December 2023 - Hader Clinic Queensland

Cam’s Alcohol and Drug Addiction Treatment Journey

After 30 years in the throes of addiction, Cam is over five months sober and looking forward to a life of recovery. This is his story.

I started drinking alcohol and experimenting with drugs at a young age, but things really started to take a turn and I became addicted to the prescription drug benzos before ending up in alcohol detox and residential addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland. In rehab I learnt that alcoholism is an illness, something that my family and I didn’t understand before.

My alcohol addiction began when I was in my early teens. My school at the time had a culture of experimenting with drugs and alcohol, but something that set me apart from the others was that I couldn’t control it. Whereas others would come to a party with a six pack I would turn up with a carton and a bottle. I just wanted to get drunk as fast as I could, ended up almost dying and hospitalised in my mid-teens, and had a DUI as soon as I got my P plates at 17.

The alcohol was what I mainly stuck with through my life, the other drugs came and went but the alcohol was a constant. I got married young and had kids, so I kicked the drugs to the curb but thought it was normal to keep drinking. That manifested over the years into what is now a really strong addiction. I experienced a couple of job losses from my alcoholism, one as a direct result and the other I left before it could eventuate. In my 30s everything just started to crumble around me as my marriage broke down, my friendships were affected, and my finances started to take a hit. Up until that point I thought I was fine because I was still taking care of my kids and paying my bills, but I was really just treading water.

As a result of my drinking, I developed anxiety and depression, so I sought help from a psychiatrist. I went 30 days alcohol-free but was prescribed Valium which I started to develop an addiction to. It was a double-edged sword as I used the benzos to control my alcoholism. After my divorce, my addiction got worse and I was basically just working a lot, looking after my kids, and using drugs and drinking alcohol.

Then this year I was stood down from my job and deemed unfit for work. I saw a psychiatrist and they basically told me that there was nothing more they could do to help me because of my alcohol and drug addiction. I was told to seek residential addiction treatment, which honestly wasn’t something that I was really willing to try. But I was suicidal and just didn’t want to live anymore so I started googling rehabs and came across Hader Clinic Queensland. I thank my higher power for looking after me and guiding me that day.

At first I was really scared. I had never tried anything like rehab, and I was experiencing a lot of anxiety and panic attacks at the time so I was quite on edge. I struggled at the beginning of my time in Hader, by day four I wanted to leave. I was in alcohol withdrawal and just wanted to get out of there. The staff at Hader talked me into staying, which was definitely the right thing for me. What really helped me stay was that all the Hader support staff have had similar experiences and could relate to and understand what I was going through.

So, I completed Hader Clinic Queensland’s alcohol detox program and started my 30 days of rehab. The rehabilitation program was really structured which I liked, with the daily morning readings, the classes and the 12 step meetings which were essential. But I will admit I was still on edge, even at the beginning of the rehab program. It wasn’t until I finally fully surrendered to the program once I realised that without doing that I wasn’t going to get anything out of my time there.

Once I surrendered it was like a breath of fresh air and I began to take in everything I was being taught and it all just started to flow. I completed Hader Clinic Queensland’s 28-day detox program and the 30 day rehab program. Once I came out of Hader I had the tools and belief in myself that I could stay sober. For the first month out of rehab I did the aftercare program and counselling with Olivia, and it was super helpful to catch up with someone each week who knew my background and could walk me through transitioning back into day-to-day life. I quickly found a sponsor and a home group and am now a very grateful member of the fellowship that Hader introduced me to, which has been an absolute game-changer for me.

Life has been so much better since my time at Hader Clinic Queensland. Doors started opening up for me, I got rid of all my old resentments and made changes that feel amazing. I’m a completely different person. I still have everyday problems but now I don’t get as affected by them as I used to. I’m not that angry, frustrated person where nothing seems to go right for me like I was in active addiction. My biggest takeaway has definitely been learning that alcoholism is an illness, and I now have the tools and beliefs to manage it and live a simple suggested program of recovery. Thanks to the residential detox and rehabilitation addiction treatment programs at Hader Clinic Queensland I am over 5 months sober and every aspect of my life has changed for the better.

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

Mel’s Journey Through Alcohol Addiction Treatment

After 90 days in residential addiction treatment, Mel is nine months sober and looking to the future. This is her story.

