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.