January 2023 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Kris’ Recovery from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

On the verge of suicide, Kris completed residential addiction treatment for his drug and alcohol addiction. Now, almost six months clean, he shares his emotional story.

My name is Kris, I am a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. When I say Hader Clinic Queensland and the 12 Steps saved my life, I mean this with my whole heart.

My wife came home unexpectedly when I was making recordings for my kids. I was saying goodbye, apologising for being a terrible father, and explaining why I had to take my own life. I believed there was no way I could escape my addiction or repair my actions. For months I had two solid plans – either a train or a 20-story drop. I’d already booked a room at a hotel, an executive suite on the highest floor. It would all be over soon.

The previous night I came home after I’d been driving under the influence with our kids in the car. My wife could tell I was intoxicated. I kept denying it. We argued back and forth like we always had. The fight was so loud our neighbours called the police, I was taken to the watch house and locked up for the night, and a DVO was put in place by the police.

I felt like I’d blown my very last chance. My wife and I had separated because of my alcohol addiction, and around Christmas 2021 I was allowed to move back home, promising her this time I would remain completely sober… but I couldn’t control myself.

I knew my family would be out of the house that day. I only came back to record these messages for my kids, and they would never see me again. But somehow – perhaps the intervention of a Higher Power – my wife came home from work early. She found me crying while I was filming myself confessing my intentions. She was distressed, angry, and shocked but she said I was not a bad person and that I needed help. My wife sat down with me, and we started Googling rehabs. I contacted the team at Hader Clinic Queensland, and I accessed funds from my superannuation for residential addiction treatment.

Since I left Hader Clinic Queensland – for the first time in my life – I am clean and sober. I have a recovery program, 12 Step meetings, and a great relationship with my family. The rehab support staff helped my wife understand the cycle of addiction, and how recovery works.

I’m not a liar anymore. I’m not keeping bongs hidden around my house, or stashing bottles in the car and under my bed. I’m not skulling drinks and getting behind the wheel, endangering my children and other people on the road. I’m not pretending to be sober or in alcohol withdrawal. I’m not having fights with the woman I love. I no longer feel so hopeless that I want to die.

My recovery is a miracle, and it came after years of substance use going back to my early twenties. Many of the people I hung out with were also into drinking and drugs. I had fun times as a teenager, making friends, enjoying music and video games, and going out.  I discovered I had a gift and passion for working in hospitality and had a couple of long-term romantic relationships.

I enjoyed working hard and playing hard with my mates when I was younger. I was doing long shifts with my colleagues at a casino and we had some wild times together. After work, we’d be going out to bars and strip clubs, drinking, doing pills, and hanging out in my city apartment. It was such an exciting life but, there were some early signs I was not OK. One day I opened the door to my flat where two cops and the building manager were doing a welfare check – someone had seen me sitting with my legs over the balcony after a night of heavy partying. I’m still not sure what I was doing up there. Even after I was diagnosed and treated for Bi-Polar Disorder, my addiction issues did not go away.

During my twenties, I thought I had my life all under control. I had a stable job, got married to my first wife and had a child. I was secretly abusing weed every day throughout that short marriage, sneaking in cones while my young daughter was asleep, or my wife was out. We had a good co-parenting arrangement after our divorce. I only came clean to my ex-wife about the weed abuse after we broke up. This habit of secrecy was something I carried into my next relationship.

I met a lady at my work (who is now my wife) with a daughter the same age as mine. She was very anti-drugs, so while we were dating I managed to make it look like I was only a casual pot smoker. I would get high before she came over, and hold off using around her so my dependency wasn’t obvious.

We had a beautiful wedding, raising our daughters together as sisters. I got a managerial job at a large supermarket chain. I was always dedicated to my career and trusted by my peers and my boss. We had a baby girl who was 7 weeks premature; she spent the first month of her life in the hospital. I was very motivated to help, making milk deliveries and visiting the NICU. Drugs and alcohol helped me mask my emotions and stress. While my wife was at the hospital from morning until late at night, I had the freedom to immerse myself in drugs, alcohol and online gaming (which was my only form of community and socialising outside work). My family had no idea about how reliant I was on substances. At this point, my wife thought I’d stopped smoking and was just a casual drinker.