Alcohol addiction has a history in my family over multiple generations, but I didn’t think I was an alcoholic until I started my 90 days of residential addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland. You might be wondering how I couldn’t think I was an alcoholic when I had enrolled myself in alcohol addiction treatment, but the reality was I knew I had a problem, but I just thought I needed some time out.

Having a family of heavy drinkers meant that I was introduced to alcohol pretty early in my life, but it wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that things started to affect me.

In my 20s and 30s I was a binge drinker but not in a way that raised alarm bells. I had a lovely house, 2 cats and a successful career. On the outside, I was doing really well. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and things started to spiral out of control for me.

I had a very high-pressure job where I was working from home, and I started to become very isolated. My drinking progressed into daily drinking as I gradually became dependent on alcohol as a way of coping with the stress and relieving the anxiety and depression that I’ve had for most of my life. I was working like a dog and drinking heavily to cope with it.

I also isolated myself more and more because I was drinking so much. I started drinking while I was working because I was working from home, so I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.

I wasn’t looking after myself at all and my health really started to deteriorate. From the outside, I was a happy, bubbly, lively person because I could turn it on as needed, but on the inside, I was fractured. I’d been suicidal over the years, but I had never tried anything until this period of my life when I first attempted suicide.

It’s hard to process how I got to residential addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland as it’s a bit of a blur, but I remember feeling like I just needed some time out. A chance to put a pause on my life and reset, which I thought would solve the drinking.

So, I started Googling healthy detox places in Bali and Thailand but I soon realised that I was under too much financial stress and couldn’t afford those programs. Funnily enough, because I was Googling detox programs I came across Hader Clinic Queensland. I was probably drunk at the time, but I thought, perfect, an opportunity to go away and eat healthily and be without alcohol for a month. So, I sent an email to Hader and days later I was completing the admission process.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it; Hader Clinic Queensland was hard on me at the beginning. I went in with preconceived ideas of what alcohol detox would be, and I was shown pretty quickly how wrong I was.

I was overwhelmed and struggling but two weeks in I realised that I was an alcoholic, I couldn’t do it on my own and I needed to stay longer than 30 days. Once that realisation kicked in I went to Mark and asked “How do we keep me here?”. I extended my program to the 90-day alcohol addiction treatment program and for the first time, I had to admit to people in my life what was going on.

Once I committed to the program I started to work hard at my recovery. A big part of the program at Hader was having to do AA, and I think that’s the best thing I took from it. I know other programs it’s optional or not included, but for me having AA as a requirement was the best thing for me and I wouldn’t be sober without it. AA has given me so much support through the meetings and the fellowship, and meeting different people like me who were very successful in their careers and struggled with alcohol dependence.

I believe support is vital in recovery when you’re emotionally vulnerable, and I’ve seen so many of my friends fall off the wagon because they didn’t embrace the ongoing support of AA and NA that Hader Clinic Queensland introduces you to.

Life is still life since leaving rehab, but I am so much better equipped to handle things as they come. I’ve grown so much since I left treatment. I embrace the spiritual aspect of the program and I start the day with a whole hour to myself to work out, pray and meditate. I am back at work, but I’ve left my ego at the door, taken a lesser-paid job, sold my house and moved into a rental with my partner. Not something I thought I would ever do because of pride but my time at Hader Clinic Queensland really humbled me.

I have a much more peaceful existence now being nine months sober and practising active recovery. I take pleasure from the simple things, and I am accountable.

Entering Hader Clinic Queensland, I had thought of myself as a victim and that I had done nothing wrong, but I soon came to realise how much addiction had changed me and impacted those around me.

Since my time in residential alcohol addiction treatment, I have been honest with those around me and am creating more meaningful relationships. I am embracing a simple, peaceful life and enjoying my days that are now so much more fulfilling.

 

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

Christmas Addiction Triggers and How to Manage Them

Christmas. It’s the most wonderful time of the year…unless you are a recovering addict staring down the barrel of a month-long, no-holds-barred partying nightmare.

According to statistics from the Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation (AADF), alcohol and/or substance-related incidents tend to spike dramatically throughout the festive season, including a 50% increase in ambulance attendance for intoxication. Add the social complexities of family get-togethers and work functions – or, in some cases, the lack thereof – and it’s no wonder that many recovering addicts view the month of December as an absolute minefield.

