August 2020 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Jess’ Ice Addiction Recovery

Sharing her journey of ice addiction and treatment feels like lifting a heavy burden off her shoulders. Now nearly one year clean, Jess can finally stop lying.

My name is Jess. I’m thirty two years old and a mother to two beautiful children. To the rest of the world, I presented the front of being a loving, devoted mother. Which I was.

What most people didn’t see, was the turmoil I suffered experiencing a full blown ice addiction at the same time.

My story begins at about the age of twenty four – my partner, who is the father of my children, introduced me to ice.

I used on and off over the past eight years. It started recreationally – one weekend I thought, “let’s give it a go”.

From that moment forward, nothing else was good enough, wasn’t as good, wasn’t as fun. Alcohol was nothing compared with the allure of ice. I started using once a month, then slowly, but surely it became every weekend, then a couple of times during the week and finally everyday.

My partner and I were together for fifteen year. We used to get ice through all his friends. You’re hooked from day one, which is very scary.

I had just given birth to my first child. If I look back, I didn’t have many moments where I was thinking, “I shouldn’t be doing this”, as the addictive part of the drug is so intense, I simply didn’t care. I rationalised my use by saying, “everyone’s doing drugs, it’s normal.”

From that moment, it consumed the next eight years of my life.

When I had my second child, I had given up using ice six months before trying. I did not touch drugs during my pregnancy either.

However, six months after my daughter was born, I started using again.

My partner had used all the way through the pregnancy.

I would try and stop myself on occasion because you know it’s a problem when you’re using during the day and nobody else is. Everyone else seemed to be going about their everyday life, yet I needed it to get up and function.

My family found out about my ice addiction eighteen months before I went to rehab at the Hader Clinic Queensland.

It was a big shock – I was forced into dealing with the problem.

They encouraged me to move to Queensland to get my act together and I separated from my partner. From that point we weren’t really together but there were times we came back to each other through our drug use.

I managed to get clean by myself during this time, but I was miserable in Queensland. I didn’t actually do anything about my addiction or work on my feelings.

I decided that I was unhappy enough in Queensland to move home. I ended up meeting my ex partner and started using again almost straight away. From that point on I realised that I had a problem and try as I might, I could not stop using ice.

For the next six months I continued to use, all the while knowing that I needed help and needed to stop. The kids were with us all the time. I never used in front of them but we still had to step up and be parents, even when we were high.

Trying to stop was too tiring, too exhausting and I just didn’t have the strength to be able to stop. Neither did I have the time or space to be able to “sleep off” the drug so I could properly detox. I was using the drug to get me out of bed in the mornings, to stay awake during the day and to feed, bathe and school kids. I would wake up the next morning and think, “I’m not going to use today,” but I did – I couldn’t stop myself.

I remember wanting to take a few days off using because I was exhausted – but I couldn’t risk it. I couldn’t risk falling asleep at work. I simply didn’t have the tools to manage it.

I really wanted to go to rehab too, but didn’t know what to do – if I stopped using and detoxed with the kids around, I would have had to tell someone. I didn’t want others knowing that I was struggling with ice addiction.

My partner was never violent towards me but our relationship, with drugs in the middle of it, became very toxic. He wanted to quit, I wanted to quit, and neither of us could do it. A lot of unpleasant emotion came with it – we blamed and shamed each other for our use.

There were times when neither of us were good to be around – especially when neither of us slept for days. We were living in a completely different reality.

Throughout my addiction, I continued to work. I excelled at my job. I parented my children. Nobody knew what was going on behind closed doors. When I left my job to move interstate and go to rehab I had to come clean and tell them the truth. They were naturally shocked, but supportive.

However, my family never gave up on me. They wanted me to get the help I needed, especially being the mother of two small children.

They were adamant that I go to rehab and threatened to speak to Child Services if I didn’t comply. However, by that time I was more than ready to tackle my illness head on.

If someone is offering you help like this, why wouldn’t you accept it? I guess that I was fortunate enough that my life really hadn’t hit rock bottom. However, it was rock bottom enough for me.

When I came to rehab at the Hader Clinic Queensland, I was two weeks’ clean which was very helpful. I made that decision prior to going into rehab, because I knew what I wanted – and being dazed and confused from detoxing wasn’t part of my plan.