I saw myself as “high functioning” – a good dad and husband, a reliable employee – but it was getting harder to hide. One night I was driving home and got pulled over for an RBT. I blew under the limit but tested positive on a drug swab. I had to ring my wife to explain the situation and ask her to pick me up with my kids in the car wondering why daddy was at a police station. She was silent on the way home. Her exact words afterwards were that I would “ruin this family” if I didn’t stop.

After my court-ordered drug diversion, I convinced my wife I was done with smoking pot, but I kept up the habit secretly until she found my utensils and drug stash in the garage. We had another fight, and I told her I was ready to quit (mostly because I knew my usual hiding methods weren’t going to work anymore). After I quit pot I increased my drinking to compensate.

So at age 33 with three children, I was going to work, having 3-4 beers on my breaks, and 6-7 drinks on the way home. For me this was normal. I had such a high tolerance I didn’t even appear drunk at work. As far as my wife knew I was only a weekend drinker, but she noticed my skin was really bad and I was acting spaced out. I would sneak drinks wherever I could (while the kids were asleep, while she was in the shower) with empty bottles hidden all over the house. I told myself my wife and kids were better off not knowing, and I wasn’t harming anyone but myself. And if I got caught, I just found better ways to avoid detection.

There were so many events leading up to my rock bottom, and the life-saving decision to check into Hader Clinic Queensland. It wasn’t any one thing which tipped me over the edge. When I think back, I wish I’d tried to get help a lot sooner

I remember the many fights I had with my wife, and one night when – to my great shame – I grabbed her by the throat in a drunken rage. I was never a violent person. I hated seeing my dad physically assaulting my mum as a kid, and now I was behaving no better than him. I remember being taken away in a police car and one of my kids asked if I was going to jail, which just broke me. I remember my wife finding out I was drinking again when she saw our 2-year-old daughter sucking on discarded bottle caps. I remember our 10-year-old daughters running outside and trying to comfort me while I was having a panic attack in our front lawn. I remember drinking all during my separation, telling the Drug Arm counsellors what they wanted to hear just to get my certificate, and being allowed back home only to continue the cycle all over again.

We chose Hader Clinic Queensland because I needed a proper rehab, not just a resort. I was still drinking until the day I left, telling my children daddy was going away to get himself better. They were crying and my wife was hysterical. Although it was nerve-wracking I told my boss I needed to take time off for treatment because I had a serious drinking problem. He was very understanding and said he believed I would come back a better person.

When I arrived outside the clinic I was on the phone with my wife and for the first time in many years, she told me she was proud of me.

Hader Clinic staff didn’t put any pressure on me to go to classes for the first couple of days, but I volunteered to go to the first session soon as I arrived. They gave me Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous literature while I detoxed, and I found the concepts taught me a lot about myself. Even though it was sometimes uncomfortable and there were strict rules, I found my 30 Day stay an amazing experience.

About 10 days into rehab it all hit me, I broke down and cried, and other addicts gave me support. My wife received support from the Hader Clinic Family Coordinator which helped her understand recovery. After the first visit, she said she could see how I was changing. Hader Clinic gave my wife booklets and advice about things like enabling and boundaries. She knows she can’t be my supervisor or sponsor, and no amount of love can replace meetings or a recovery program. In the time since I left rehab, we’ve had a couple of disagreements, but they never escalate to screaming, everything is honest. I understand her feelings a lot more, and she feels in turn this has made her a better person.

