Denise recounts her story of watching her daughter struggle with years of alcohol addiction. Her daughter is now 4 and a half months sober after completing the 90-day program at Hader Clinic Queensland.
“Looking back, I can see she had a serious drinking problem. I guess we were in a lot of denial, and it was easier to dismiss it.”
My daughter was 2 days old when we adopted her. She was a beautiful happy little girl, and we were beyond happy to have her join our family. When Rachel was 3 years old, I separated from my partner and my mother was very ill, it was a very tumultuous time in my life. I am not sure how this impacted Rachel’s emotional stability at such a young age.
We moved to Australia when she was 5 years old, and I remarried when she was 6. My husband has 3 children and I have a son from my previous marriage. Rachel was the youngest of 5. I felt we had a very loving home and were a close family.
My daughter appeared to have a lot of friends growing up, she was sporty and great at netball. We always spoke openly about the fact Rachel was adopted. It did not appear to upset her. She would always say “I am so lucky”.
Around the age of 15 was the first time I noticed Rachel drinking alcohol excessively. She got intoxicated after someone bought a bottle of sambuca over on Christmas Day. I went into the laundry and saw her washing out her t-shirt. I asked her if she was ok and she told me she had drank too much and been sick.
Rachel finished year 12 and was working part-time in hospitality and was accepted into a course at TAFE. She had a boyfriend, and they got an apartment together. There was a lot of partying and drinking at the time. It didn’t concern me as I thought it was what most people her age were doing.
Two or three months before her course was going to be completed, Rachel and her boyfriend went on a working holiday. I was disappointed she hadn’t finished her diploma. She came to stay with me a few nights before they were due to leave. Rachel went to her friend’s 21st, I told her that I would give her a lift home no matter what time. She assured me she wasn’t going to drink and took the car.
At 2 am I woke up and she wasn’t home I was a bit worried, so I stayed up waiting. At 4 am the phone rang and my husband answered. I could hear him saying “where is she, is she ok,” I thought she had an accident but soon found out she had been arrested for drink driving. She had to go to court the next morning and needed $1000 bail. I feel that I dismissed this and put it down to her being young again. Looking back I can see she had a serious drinking problem. I guess we were in a lot of denial and it was easier to dismiss it.
They went overseas on their working holiday. On the holiday her boyfriend called us to ask if he could marry Rachel. He asked her to marry him and she ran away. He returned to Australia and we had no idea where she was.
Four or five months later we received a call from Rachel, she was distraught and was asking for money to get back to Australia. We organised the airline tickets to fly her home. The shuttle bus arrived to take her to the airport, but when it arrived she was nowhere to be found. I called the resort manager, he told me “I understand what you are going through as I have had a daughter with addiction problems also”. It really surprised me to hear him describe her in this way. Rachel had to travel to London to fly back to Australia. Two days before she was meant to leave she lost her passport. Everything in her life was so unmanageable. There were multiple other incidents due to her drinking in this short period that made it so apparent that she had a serious problem with alcohol.
Over the years Rachel continued to drink heavily on and off, but she was able to hold down jobs and renewed our confidence that it was just a phase and she had grown out of it.
Rachel went on to get married and have two children. This marriage was very tumultuous. Her husband would send us photos and videos of Rachel being heavily intoxicated and questioning her. He would constantly call us and complain about her drinking. Her drinking appeared to be out of control again and she was clearly in an unstable and unhappy marriage.
Her marriage broke down and Rachel started to look really unwell, she lost so much weight. We would call her and she would never answer. I was very worried for her. She was lying to everyone and was unable to function. I realised then that she needed help.
I had called Hader Clinic Queensland a few months before to get some information. I spoke with JJ – he was so supportive and understanding. I felt that when she was ready to accept help that this would be the best place for her.
When the time come, and Rachel was ready to accept help, the admission process to get her into treatment was very straightforward and fast. I called them on a Monday and explained she was ready. I knew we had a small window of opportunity. To my surprise, she was in treatment by Wednesday.
The day we dropped her to Hader Clinic Queensland was so difficult. She was more broken than we had ever seen her. But I felt we had made the right decision and she was going to receive the help she needed in there.
The first week we had a family group meeting and the support we received was beyond expectation. The staff are so knowledgeable and understanding. I can never thank them enough for what they have done for my family. I remember they asked me how I felt, and I burst into tears, I felt safe to finally share my pain. I didn’t realise how much we needed to heal as a family. I have learned so much about myself on this journey, I feel that we are all in recovery together.
Every time we visited Rachel the difference in her was unbelievable. During family group sessions we got to share our experiences with other families who were going through the same thing as us.
In our sessions, I learned that all different types of people can struggle with addiction. I used to feel embarrassed that my child was an alcoholic, that I had failed in some way. Now I have no problem talking about this with other people. I know that I can be an asset to our community and anyone else who may be going through what we have.
The literature we were introduced to was so helpful to read and we were encouraged to attend Alanon meetings which have given me some amazing tools to support Rachel on her journey. I didn’t understand that Rachel was really sick.
Our relationship with our daughter now is great. Rachel has regular contact with me, she is present in our life. I recently had some health issues and she has been a great support to me. We have our happy daughter back, she speaks with confidence and her physical and mental health has greatly improved. Our grandchildren have their Mum back in their lives and it is truly beautiful to watch.
For anyone considering Hader Clinic Queensland, I cannot recommend them enough. Their holistic approach and ongoing support for families has changed our life.