March 2021 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Whatever It Takes

When we first interviewed Joe last year about his recovery from addiction nobody knew we were about to be hit with a worldwide pandemic. Joe shares his ongoing recovery and the drastic changes COVID-19 has had on his recovery.

I was in the middle of my Transition Housing program and concentrating as hard as I could on my recovery.

Then it happened. COVID-19 hit Australia and we all had to make drastic changes.

One of these changes was that all of the face to face meetings that I was attending as part of my recovery changed to online. Changing to online meetings prompted me to face the fear I had of technology. Because I did not want this obstacle to impact upon my recovery, I decided to stay in the Transition House for another month.

I’m glad that I did. I learned how to use meeting platforms like Zoom and mastered the HaderCare aftercare app. I did counselling sessions with Olivia, The Hader Clinic Queensland’s psychologist, online.

Little by little I started to get the hang of it. Once I was confident that I had mastered the technological side of things, I moved back home to live with my mother in Brisbane.

Yet, I decided to remain deeply embedded with The Hader Clinic Queensland’s intensive outpatient support program, and when I was confident that I was doing OK, I tapered back to being a regular outpatient. I still regularly go into the city headquarters for a check-in.

During the worst of the COVID-19 lockdown period, I ended up participating in two home groups on Zoom, and then they eventually returned to face to face meetings.

I was doing 8-9 meetings per week at that time and being both a sponsor to other addicts and a sponsee (having my own sponsor). This made me grateful that I had the opportunity to do things properly and give 100%, and then some to my recovery. I cannot afford to go back to a life of addiction.

Recently, I have scaled back to six meetings, because I’m studying full time. I am studying dual diplomas in mental health and alcohol and other drugs. My studies finish in July and we’ve covered all manner of topics from the basics of mental health to workplace health and safety, not to mention doing extra work in learning to deal with COVID-19 in this framework.

COVID-19 caused a lot of issues for many addiction sufferers. There were several articles in the mainstream media about how alcohol use escalated during lockdown.

From my own experience and from what I have learned in my course, can I say that this wasn’t a complete surprise?

COVID, for many, increased feelings of isolation and impacted on many people’s mental health. For example, some feared technology, like I did and became isolated, the loss of freedoms affected other’s headspace and not being able to meet face to face for a meeting lead many people down a road where they weren’t coping with life.

I am currently back living at home with Mum. We have been through so much together and we continue to grow in our communication with each other and respect for each other’s boundaries. It’s been an awesome journey – I know my Mum still carries some of the burden with my addiction but these days if we have an argument or disagreement, she knows that I’m not going to head out and pick up. We may take a few hours to work things out, but the main thing is that we come to an understanding.

I’m coming up to eighteen months’ clean. If I had any “advice” or “words of wisdom” to share, I would like to say that I had to forget about any notion or idea that I was going to fail at rehab this time around. Secondly, I am always working my recovery for myself. It’s what I do.

As cancer survivor and HIV victim, Peter McWilliam says, “you cannot allow yourself the luxury of a negative thought.”

With this in mind, and knowing how the addict brain works, thanks to my mental health training, I knew that I had to put 120% of my life into recovery.

Whatever it takes to be in recovery is what I will do. I needed to put heart and soul into my recovery as it makes me feel safe.

What does that mean? I know from sheer experience that relapses for me end in suicide attempts as my mind takes me to places I do not want to go to. My brain in active addiction tells me that I’m worthless and that I’m not worth fighting for.

I regularly travel to the Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential facility for “give back”. I always stay for a whole week because it takes time to get around and speak to everyone in the rehab – and it gives everyone a chance to warm to you. Most of us who enter rehab are broken spiritually and emotionally, so I like to be available to connect for a little bit longer.

Attending rehab, and returning to study have opened up a new beginning for me. As well as drawing on my background in Allied Health, I’m looking forward to using my lived experience and what I’ve learned in my studies to be of service to other addiction sufferers in The Hader Clinic Queensland Private hospital.

It’s important that everyone knows that there is hope when it comes to the disease of addiction. It took years of addiction and three suicide attempts as well as rehab to teach me that my calling was to be of service to others who are suffering the disease of addiction.

Thank you to The Hader Clinic Queensland for showing me the “way home” – and to anyone reading this who feels like there’s no hope, please rest assured that recovery is always possible.

Chris’s Addiction Recovery

Chris, born into a family consumed by addiction, now 49, has been battling addiction for half of his life. Following his treatment for addiction he shares his story.

As a child I remember going to my father’s work Christmas party. All of dad’s work mates were smoking dope. I remember there was a visit from Santa (one of dad’s workers). I saw him smoking dope and getting dressed as Santa.

“Wow!” I said to my brother, “Even Santa’s on the bong!”

I’m sure anyone reading this would question whether there was any truth in my story. However, this is an accurate description of the family that I was born into.

Being born into addiction has its curses and its blessings. In many ways, I feel blessed as it showed me the pathway to the AA fellowship from an early age. I didn’t know that NA (Narcotics Anonymous) existed though.

My father was an alcoholic. He became sober when I was a small child. Growing up and throughout my adult life, my Dad and I had a very close-knit relationship.