I’m now 5 months and 30 days sober. And I’ve discovered my favourite drink isn’t wine or beer (and never was) – it’s soda water and ginger beer. I love being able to enjoy a drink for the flavour and not to get wasted. I have a fantastic sponsor who keeps me on track and we have a truly loving friendship. Previously my ‘friends’ were dealers or people I interacted with while online gaming. I had no idea how isolated and small my world was. But now I have so many people in my recovery community I can call and rely on.

These days I now spend lots more time with my kids, helping them do homework and playing together. I still love gaming, but I’ve expanded my interests. My wife bought me a dog and we walk every day while I listen to podcasts. I do a lot of journaling and have read more books than at any time in my life. At the moment I’m reading Recovery by Russell Brand, Atomic Habits, and Barefoot Investor. I’m getting into being smart with my money so I can set my kids up for a good future. I want to save up for some travelling too.

I’ve learned that connection is the opposite of addiction. Before I went to Hader Clinic I had no idea about 12 Step Fellowships, or how to build a life with a deep connection to others. I don’t have contact with my parents; explaining things to them would be impossible. But we can build an extended family with others in recovery. It’s a relief to know there are people to check in with me, and who I can support as well. Each day I read the daily meditations for NA and AA just like I did in rehab – it reminds me who I am.

Last weekend I went to a music festival with my wife. There was weed and alcohol everywhere, but I didn’t even want to drink or use – that obsession has been lifted. My main focus now is keeping myself clean and sober one day at a time.

I would gladly have paid ten times over what it cost to attend Hader Clinic Queensland. You cannot put a price on the life I have now.

 

A Step-by-Step Guide to Detox

Drug and alcohol detoxification (detox) is the first step towards long-term recovery from addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. It is the term applied to the process of clearing all traces of drugs and/or alcohol from the system in order to leave a recovering addict stable enough to start the next phase of addiction treatment.

If you are planning on starting your recovery journey, it is important you seek professional help. Detoxing on your own can be dangerous and traumatic; however, medical detox – undertaken in a treatment centre, under 24/7 supervision and with assisting medication – will set you on the right path and ensure your recovery isn’t harder than it needs to be.

Step One – Identifying the Addiction

The process of detoxing is different for every person. Decisions on how to best manage the detox process are made based on the user’s substance of choice, the severity of the use and the period of substance abuse.

Step Two – Establishing a Treatment Plan

Every person experiences detox differently, which is why it is important to establish a treatment plan to best suit their individual needs. Any medications prescribed to ease the withdrawal process are dependent on the type of substance dependency and the results of the medical examination preceding detox.

There are four main distinctions when it comes to treatment plans:

  1. Opioid withdrawal – for persons addicted to heroin, morphine and some prescription medications, commonly painkillers
  2. Benzodiazepine withdrawal – for persons addicted to prescription medications such as Valium and Xanax
  3. Stimulant withdrawal – for persons addicted to stimulant drugs, such as cocaine, amphetamines and methamphetamines
  4. Depressant withdrawal – for persons addicted to depressant substances, such as alcohol

While there are some similarities in the detox process for every patient; however, the medical treatments to minimise distressing side effects of withdrawal are determined by the type of substance(s) a patient has become dependent on.

Step Three – Acute Withdrawal

Once a treatment plan is in place, detox begins. The first stage of detox, known as acute withdrawal, is commonly the most physically gruelling. As the last traces of drugs and/or alcohol leave a patient’s system, the body fights to maintain the effect of the substances, resulting in cravings. However, by this stage, the body and brain are usually so depleted of naturally occurring happy chemicals, such as endorphins, adrenaline and dopamine, that it is struggling to function normally. This causes what is known as withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms may include physical symptoms, i.e.:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shakes and shivers
  • Headaches
  • Muscle and bone aches
  • Stomach cramps
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Runny nose
  • Diarrhoea
  • Chills and/or hot flushes
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia

It may also include psychological symptoms, i.e.:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Confusion
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Agitation
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability and anger
  • Extreme cravings for drugs and/or alcohol

In extreme cases, persons going through acute withdrawal can experience seizures, hallucinations and psychotic episodes; all of which can spiral into potentially life-threatening situations if a person goes through withdrawal unsupervised. It is important to understand that attempting to detox on your own at home is not safe, smart or realistic.