To make it through Christmas unscathed, it’s important to be aware of the most common triggers lying in wait and put strategies in place to avoid relapse. Some of the biggest challenges recovering addicts face during the silly season include:

Social Pressures

Yes, social drinking and/or substance use is bound to ramp up wherever you turn during the Christmas season; however, there are also other, more subtle stress factors at work. You may feel pressure to buy gifts for friends and family that you can’t really afford. You may worry about being labelled as rude for declining invitations to events that you deem too triggering. You may be about to see friends/family/colleagues for the first time since starting your recovery journey and have conflicting feelings about this.

Family and/or Friendship Dynamics

Theoretically, spending quality time with friends and family should be one of the best things about the festive season. In practice, it can be one of the most confronting aspects, especially when you’re in the middle of your recovery journey. There may be unresolved conflict that originates from your days of active addiction. It may be the first time socialising since you gave up drugs and/or alcohol, which can be a source of awkwardness, as some people may not know whether and/or how to approach the subject.

Loneliness

For some recovering addicts, Christmas can be a very lonely time – and loneliness is as powerful a trigger as social overstimulation. If you are not seeing family and/or old friends, whatever the reasons may be, you may experience a range of negative feelings that are counterproductive to your recovery.

However, it’s not all coal in this year’s stocking; with proper planning and consideration, you can minimise the impact of Christmas triggers and find the yuletide cheer without compromising your recovery.

Embracing “No”

This Christmas, give yourself the gift of saying “No” (or, if you feel some seasonal politeness is in order, “No, thank you”). You are allowed to decline offers of alcohol and/or drugs. You are allowed to decline invitations to events that you feel will be too hard to handle. You are even allowed to do so without explaining your motivations; although there is no harm in simply letting people know that you are in addiction recovery and need to look out for potentially harmful scenarios.

Allies Assemble

Everything is easier with a buddy. Trusted family members and/or friends make for excellent support systems during social gatherings. Having just one person in the room who knows what you are going through and can back you up if an uncomfortable situation arises can make all the difference. The same goes for recovering addicts who face a Christmas season without social gatherings; having a mentor/friend/counsellor you can call or meet up with to alleviate loneliness and maintain focus can be invaluable.

Self-Care First

Keeping up healthy habits during the Christmas season is enormously helpful. Eating well, hydrating in the scorching Australian summer, being active, taking time for mindfulness practice and – naturally – keeping up with your recovery program (be it AA/NA meetings or counselling sessions) are essential factors to ensure your wellbeing. Set yourself daily self-care goals and kick them – the effects will be self-evident.

Guerilla Tactics

Let’s be real: There’s always one (or more) friend/family member who is going to be difficult. That uncle insisting you have just one beer with him, that mate who bemoans the fact that you’re no longer cool…and sometimes there’s no avoiding seeing these people. If this happens, it’s time to go rogue. Bring your own non-alcoholic beverages to the party. Set a phone alarm to simulate a phone call and stage an early exit if necessary. Agree on a signal with your party buddy so they can step in and rescue you. Whatever works to keep your recovery going, now’s the time to do it.

A Guide to Christmas in Recovery

Christmas can be a challenging time for recovering addicts, especially if you are in the early days of your recovery journey.

The silly season seems to give most people an open license to party, moderation is put on hold for most of December, and social gatherings tend to be centred around indulgence.

So, if you’re feeling daunted, don’t worry. Any trepidation you might feel is completely reasonable – and, strangely, it’s quite helpful. Being aware of a trying period ahead means you can plan and put coping strategies in place; which leaves you free to have yourself a merry little Christmas.

Centre Yourself in Routine

Holidays are by definition unstructured, which can be problematic when you’re in recovery. While there is no harm in enjoying some holiday freedom, it’s important to keep up with rituals, routines and activities that make you feel grounded and centred. Exercise, meditation, support groups – whatever your safe zone entails, make sure you include it in your everyday life as Christmas rages around you. Slipping back into unhealthy habits is much less likely if you maintain your basic recovery structures.

Give Yourself Permission to Stay Home

Christmas functions – with colleagues, extended family, and friends – can be overwhelming. If you feel like an event is going to compromise your recovery or make you feel overly anxious, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline an invitation. If you’re comfortable doing so, there is no harm in being upfront about your reasons; but citing a conflicting event as a white lie is absolutely fine. Being selective about Christmas get-togethers can make maintaining your recovery much easier, so don’t feel obliged to go to everything.