However, when I turned fifteen, my Dad had a car accident. The trauma of that was enough to propel him to start drinking again.

To say that my world was turned upside down is a bit of an understatement. Dad was my best friend and for the first time in my life I began to feel the consequences of addiction.

His alcohol use became chronic, until he picked up marijuana. Weed was used as a “shield” against alcohol. He joined AA, became sober, but continued to smoke weed.

I grew up with marijuana. My mum also smoked it. I was really none the wiser about it. It was completely accepted within my family.

Using didn’t start for me until I moved out of home. It started with alcohol – a couple of times I drank to the point of being unconscious.

At nineteen, I remember Dad going to AA. It planted a bit of a seed, I think. Dad wanted to help me.

At the age of 20 I was still drinking as well as smoking weed with Dad. We considered it a wonder drug as it kept Dad from drinking.

At 25 my drinking increased. It wasn’t smooth sailing for me. I was experiencing blackouts from alcohol use.

Again, Dad planted the seed of AA and told me when I was ready he would take me to my first meeting.

It was just after my 30th birthday the depression, blackouts and fear got me to ring him and say “I’ve hit rock bottom”.

That night I went to my first meeting at Nundah in Brisbane. My Dad who was sober at the time was a very happy and relieved man.

However, we still continued to use what we thought was our addictive saviour, weed.

Honestly, I didn’t know the danger. I attained being clean by not using alcohol, but I was still smoking weed.

I moved away from home and Dad relapsed. Mum wasn’t much better. By now she’d become institutionalised in the addictive lifestyle. Dad’s drinking had caused her a lot of pain.

By the time I reached my 40s, I was still sober and not drinking alcohol. I dropped AA meetings. Dad had been my sponsor. I remember doing Step One and then Step Eight. Dad and I formed an even closer bond due to his sponsorship.

Eventually I became Dad’s carer before he passed away ten years ago.

During this time, he stopped using weed. He told me that he felt terrible for starting me on it. He begged me to stop using it. He died as a clean man. Losing my best friend and confidant was hard.

I grew up as a musician and was playing in bands and with that came some dabbling in drugs, like speed on weekends. It was a pretty unbalanced lifestyle.

As fate would have it, I met Cameron Doomadagee’s family and played a gig for him. Cameron was an Indigenous man who died in police custody on Palm Island in 2014, which sparked riots on the island.

His family, and the Aboriginal community had an immediate spiritual impact upon me. They welcomed me as one of their own into their family. It was to be the start of my healing journey. I was still smoking weed however.

By 2017, I belonged in my Aboriginal family. I moved to their remote community in Doomadgee to become a better person.

I remained clean from alcohol, but still carried my marijuana addiction – which was getting expensive, living in such a remote area. I tried to limit my weed consumption. I did not want to upset the Elders who frowned upon drug use.

I got a job working as a school bus driver. I never smoked weed at work.

In 2019 I noticed how much I was suffering from my marijuana use. I was irritable, depressed and felt hopeless.

That was when I knew if I was to become a better person I would have to stop weed and go to rehab.

Around the same time, I met my now partner online. He’s the smartest man, a philosopher, and we shared our life based on the “Four Agreements”, a book penned by Don Miguel Ruiz.

One evening he called me out on my weed use. I agreed to rehab. I knew that he was calling me out because he cared for me, which helped make my decision to go to rehab.

I knew that I wanted to go to a private rehab. Getting the right treatment was very important to me and I wanted it to work. Years before I’d seen Dad go through the public system and didn’t have a lot of faith in it. This was to be the most important thing I’ve done in my life and wanted it to be right.

I called the Hader Clinic Queensland. I spoke to the admissions staff, who just turned any hesitation or fear that I may have had around. The way they spoke to me on the phone was welcoming and compassionate. I was immediately comfortable with my decision to choose Hader Clinic Queensland.

I didn’t know what I was in for when I walked down those now famous steps into the residential rehab facility. Mark and Donna were there to greet me.

I have to say that Mark is one of the most inspirational people I have ever met. In fact, during my first lesson with Mark, the penny dropped. Mark told us that “only 5% of the class will remain sober” – and the hope, the inspiration he gave me, made me determined that I was going to be in that 5%. My respect for Mark and Donna will forever be in my heart. Their love and passion put me on the road of recovery. I love them both dearly for that.

At that stage I also knew that I was going to stay for ninety days, not thirty. Mark has gone above and beyond in his teaching of the twelve step principles. In addition, Donna and JJ are two of the kindest and loving people I’ve ever met.

The feelings of isolation and depression when you hit your rock bottom made the decision to pay for my own rehab an easy one. It helped me shore up accountability to myself as well.

Today, I’m back home and back at work. I remain happily in my relationship with my partner who walks with me every step of the way.

One of the keys to my recovery has been my partner’s understanding of my addiction. We have a morning check in every day and this gets my day off to the best possible start. My sponsor is a big part of my recovery as well.

I cannot say enough good things about my experience at The Hader Clinic Queensland. I’m looking forward to returning to the residential rehab for “give back”. Sobriety is a gift, and I’m so grateful for every event that led me down this path.

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