Step Four – Chronic Withdrawal & Holistic Treatment

The acute stage of the detox process usually takes between 7 and 10 days and is followed by a phase termed ‘chronic withdrawal’. Recovering addicts are no longer in physical danger by the time they reach chronic withdrawal, and the worst of the physical withdrawal symptoms commonly dissipate at this stage. However, the psychological symptoms – particularly cravings, irritability, mood swings and anxiety – are likely to persist for weeks or even months.

If a recovering addict is well-supported and has a solid treatment plan, including residential treatment for 30-90 days, counselling, transitional housing and an aftercare plan, chronic withdrawal can be managed well.

Once the acute stage of detox is over, recovering addicts are usually stable enough to begin their long-term recovery process, which will ideally include intensive psychological counselling to maximise their chances of long-term recovery. Addiction goes far beyond the physical effects of drug and/or alcohol abuse; so there is plenty of work to be done once detox is over.

Photographs of clients have been changed to protect their privacy.

Seven Signs of Addiction

This article reviews the signs of addiction and explores how those dealing with substance abuse are often the last to realise their use is spiralling.

Recently, the team at Hader Clinic Queensland received a first-hand account of addiction by a client we’ll call ‘Holly’.

Holly writes:

“Being an addict and using, my world felt so alone and isolated. I didn’t think it would end up like this when I started smoking weed at 16. Eventually, I progressed onto other drugs and hit a crossroads with my ice use. I felt so worthless, so disgusting, of what I did from those years on ice. I don’t even know who that person was. I thought I was cool. I thought I was this criminal. I thought, this is my life now, I’m just a junkie”.

For someone without knowledge of addiction, this may seem shocking; but for people suffering from substance abuse disorders, it’s very relatable.

What is addiction?

When it comes to addiction to drugs and/or alcohol opinions on determining factors tend to vary. Genetics, predispositions, environments, circumstances…there are simply too many underlying causes for addiction to apply a one-size-fits-all approach.

Although alcohol addiction has been considered a disease since the 1920s, the idea that addiction is a choice is still prevalent today. While addiction treatment has come a long way in the past century, the stigma of addiction to drugs and/or alcohol still prevents many sufferers from seeking help – and keeps loved ones of addicts engaged in enabling behaviours to cover up the shame of having a family member with a substance abuse disorder.

It is time to radically shift our perspective when talking about addiction. Modern neuroscience has proven beyond a doubt that drugs and/or alcohol have the power to change the structure of our brains to re-wire regular users into compulsive and destructive behaviours. Unfortunately, as this is a slow process, it often goes unnoticed by the budding addicts themselves; which makes it all the more important to be aware of the warning signs of addiction.

#1 – Increased Tolerance

The myth of the ‘gateway drug’ still runs deep, but the truth is that the spectrum of addiction is far too broad to conform to this idea. Not every person who smokes a joint in high school is on the road to heroin addiction. Some people remain casual drinkers and/or drug users for a lifetime.

Instead of focusing our attention on the types of drugs used, we should rather pay attention to the tolerance to these substances. Once addiction is starting to take hold, the user’s tolerance for their substance(s) of choice increases, meaning they need to take more to get the desired effect.

Holly describes her spiral like this:

“At 17 I moved to the UK and lived there for a year. That’s when I started using coke and pills, then eventually ICE when I came back to Australia. It wasn’t long before I was in psychosis.”

Increased tolerance means the body is getting so used to drugs and/or alcohol that its functions are no longer influenced by low doses, which leads to increased and more frequent use. Eventually, users will need to keep up their intake in order to function on a basic level, without any of the ‘desirable’ effects.

