All I thought at the time was that “I drank too much”.

Now that I’ve completed the program, been in the transition house, and am in the Fellowship plus working on the “12 Steps”, that I have realised alcoholism is a disease and that I’m never going to be able to drink again.

I never understood why I couldn’t stop or drink a cup of coffee instead.

There were only two things in my life – drink a cup of coffee at 2 or 3 in the morning prior to work and then spend the rest of the day drinking. No in between. Alcohol just controlled my life.

It really did feel like I was indoctrinated in the military.

I had a loving family, a good upbringing, no abuse.

There didn’t seem to be any family or genetic reason that would pre dispose me to becoming an alcoholic.

There was never any other abuse, sexual, substance abuse or otherwise. It feels like there aren’t too many people in the Defence Force that return to civilian life scot free.

I am appreciative of the help given by the DVA.

Life without alcohol is a good life.

I didn’t believe it initially.

When I walked through the doors at Hader Clinic Queensland, I was quite sceptical during the first thirty days. Plus, there were points where I was thinking, “ninety days? I don’t need this!”

However, it’s turned out the be the best experience, the best thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.

It’s hard to explain.

When you are truly recovering, ninety days doesn’t seem like enough.

There was never any time in my life where I could have two or three stubbies, it was more like twenty standard drinks before passing out or falling asleep – this cycle repeated over and over again for years.

I’ve never been in a position where I could legally drive home.

My future is looking bright. I am planning on a career change. No more transport.

I plan to get a position in service and I’m already lining things up with the Queensland RSL.

I’m hoping to help others with my own life experience. Extensive travelling gave me a good grounding. I want to give back to those who are suffering.

I predominantly thought alcohol was my problem. And that I drank alcohol as a means of medicating anxiety or depression. And that once I stopped drinking, my problems would dissipate.

Not so!

If anything, I’m learning that without alcohol, my anxiety got worse before it got better.

However, I’ve had such wonderful support. The staff at Hader Clinic Queensland have been amazing.

I’d love to see how people change as they continue their journey of clean living.

I’m continually learning about myself, and how I can support my spiritual growth -not to mention, being able to support others.

I cannot thank the Hader Clinic Queensland enough for helping me on the road to recovery!

Greg’s Addiction Recovery

Through rehab for his cocaine and ice addiction Greg finally found out who he was, finding a peace and calm in his life he didn’t know could exist.

Hello my name is Greg and I recently finished an addiction treatment program at the Hader Clinic Queensland.

I’m now 23 years old. I grew up in a great family. I had a great childhood. I went to a good school and never went without.

My parents were always willing to give me things and help me and for that, I’m very grateful. From an outsider’s point of view, it would seem like I had the perfect life. I’m very fortunate to have a family that is not only in a financial position to help me, but more importantly to me, willing to.

Although my childhood was excellent, I suffered from this innate, hard to describe feeling of “otherness” – a sense of “not belonging”.

I felt like I was on the outer all the time.

I remember being at a kid’s club a resort and sitting outside, feeling like I wasn’t part of anything.

Although it appeared that I some surface friends, I found that I never really gelled deeply with anyone, which felt lonely.

I never had a big group of friends, or a clique. Plus, I never felt adequate next to my sister, who is extroverted, good looking and popular.

All I felt was “not good enough”. I don’t think I really got over that until I got into recovery.

When I was thirteen, I realised that I was gay. I grappled with it for a while. I came out really early to my friends and while I felt like I was comfortable with it, I was heavily internalising a lot of shame about it. I hid my homosexuality from my family until I was 19 – looking back, I realise harboured insecurities about it.

In Year 11, I started drinking alcohol. From the get go, I really loved it. When I drank, it was never for the pleasure of tasting alcohol, it was for the effect. When I drank, all of that shame, all of that “not feeling good enough” just faded. I thought that I’d found my solution to killing that deep feeling of “otherness”.

Once I started using alcohol, I started lying to my family about it. The more I used it, the more dishonest I became. After school ended at 17, I started experimenting with party drugs – ecstasy, MDMA, marijuana… Again, the party drugs made me feel like I’d found my niche in life.

I thought this lifestyle was about being comfortable with myself. At this stage of my addiction, I really believed that this was the best way that I could be myself.

I equated being high and drunk as being at ease with myself. It was a huge thing for me in terms of socialising. Any event where I knew there was going to be alcohol and drugs, I’d be there. I felt that I identified with the lifestyle – it was something that I could link my personality to.

By the time I reached 19, my life was beginning to spin out of control. I was doing drugs every weekend, I was failing uni. I went and did my first detox in a private facility. I spent two months there and got clean and sober. I didn’t believe that drugs and alcohol were the problem, but rather depression and anxiety. Now, I realise that depression and anxiety were probably a side effect from all the drugs and alcohol that I was using.

Even though I got clean, I couldn’t bear the thought of not having alcohol or drugs in my life.

As soon as I got out, I started socially drinking again. Everyone thought that was sensible and that I was going to be fine. I think we all thought that I was out of the woods, so to speak.

At this stage, my social scene started to expand.

I was hanging out with several older gay men who introduced me to cocaine. That was another drug that I really identified with.

At that stage I was working in real estate, so I also tried to make cocaine part of my personality. I was the “coke head real estate agent” and at the time, I thought, “this is cool, this is what I want to be”.