I entered rehab wanting recovery from day one and wanting to learn from the moment I walked down the steps. I believe the key to recovery is knowing that you really want it, and that there is no other option for you.

Yes, rehab was a scary experience, but from day one, I knew I wanted complete recovery, which made the difference. The cycle of addiction had been exhausting – there’s nothing more gut wrenching than to be able to see what’s happening and feeling powerless to stop using, even though you want to.

My kids mean everything to me, and that was enough for me to want to go to rehab. However, I learned that you also want to have to get better for yourself too, which I did.

The rehab experience reminded me a little bit of boarding school – it has a communal feel, where everybody helps and supports each other. We ate, and participated in many activities together. I was horribly nervous walking down those stairs, but do you know what? Speaking to other people who were there for the same reason I was… I felt like I was at home.

No longer did I have to pretend that I was OK in the ‘outside world’ by lying, cheating or covering up, all the while trying to get high. On that first day of rehab I distinctly remember thinking, “OMG, I can finally be truthful about myself here”.

That was one of the main experiences that stuck with me from the moment I arrived. I kept thinking, “I can finally stop lying. I can tell the truth about myself”. It was such a relief. Living a lie, like I did for so long (even though I got used to it) felt very heavy. Rehab was a burden lifted. I related to the other attendees and the staff – I particularly liked Mark – he was raw, honest and relatable – but never sugar coated anything.

During rehab, I started the twelve step program and got through the first and second step as I did the thirty day program. I participated in meetings (NA) and started the “ninety meetings in ninety days” program until COVID19 hit.

Outside of rehab, I try to go to meetings when I can and regularly go to church which gives me the spiritual nourishment I need to continue my recovery.

The spiritual aspects of NA appealed to me, and the idea of a higher power resonated with me. When you’re in rehabilitation, you want to throw yourself as much into learning as possible – I didn’t want to be away from my kids for more than thirty days, so I really made the most of every day I had available to me.

The thirty day program worked for me because I had such strong family support. All of my immediate family are here and I wouldn’t be as well and happy as I am now if it weren’t for them. They paid for rehab, bought me a car and helped set me up here. The kids now have their mother back – fully present and fully functioning.

Now that I’m out of addiction, I’m no longer thinking about drugs. It’s such a blessing. I’ve started to enjoy the smaller things, and feel like I’m able to slow down and savour life, and it’s something I am very grateful for.

If I had any words of wisdom, I would say be truthful. You may think you’ve got it under control, but you don’t. Plus, really wanting recovery and not fighting it from day one has been pivotal in my journey.

I am grateful for the opportunity to go to rehab to acquire the skills and tools I need to stay clean – and cannot thank The Hader Clinic Queensland and my family for their support.

Life is great!

Factors for Relapse

When thinking of addiction treatment for your loved one, the possibility that they could relapse is something you probably don’t wish to think about.

However, relapse after treatment can occur but the experience can teach addiction sufferers life-long lessons that can assist them staying clean in the long term, particularly with regards to understanding their addiction and why there is no place in a sober life for drugs or alcohol.

There are mitigating factors that may precede a relapse. Often, they can be addressed before a relapse occurs.

Some of these factors are:

Motivational level and understanding of addiction by a sufferer

Many clients who enter rehabilitation for the first time do not have an awareness of how the disease operates.

Many Hader Clinic Queensland success stories report that their initial impression of rehab was to “dry out over a few weeks” and then return to society.

For example, program graduate, Mac, says that he had “no clue” about addiction upon arrival to residential rehab for treatment.

He says, “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.”

Understanding that addiction strengthens neural pathways the more someone uses is important.

In the early days of recovery, discipline is required to “break” those pathways using alternative positive behaviours, such as mindful exercise and journaling.

Therefore, until alternative neural pathways become further embedded in everyday behaviours, the risk is there for relapse.

Exposure to a toxic environment

Environmental factors can also drive a relapse in a susceptible individual. The addiction sufferer must realise that they need to permanently suspend communication with others that enabled their previous addictive lifestyle.

Attending AA/NA meetings and finding a new circle of friends that support recovery is vital. When a sufferer becomes disconnected from their support network, the door to relapse may be opened.