#2 -Withdrawal Symptoms

The layman’s idea of withdrawal – as popularised in movies and TV – is that of an addict screaming, writhing in pain and hallucinating as they shiver in a padded cell. While this is unfortunately not inaccurate, it represents only the most extreme end of the scale.

In order to diagnose and treat addiction before it gets to this stage, it is important to understand the early signs of withdrawal.

Physical withdrawal symptoms in the early stages of addiction include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Inability to make it to work/school
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Sweat
  • Nausea

Psychological withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • A burst of unexplained rage
  • Poor concentration
  • Lack of interest in socialising and/or doing things for fun

Experiencing these symptoms can be debilitating, especially if the sufferer doesn’t connect them with their substance abuse.

Holly reports:

“I reached a really ugly state in my mind where I didn’t give a shit about anyone except myself.”

#3 – Loss of Control

Nobody sets out to become an addict; yet many people end up struggling with their substance use. How is this possible?

Holly experienced this:

“I had been off the drugs when I went back home to see my family in Brisbane, but as soon as I was back in Sydney, I found drugs again. I would do everything external, but I just couldn’t put down the drugs.”

Put simply, the human body and mind are wired for pleasure and once a source of pleasure is discovered it can be close to impossible to exert the control needed to access it in moderation. Chocolate – a natural source of endorphins – is the perfect example. How many times have you opened a block of chocolate, 100% determined to only eat a square or two and found yourself fifteen minutes later with an empty wrapper and a vague sense of shame?

Overuse of drugs and/or alcohol works in the same way. The pleasure centre of the brain takes over and without assistance, the effort of resisting is simply unmanageable. Addicts frequently have what is termed “moments of clarity”, when they become very aware of the need to stop their destructive behaviours; but stopping is not a matter of willpower. It is a matter of getting help.

#4 – ‘Bad Luck’

Addiction affects every aspect of the sufferers’ lives – as well as the lives of their loved ones. Loss of employment, loss of accommodation, constant money troubles, conflict with the law; addiction leaves no stone unturned. To a person in the throes of substance abuse disorder, this often feels like ‘bad luck’ or some kind of cosmic injustice. However, unfortunately, these horrible experiences are part and parcel of substance abuse.

As Holly puts it:

“I started working in this restaurant in the Valley to make an “honest” living. But inevitably, I’d end up smoking weed, or doing drinks after work. I ended up getting involved in crime. I got charged with possession and stuff and got raided by the police I was charged with category R weaponry possession charges. My parents got raided too and had to move house. They wouldn’t tell me where they lived; they said they were done with me. I had been living on the streets for a couple of weeks, homeless, and I was completely lost. I thought, I don’t deserve to live anywhere, I don’t deserve to have anything.”

Once compulsive use of drugs and/or alcohol has taken hold, addicts may go into ‘survival mode’ and get to a stage when their days revolve around concealing their use, obtaining funds to use and scoring their substance of choice; leaving no energy or mental capacities to address the underlying problem.

#5 – Self-Imposed Isolation

Persons suffering from substance abuse disorders often break off contact with family and loved ones; partly because of the shame attached to their self-destructive behaviours and partly because they are simply too busy feeding their addiction and making it through the day.

Family gatherings, no matter how important and no matter how much they used to enjoy them, are a huge source of stress for addicts. While they may promise to make and effort and be there, substance abuse has a way of preventing sufferers from following through; sending them into spirals of self-loathing and increased consumption.

Holly describes her rock bottom like this:

“I would spend my paycheck on drugs and an outfit I’d wear for a whole week. I would be living pretty disgustingly in a hostel or hotel hopping”.

#6 – Becoming unreliable

Holly writes:

“I found it really hard to hold down a job, and it didn’t help when I did use that I’d turn my phone off and just disappear.”Holding down a job, meeting parenting commitments or simply maintaining a relationship can be close to impossible for many addicts. Substance abuse disorders overshadow everything, no matter how much the sufferer cares deep down inside, and addicts often become less reliable as time goes on.”