Make Traditions of Your Own

There may be some Christmas traditions in your family and/or social circle that simply won’t work for a recovering addict. Not being able to fully participate can be upsetting; however, nothing is stopping you from creating new traditions. Invite someone – or a whole gang – close to you for a Christmas Eve walk. Take the kids for a drive to discover the most outlandish Christmas decorations in your neighbourhood. Bake ninja-bread men. Establishing new Christmas traditions can renew your sense of joy in the holidays – and it will be a lot of fun for those you choose to include.

Plan Your Escape Routes

When you’re in recovery even something as simple as a family barbeque can feel complicated. There may be some people you haven’t seen since you were in active addiction. There may be some people you fear might pressure you into having a celebratory drink. Still, you may want to go…because it might also be very nice. The easiest strategy to cope with situations like this is to make a good ol’ fashioned escape plan. Ask a friend to call you at an agreed time (or just set an alarm on your phone) and feign an unexpected emergency if you need to make an exit. Alternatively, get a trusted friend and/or family member, who will be at the event with you, to provide a buffer zone if you need it. A raised eyebrow can be all it takes to signal for help.

Stay Connected

It’s not unusual for your regular support system – mentors, friends from group, your recovery buddies – to disperse over the holiday period. After all, most people will have social commitments. However, it can be invaluable to stay in touch over the phone, check in regularly and plan for a get-together after the Christmas rush. Even a ten-minute conversation with someone going through the same challenges can provide enormous relief and see you through to the end of the yuletide.

Why Christmas is a Good Time to Seek Treatment

On the surface, Christmas may seem an unlikely time to seek treatment for drug and/or alcohol addiction. It’s a time to celebrate and spend with your loved ones. A time to make merry. However, therein lies the problem.

If you feel like your alcohol and/or substance use has spiralled out of control and will cause you and your loved ones anguish this Christmas, know help is available and there are some very good reasons to seek professional assistance this holiday.

It’s the Best Gift for your Loved Ones

You may think that your loved ones would hold it against you if you ‘disappeared’ into rehab during the Christmas season, but this is very unlikely. True, they may miss you and wish you could be with them, but starting your recovery journey is the best gift you could possibly give them. Reclaiming your life – and all the Christmases to come – will make every moment you spend with your loved ones better, simply because the real you will be present.

Christmas is Risky

Christmas can exacerbate substance misuse, after all, everyone is overindulging during the holidays; and it can have devastating consequences for you and your loved ones. Arguments, unsafe behaviour, embarrassing displays of simply being out of control – none of this says Christmas cheer, yet all of it is likely to occur when you mix addiction and the holiday season. By recognising your substance misuse and seeking help, you can pretty much guarantee you won’t impact Christmas negatively.

New Year, New Start

Entering rehab during the Christmas period means you can start the new year as a recovering addict rather than in active addiction. It may seem a little corny, but it also represents a fresh start in the truest sense of the word. Also, the thought of celebrating one year free from alcohol and/or drugs next Christmas can be a poetic and powerful prospect to see you through the rough patches of recovery.

It Gives your Loved Ones Time to Adjust

The kids are off school, most adults have some time off work…the Christmas period is not a bad time for your loved ones to come to terms with the effects of your addiction and the ins and outs of supporting you in your recovery. Remember, your loved ones are also going to need professional support and will need plenty of time to reflect – the holiday season can provide a very useful opportunity to do just that.

It is the Best Gift for You

If you are considering addiction treatment, give yourself the gift of taking the plunge this holiday season. Christmas is about love, kindness, forgiveness and giving…so giving yourself the chance to live a joyous, contended life free from addiction is the definition of the Christmas spirit.

Lucy’s Drug Addiction Recovery Journey

Lucy is 18 months clean and sober after completing 90 days of residential addiction treatment, the transitional housing program, and the outpatient program. This is her story.

With an early introduction to alcohol that spiralled into a drug and alcohol addiction, it wasn’t until my life had completely broken down that I sought help. I booked myself into the 90-day residential addiction treatment program at Hader Clinic Queensland and am now just under 2 years clean and sober for the first time in my life.

Both my parents were heavy drinkers. My mum is an alcoholic (sober for 4 years), and my dad drank heavily as well, so I was slowly introduced to alcohol through sips of drinks every now and then over the years.