Hader Clinic Queensland Program Manager, Jay says, “addiction thrives on isolation. The opposite of addiction is connection. This support and connection is something we strongly promote.”

Sometimes, an addiction sufferer will move back into a family environment that enables using. Sometimes this will mean that in order to stay clean and sober, a sufferer may have to make difficult decisions around their family.

For example, Joe’s father offered him a beer the day he got home from rehab. Immediately Joe knew that if he was to stay clean that he needed to move away from his family.

“I moved interstate. It’s been hard. I’m looking for work. I’m attending two AA meetings a day. You never get treated like rubbish at an AA meeting”.

Failures in long term planning and management of addiction

Many people believe that once an addiction sufferer has been through a residential program, that they have been fully “cured” and are ready to go back to work, study or parenting. However, this is far from the truth.

Reintegrating into society managing potential hazards and triggers requires thought, planning, plus continual monitoring and evaluation of the sufferer to ensure they are receiving support that is individualised and optimised towards ongoing recovery.

The Hader Clinic Queensland addresses longer term recovery through the Transition Housing Program, as well as the HaderCare aftercare app, which allows a client to connect with Hader Clinic Queensland staff to receive ongoing support.

What are some warning signs of relapse?

The most obvious sign is that a sufferer begins to disconnect with the therapeutic community. They may become distant, distracted and engage in self destructive actions. If they suffer from a mental health dual diagnosis, a relapse of another mental health condition may occur, for example, an eating disorder may flare up.

If a relapse is occurring, a sufferer’s loved ones should work at holding them accountable and ensuring that their addiction is not fuelled by enabling behaviours.

While a relapse isn’t ideal, it can serve as a valuable lesson. It should also be reinforced that addiction is a disease and like all other diseases, should be treated with professionalism, empathy and compassion.

Many sufferers feel a sense of shame if a relapse occurs.

It is vitally important to highlight that a relapse may be part of the journey but isn’t necessarily the full story. The sufferer should be encouraged to move past any feelings of shame or guilt and back into treatment.

The Hader Clinic Queensland can provide help in this way.

Addiction Treatment – A Mother’s Perspective

Greg recently celebrated being clean for 100 days following his addiction treatment for cocaine and ice addiction. This is his mother’s story.

When we realised how much trouble our son was in with drugs, we were looking for hope, we were looking for stories from parents and addicts who had been through what we had and had lived to tell the tale.

It was really great to be able to read these on the Hader Clinic Queensland website. If any family can learn, or be comforted by what we’ve experienced, we’re very happy to share what we’ve learned.

It’s been wonderful to see our son clean for the last three or so months – however, we’re not naïve – we know he’s got to work at preventing a relapse. You have to be hopeful, yet remain realistic. There’s no end point to this journey, if we fall, we can get up, dust off and go again.

We’ve made several attempts over the years to get Greg into recovery. We eventually got him to the Hader Clinic Queensland.

However, he relapsed a few days after he entered the transition housing program.

This time around, with the support of the Hader Clinic Queensland staff, we made some hard decisions about how we handled Greg’s addictive behaviours.

Unbeknownst to us, our previous efforts to help him were supporting his addiction. We had to engage some tough love. By doing so, it precipitated Greg’s voluntary decision to return to recovery.

During that last relapse, we could see where he was – most likely doing ice, and we were beside ourselves.

I recall calling the Hader Clinic Queensland four times in an hour, I was that distraught. I remember Hayden, telling me very calmly, “Penny, you need to exercise tough love. If he’s not prepared to enter recovery, please make it very clear to him that your home supports recovery, and that he has twenty minutes to collect his gear and leave the house.”

I will never forget the trauma I felt at that moment of hearing this – that I, as his mother, had to make my child homeless.

It just goes against the grain, and every instinct. Yet the irony of it is, that without that experience for him (as you’ve heard him say), I don’t think we’d be sitting here today three and half months later with Greg having completed a 12 hour cycling challenge with me on the weekend and volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

We’ve got a completely different person here now.

Of course, exercising tough love did not come naturally to us. It was about learning that we could still love him, yet not support his addiction – that love and addiction were two completely separate entities.