In the worst-case scenario this can lead to unemployment, homelessness, losing custody of children and becoming cut off from family and friends; all of which is bound to exacerbate depression, anxiety and stress, ultimately leading to increased use of drugs and/or alcohol unless the addict seeks help.

#7 – Wanting to Stop

We keep repeating it: Nobody wants to be an addict. In fact, most people struggling with substance abuse disorder report a deep desire to stop and an inability to do so.

Holly experienced this during her recovery journey:

“I put myself into this detox program. It went pretty badly. I was doing HeadSpace at the time, and I would go to these drug and alcohol appointments. But I would turn up high. I was just so anxious, and I couldn’t stop using.”

This, unfortunately, is when the harmful myth about ‘willpower’ comes into its own. Addicts are led to believe that they should be able to stop their destructive behaviours unassisted or with minimal support and experience tremendous mental setbacks when they find this impossible. Struggling to control drug and/or alcohol use is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of addiction.

Substance abuse disorders are complex and often come with a number of mental health issues that need to be addressed – properly and by professionals – in order to give addicts the best chance of long-term recovery. Understanding the inner workings of addiction is essential when it comes to quitting destructive behaviours, but professional help is essential for long-term success.

If you recognise yourself in the behaviours described above, don’t feel ashamed. You are not alone and help is available. With the right support, you can reclaim your life, your relationships and your future.

Holly did it.

“The three months I spent in rehab helped me overcome my fear of being around others; it helped me become social again. I’m with people who understand, including the support workers, who are previous addicts. The whole connection thing and being in a safe environment with other people who relate to you, being stable, and focusing purely on your recovery is really cool”.

 

Names and photographs of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.

Paul’s Story of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery

After completing residential addiction treatment for his drug and alcohol addiction, Paul is sober from drugs and alcohol and living with his wife and daughters again. This is his story.

My name is Paul, I’m 39 years old. For years I was a ‘high-functioning’ alcohol and drug addict, working as an accountant in Sydney. From the outside, everything seemed great. I believed as long as I was “kicking goals” (nice home, beautiful family, successful job) then I didn’t have to face my addiction issues. But eventually everything began to fall apart.

I might not seem like a stereotypical drug addict but outward appearances made no difference. Ice addiction and alcoholism can destroy lives regardless of what else we have achieved. Right before I hit rock bottom, I was still respected in my work. Still in a long-term marriage with two beautiful daughters. Still had superficially nice relationships with friends and colleagues… But I was living a double life. And inside our Potts Point apartment, my wife had found the needles I was using to shoot up methamphetamine. It was one betrayal too many.

I was on the road to losing everything. I’d already tried 3 rehabs in my life, but Hader Clinic Queensland and the 12 Step Fellowships are the only things which helped me get completely clean and sober. This is my story of addiction and recovery.

I grew up in Brisbane, the youngest of three siblings, attending Brisbane Grammar school. In many ways I had a good childhood. I remember visiting my cousins in the country and catching yabbies. Playing cricket in summer and touch footy in winter. We had a dalmatian called Chipper.

My parents were loving but I didn’t spend much time with them. Dad was often working away. I had many hours before and after school by myself. Looking back, I think I lacked connection. I always wanted to hang out with the friends of my older siblings and just wanted to fit in. I had my first drink with some older kids at 12 years old, and got into trouble when I came home drunk. I can remember the anger and concern of my parents. For me drinking was the key to having fun and feeling like I ‘belonged’. It was around this time that secrecy, lies and living a Double Life became the norm – there were always two Pauls.

I started smoking pot almost every day from about Grade 9 onwards, and started experimenting with heroin, speed and ecstasy by the time I was in grade 10 to cope with my boredom and anxiety. I always did this away from home, so my parents and teachers had no idea. My family thought I was just drinking a bit at parties on the weekends, like many teenage boys. They would bring me up on this, but there were no real consequences or supervision. I became very skilled in lying and covering my tracks. Later I learned that these other habits – denial, dishonesty and avoidance – were part of the disease of addiction.