So, I ran with it.

The reality was that there was an identity crisis unfolding in the background.

Then cocaine became a huge problem for me, especially combined with alcohol. There was always alcohol involved with my cocaine use.

I was really wrapped up in that scene. I started hanging out with people who were dealing drugs, with bikies. There was no limit on the supply of cocaine for me.

Things went downhill, and fast.

Over that six to twelve months, I was doing cocaine every weekend and the rest of my life was falling apart.

When I was twenty, I detoxed, stayed clean for two months and then busted really badly. It was terrible.

That precipitated what was to be my first suicide attempt.

Obviously, I wasn’t successful, my heart wasn’t really in it – I can see now that it was the drugs that were making me think that my life wasn’t worth living.

I was admitted to the RBH psych ward and then I had to go back into detox again for four weeks.

Each time I would come out of detox determined not to do drugs again. And within a month, I’d relapse. It was like a yo yo – back and forth, back and forth.

Detox again at 21 and at that point began wondering whether it would be a good idea to have a break from drugs “for a while”.

I decided to have a three month break and then work out whether I still wanted to use.

I didn’t have any real program or support around me at the time. There was nothing in this program to address my mental health.

I saw a psychologist weekly and a psychiatrist every two weeks. Diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I was put on a cocktail of medications to address it.

To deal with my addiction, you could say that we were taking the clinical approach.

It worked, for a little while, maybe three months.

As soon as the thoughts of clinical treatment disappeared from my mind, I started drinking again.

I was able to manageably drink on occasion but seven times out of ten, I would drink, not be able to stop, then move onto drugs. It was a rare occasion for me just to have one or two drinks and go to bed. It was more like, get drunk and then head out to score.

Just before my 21st birthday I went to London. It was a big party holiday, nonstop drinking, nonstop drugs. When I got to London, I ended up meeting a guy who offered me ice. I was so off my face on cocaine and alcohol, I didn’t have the judgment to say “no”.

When I came home, I didn’t touch it for eight months. I was drinking a lot though and still doing cocaine and party drugs.

Then I came across someone in my older circle of friends that was doing ice. I started doing ice regularly at 22 and that took over like an out of control bushfire.

If I thought cocaine addiction was bad, ice was ten times worse. It took over within a month.

My journey has been five years of getting myself into a bad stage, getting out of it and repeating the whole cycle. It was hectic. Nobody knew what was going to happen next.

When the harder drugs started, at 21, 22, the benders would just go for longer and longer.

The physical and mental consequences were worsening. I was in a dark place.

The first two times I had a bust on ice, I went into a private hospital detox.

Of course, it would only temporarily fix the problem.

It was a band-aid for the underlying issue of the disease of addiction I was suffering from, but that nobody was really addressing.

In September 2019, after four years of hell, I decided that I needed to do a longer term rehab. I knew that I needed to do something else. I had no idea about NA/AA.

I arrived at Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential rehab and was welcomed straight into a community of people who had been dealing with exactly the same issues that I had.

I felt good doing my three months’ there. I learned so much from the program.

I ‘graduated’ rehab and then decided to opt into the transition housing program. Within ten days, I had relapsed. I simply was not working the program and had underestimated what it was going to take to stay clean.

My relapse lasted eight days.

My parents, who have been through so much, simply told me that they had finally had enough and kicked me out of home.

They froze my phone and my bank accounts. I had nothing except the clothing on my back.

I walked around Brisbane for eight days, asking drug dealers if I could stay with them. It was a horrific experience.

Fortunately, it was enough for me to want to really ‘surrender’ this time. I realised that the addiction was so much more powerful than I was. This time, I wanted to get well, and I needed to get real.

I also realised that if I were to have any chance at staying well that I needed to work the program and attend AA/NA. I returned to Hader Clinic Queensland for an extra month and got clean.

Then I was allowed to come home.

That was three and a half months ago.

When I relapsed, I was hyperaware of what I’d done – I had to stay consistently high for eight days so that I would avoid feeling anything.

Living on the street for those eight days made me realise the depths that I could drop to.

I was so desperate, and it was a feeling that I never want to experience again.

When I went to Hader Clinic Queensland, I found the first couple of weeks rough and I remember wanting to leave at least twice. Initially I struggled with myself. After a few weeks I came to the realisation that I needed to do this in order for things to start working. I had to let go of my perception about what rehab was.

Eventually I connected with everyone in the rehab, plus I was able to really learn about what AA/NA was. This is what is keeping me sober today. Rehab is great for wanting to get sober, but the NA/AA program is what is keeping me that way.

All of the staff and their stories were so good to hear. It was heartening to see how much they’d changed, some from situations that were far worse than mine. There were so many parts of each story that I could identify with.

The future? I’m taking it day by day, but my plan is to head back to university, where I was studying aviation management. The good part about university is that I can reduce my course load if necessary to manage my recovery better.

Through rehab I feel like I’ve finally found out who I am. This was what I was searching for in drugs and alcohol, but have actually found in recovery. I have found a peace and calm in my life that I didn’t believe could exist. I’ve reconnected with my family. Life is good.

I am grateful to everyone at the Hader Clinic Queensland for their care and support.

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