When I was at the peak of my trauma around dispensing tough love, Hayden asked me a series of questions, which helped answer my own questions about how to deal with Greg best. He asked, “do you want to support him in this lifestyle?” and “do you wish to continue to support him in his current lifestyle?”, which meant for me, being up all night consumed with fear, worry and panic.

I replied with, “our family cannot sustain this”. To which he stated, “well, you’re just going to have to let him go, then.”

Greg lasted on the streets for eight days.

He came back, went back to the Hader Clinic Queensland. He said to me that once he had accepted that he was back in rehab for four weeks, which took two to three days, he reported getting so much more out of his rehabilitation experience.

He shared with me what he was discovering. He stated, “as I got sober and more detoxed, I began to see the person I really was.”

Whatever they do up in rehab with their counsellors and clinicians, it certainly got through to Greg, and for that, we are so deeply grateful. They have helped him and us, get to this next level of recovery.

When you’re in recovery, it’s like you’re building something.

We all think we’d clearly love to go to rehab and that you’d come home, and you’d be successful forever. It’s not like that at all. It’s about continually building upon something. All of the additional support work that was recommended to us by the clinic that they do is important.

Not to mention the work WE do as parents. Whoever is travelling with the addict also needs to be in recovery as well. I mean, in active recovery, which means educating yourself about how best to support them and love them, without enabling them. Which is the hardest thing.

If we’d tried to go it alone, we would have never understood, nor appreciated these things –Greg’s addiction has a very powerful pull but so too did our collective love and desire to pull through this and recover together as a family – Hader Clinic Queensland lead the way.

Together we continue to work through it with time, education and counselling.

It took five years for us to get to this point.

We sent Greg to a private clinic on the Gold Coast initially.

Greg was very masterful initially at hiding his addiction. I’d ask other parents whose kids did some binge drinking at parties how they ended up graduating and becoming “normal”. He’d sleep in until midday, he’s doing all these things.. I’d think, “Ruth’s son is doing that… they’re all out doing that and they are fine”.

When I think about it, I think I kept second guessing myself. Plus being a bit of a worrier, I wanted to keep myself in check and not be over the top.

These behaviours kept creeping in and kept getting bigger, and bigger and bigger. Looking back, it was quite insidious. We could see him changing, but thought that we’d back off. Then the lying started. He’s changed Uni courses three times. There was a lot of this stop/start behaviour which can be typical for kids his age too.

Then my husband would say to him, “you’ve got to get your teeth stuck into something otherwise we’re not going to support you any more”.

He seemed to have a couple of relationships, but when a breakup or disappointment in the love life happened you’d see a spike in this behaviour, but it wasn’t full on until the last twelve months when he’d started using ice.

Up to that point, it had been party drugs, MDMA, speed etc. Plus, my daughter was saying to be, “don’t be silly Mum, EVERYONE uses that on a weekend. It’s not a big deal, you just stop before Monday.”

Except Greg didn’t.

That was another thing. There are a lot of drugs out there and people use them socially.

Greg’s social group gravitated towards that scene. There’s also a subculture within the gay scene.

A doctor who works in emergency where Greg was admitted told me about it.

When she read the toxicology report telling me what was in his system, I nearly had a heart attack. There was GHB, pot, cocaine, ice.. you name it, it was in there.

He’d overdosed that time and I was told this sort of thing was really common. She said that users “layer” the drugs, to keep them up all night, and that it was a sexual thing as well. It sounds terrible, but I want to tell the truth. I didn’t know this was a side effect of ice use.

I think Greg may have been feeling ‘lost’ about his sexuality, but for us it’s never been an issue.

He’s longed for an enduring relationship and he’s not been able to find one.

It’s not uncommon for heterosexual relationships either, but I think it’s particularly tough for a young gay man, when many of those around him are just into hook ups. Plus, some of the dating apps encourage not only hooking up, but drug use with it.

He did this for a bit because at the end of the day, he just wants to find love and a partner. But he also knows now that these apps probably won’t work for what he really wants.

Another big turning point, which happened after the second Hader Clinic Queensland admission, was for us to share with a select group of friends and family what we were experiencing.

We wanted to be honest, because it was traumatic for us and we got tired of not telling the truth. I’m not saying that in a wild way of being indiscriminate about who we told, but we were tired of covering up.