Around age 19 at uni I had quit pot, but started injecting Subutex and speed nearly every day, as well as drinking. I was always anxious. I had two separate groups of friends – the Normal ones from uni, and another group who I bought drugs and used with. Sometimes my drug use slowed down when I didn’t have money; I occasionally took on work to fund my habit. At one stage I was treading water doing one subject a semester, and not having any real direction in life. I remember taking Subutex with me when I went to the UK for my cousin’s wedding – having to detox myself and rely on alcohol while I was over there, keeping all of this a secret

At 20 years old, my father died. I was too young to lose my Dad, perhaps I hadn’t really processed it. I continued on a spiral of daily drinking while living at home. My mother and siblings tried to control my drinking and put some rules and supervision in place, but I found ways around it. When I was told I wasn’t allowed to get drunk at home, I would just go outside, or disappear overnight and sleep in the park. None of their attempts at setting boundaries worked.

I first went to a rehab at age 24 and met my girlfriend (who is now my wife). I tried to internalise what that rehab taught me, but I wasn’t ready for sobriety. My girlfriend and I stayed sober for a while but relapsed not long after. Over the years I did manage to have periods of abstinence, but the whole time I was obsessing about when I could start again. At Hader Clinic I learned this is the nature of my disease – the constant thoughts of drinking, and inability to control it once I start.

I ended up finishing my degree, getting married, taking on a job as an accountant and my wife worked as a teacher. We would drink together, sometimes quitting to go on a short Health Kick, then starting again. This whole time I was advancing up the corporate ladder, and my family wasn’t aware of how serious my alcoholism was. There was a big drinking culture at my work. And I thought as long as I was achieving things in life, the alcohol wasn’t a problem.

My wife and I struggled with fertility issues and went through IVF to have our two daughters. I was working long hours in a high-pressure job; it was an emotional rollercoaster. While my wife was pregnant and not drinking, I was still doing it a lot and she was the designated driver. I think that caused some resentment. To me, my alcohol use was normal and understandable, given the nature of my job. While my wife’s attention was on the new baby, I believed that as long as I was bringing in money then I had a right to drink whenever I wanted.

The pressure of my position at work and being a provider was huge. I had constant hangovers, so I started taking codeine (back when it was available over the counter) to get rid of the headache and try to function. My parents and siblings were in another state – they didn’t know how much I was drinking. I think my wife was covering for me because she didn’t want people to know how bad it was. Again, I told myself as long as I was kicking goals, I could cope with my alcohol intake.

Around the start of COVID I began using cocaine in secret, trying to avoid exhaustion. We were working from home and had a second child by now. My wife knew about my drinking but not the drugs. She was having to play the role of parent for our kids and her husband. I was able to keep the coke a secret for about two years. Six months before I got caught, I started to use ice and it quickly became a daily habit.

There were constant questions from my wife; she could see I was acting differently. I lied to her again and again when she asked me if I was on drugs. I was avoidant, gardening a lot, staying up late at night. I almost wanted to get caught because I couldn’t handle the pressure of lying anymore. But I didn’t know how to stop. When my wife found syringes in my bag, shit hit the fan. But she was relieved to know she wasn’t imagining things. The word Gaslighting came up a lot. We talked it out and I said I wouldn’t use ice anymore. But two weeks after making this promise I was caught again. This time my wife told my family, and my brother flew down from Brisbane the next day

My wife had talked about ending our marriage if I didn’t go to rehab. I took 2 weeks off to stay in a residential facility so I could be back at work by June 30. I thought I could manage things on my own. The drinking never stopped. I ended up quitting my job because I thought that was the real problem. I did another short stint at a different rehab, applied for a new job, and moved into a new home. But I was already relapsing on alcohol and ice before I even started my new position. I was keeping secrets and lying to my family again

My new job was in Brisbane with 10 weeks annual leave a year, so my wife stayed in Sydney with the kids. Perhaps that was part of the appeal – being in a different city made it much easier to hide my daily methamphetamine habit. I thought one day I would have to deal with this addiction, but that was a Later On Problem.

That job didn’t last long. I couldn’t get anything done and my cognition was terrible. I had a bad performance review and was convinced people were trying to hack my phone. I’d worked in the same industry for over 10 years, I was experienced and qualified, but I found myself staring at a spreadsheet realising I couldn’t even use it. The psychosis was destroying my brain. I came clean to my wife and my family that I was using again and checked myself into Hader Clinic. My wife had had enough though. She told me whether this rehab was successful or not our marriage was over… I was at my lowest point, and yet I had this deluded sense of optimism that everything might be ok.

The Hader Clinic program and the 12-Step Literature showed me the reality of my situation – my addiction is a disease; I am not in control. While I was in rehab I learned why I’d been behaving this way all my life. Most of the Hader Clinic staff have personal experience with addiction. Something inside me trusted them, no matter how I felt. Even when I had moments of paranoia and resistance, I always had strong faith in these people.

Hader Clinic workers were frank and honest with me. They have a consistent daily message of recovery; how crucial it is to be open-minded and willing. They helped me get in touch with my spiritual side. There were strict rules at this facility, but they were necessary.

I thought I might leave after 28 days, but soon realised I’d probably relapse unless I committed myself to the process. I completed Hader Clinic’s 90-day program where I learned the tools for how to live my life after rehab and heal my destroyed relationships. The more I progressed, my demeanour changed. For the first time in my life, I was being completely honest. My wife noticed this during our conversations while I was in the clinic. I wasn’t making promises anymore, and constantly saying sorry. The support workers told me making amends with my actions was the most important thing. My wife came up to visit during day leave, and we had a beautiful weekend away with our girls. We were slowly rebuilding.

I think the key difference with Hader Clinic is the support they provided to my family. Their staff formed relationships with my wife and mum and are still in contact with them since I left rehab. They provided literature to help them understand addiction. My wife had family sessions with Hader Clinic support workers during my treatment. The longer I stayed on, the more I noticed conversations with my family improving. My wife stopped drinking in solidarity after discussions with the rehab staff. She was happy to do this.

My marriage is stronger now. Hader Clinic has reset our relationship. I’ve been clean & sober for almost 5 months and going to 12-Step Fellowship meetings every day. I made new friends in recovery, surrounding myself with others who are committed to the journey. Sometimes I see my old friends, but I don’t go to the pub with them anymore. It’s nice to sit down today and just have a nice lunch and chat with my mates.

When I came back home, things were not perfect. But we’ve settled into normality. We’re preparing for Christmas (my family will not be drinking this year). I enjoy taking my girls to daycare, reading self-help books and parenting books, and getting back into gardening. I have a counsellor and a psychologist to help support me. I’m learning to – as Jamie from Hader Clinic says – “Lean into the uncomfortable”. I do a lot of prayer, meditation, and yoga to keep me grounded, and create space between my thoughts and emotions.

The best thing about my new life after Hader Clinic is being present for my kids in a way I never was before. We have such a strong bond. And I have an honest, intimate connection with my wife. I feel a sense of purpose; getting in touch with what really matters. Life is so much more than career and money. Right now, my recovery, my wife and children are my biggest priority.

Next year I’m looking into a career change… I think I’d like to get a job helping others and connecting with people. Something that fulfils me spiritually, not just providing an income. There are so many little pleasures in life I can enjoy. I’m really into classical music. I love going for walks and watching the water. I love every moment of taking my girls to their activities, water parks, having family nights in and dinner together.

My daughters’ favourite food (apart from chocolate) is Vietnamese Pho soup. When I come out to my balcony every day, I see my beautiful garden of pot plants and herbs and flowers. I would never have thought life could be this content. I wouldn’t sacrifice what I have now for anything in the world.

 

Names and photographs of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.

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