There were a couple of key things for us in dealing with Greg’s addiction.

Firstly, we needed to accept how serious this problem was.

Secondly, I needed to be made aware of how enabling I was. I’ll be honest with you, I was only made to recognise how I was an enabler through the education given to me by the Hader Clinic Queensland during their family nights. I don’t want to say it was just me, I think we were both enabling Greg in our own way.

You know, admitting that you’re an enabler is hard. Facing up to this fact is also one of the reasons that we’re sitting here today. It was more about education here than being inadequate or uncaring. We had to acknowledge that in our own way, we were part of the problem.

We were very willing to address what needed to be changed and the parent evenings that The Hader Clinic Queensland run were pivotal in our education.

Again, we went along not knowing what to expect. Plus, you’re in a room with many parents of addicts. The other thing that struck me on the first few nights, is that we imagined that the parents of drug addicts would be struggling with their own set of issues.

We were sitting in a room of parents that were just like us. Hardworking, normal, loving parents who are beside themselves with the pain that their loved one is in the grip of addiction. Parents who would do ANYTHING to get their kids through. Honestly, it gives me goose bumps just saying it. We are so grateful that we both “got it”.

The first time I went to the parents’ evening, I was broken. It was difficult to talk without crying.

We’d chat to other parents after the group sessions and realise that they were hard working professional business people, who were just like us.

Plus having the lying, cheating and stealing behaviour that was now a regular occurrence. Money was stolen and our credit cards were used. All of that. The graduation to ice was terrible. We saw frenetic behaviour; we saw dangerous behaviour. His risk-taking behaviour went up 200%. We’ve had three attempts at taking his own life.

Thinking about it all, we were run ragged, and emotionally sucked dry. It’s been a tough five years.

However, realising how we were feeding Greg’s addiction and keeping it alive was a game changer.

So too, was realising that the addict needs an army of support around them if you‘re in recovery for the long game. Our whole family is in recovery as a result, day by day. Unconditionally accepting Greg’s recovery meant being truthful with those who are closest to us. We felt like we needed support as well.

We felt that we failed to get through to him. I was questioning everything that wasn’t family based, whether I should have my own interests etc

Part of that process is learning acceptance. We did what we thought was best at the time for our family and ourselves. I was also cognisant of the struggles John was facing and I thought, “I don’t want our family to fracture”. I was trying to keep the lines of communication open and keep our family together.

Addiction really takes you to the brink.

Of course, the turning point was not allowing Greg home until he was genuinely ready to recover.

We didn’t want a yo-yo situation.

We’ve had the “I’m ready to recover!” line where the reality was, he’d be home for a bite to eat, steal some money and nick off again. This was the toughest love we’ve ever experienced. Yes, the term is thrown around but it’s a completely different thing when you have to dispense it yourself.

Thankfully, it drove the message home and got him back to the Hader Clinic Queensland.

Without Hader Clinic Queensland, we wouldn’t be here. We went through the public hospital system, through private hospitals and clinics. We were at our wit’s end. We researched, and found The Hader Clinic Queensland.

“Thank God for Hader Clinic Queensland!” is all we can say.

In recovery, our family has enjoyed a renewed relationship with Greg. We’ve been hitting the gym and recently participated in a 12 hour cycling challenge together – I was immensely proud to ride with him. There’s been a real shift in him and in the whole communication dynamic within our family, we are all so grateful for this.

As for the two of us, our relationship has reached a new depth, though during the last five years there have been times where it’s been very hard for both of us and we’ve both found it immensely challenging on many occasions.

Being united means that you are stronger.

I don’t how that happened in the chaos, but it did. The well-known line from Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Anthem’, pretty well sums this up, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.”

As for advice we would give other parents who are experiencing similar issues is firstly, if you are noticing odd behaviour and your gut feeling is telling you something is wrong, don’t second guess yourself – talk to someone like The Hader Clinic Queensland and seek advice.

Secondly, addiction thrives in the dark. It’s worth bringing it out into the open, even though it will be uncomfortable and confronting.

We hope our story gives hope, especially as we’re not a glossy “success story”. We’re not perfect, but very real in our imperfection.

We are deeply grateful to all at the Hader Clinic Queensland for their unflinching support.

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