I was about 14 years old when I thought I had found the answer to all my problems. A mate of mine had asked me to get rid of a bottle of vodka, so I drank it until I was very sick. Even though I was sick for 3 days afterwards I remember feeling like I had found what had been missing in my life as I finally felt at ease in my skin. I progressed to weed when I was about 16 and then other stimulants when I was about 18 or 19. I would say that I didn’t have a single substance of choice, it was more whatever I could get my hands on. I wouldn’t touch heroin though because a friend overdosed and died from that, and meth made me sick, so I stayed away from it as well.

I was successful in school, a high achiever and a state sportsperson who thought that my drug and alcohol use was just a phase. But as can be expected with addiction, things start falling apart. I chose drugs over my friends, preferring to isolate in my room and use (I wasn’t a social user). When things got hard, or something made me feel like I was doing the wrong thing I would just run away from it.

I tried every sort of therapy, dabbled in different religions, and even signed contracts with my parents pledging not to use drugs for a month. I tried moderating my use but stopping was never really something I ever wanted to do because it had originally made me feel good about myself (even though it had been a long time since I had felt good about myself at that point).

I moved back in with my parents, but I started spiralling out of control. I grew up in the upper middle class and no one talked about or acknowledged that addiction was a thing. As long as you looked okay from the outside you were okay. But I had not been okay for 8 or 10 years, and when it started to seep into my outside life I very quickly realised that I needed help. I had been engaging in really risky behaviours at this point, and my Mum eventually broke down and told me that every time I left the house she was worried that I would die.

I called Hader Clinic Queensland and booked myself in. I had originally tried to push my intake back due to university exams, but I didn’t do the exams because I ramped up my drug use in preparation for entering rehab. When I rocked up at Hader Clinic Queensland I didn’t feel intoxicated, but I had been drinking and I blew 0.17 on a breathalyser. That opened my eyes to just how bad my use had gotten, as I did not believe I was intoxicated at all. So, I knew at that point that I needed residential addiction treatment.

Going into rehab I had always thought that I would die early from using. But meeting the other people and the staff members made me realise that maybe it wasn’t how I was going to die. That my life didn’t have to be like this forever.

At first, I was a little apprehensive of the 12-step program as I thought it was an American cult thing wrapped in Jesus, but I soon realised that it didn’t have to be a religious thing. I’ve always been good with book work and once they set the 12 steps down in front of me I knew I finally had a guide to getting clean and staying sober. The in-built supportive community has been amazing as I finally get to talk to people who truly understand why I chose to use instead of going to my grandma’s funeral. There’s this collective accountability and understanding that helps me when things get tough.

After the 90 days of residential addiction treatment, I did the transitional housing program and then the outpatient program. They were phenomenal and the best way to introduce me slowly back into society as a sober and clean person. It was a great opportunity to be in a supportive environment with people that I had gone through the program with. I could ease my way back into life and learn how to be a sober adult but with the support behind me.

Since leaving the programs it’s been a little hard for me as I was diagnosed with cancer, and as any addict would know, it’s more complicated when you’re a drug user in treatment as they pump you with fentanyl and anaesthetic when getting operated on. My family has been so supportive with the cancer, and I have meetings supporting me with the drug concerns. So, I feel grateful for that.

Other than cancer, life has been pretty amazing. I’ve almost finished my degree, I have found healthier ways to manage my stress and I can cope with being on my own when my parents go on holidays. I have adopted too many cats, but I love them so much.

I now have friends who care about me and want me to succeed, I am looking into getting back into the workforce, I have a great partner who supports me through everything, and I have the world’s best sponsor. I’m just under 2 years sober and clean and thanks to my journey through Hader Clinic Queensland and since leaving I get to realise my passions and live a healthier, happier life of recovery.

 

Photographs of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.

Rose’s Journey to Drug Addiction Recovery

After 60 days of residential addiction treatment, Rose is living her best life in recovery. This is her story.

I never really thought I was an addict, even up until I went into residential drug addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland. Now I know that addiction comes in many shapes and forms, it really opened my eyes to how much I needed help. I did 60 days of rehab at Hader Clinic Queensland and I’m so grateful for how great my life is now.

I started smoking pot when I was a teenager, but it wasn’t until my early 20s that I really ramped up the drug use. I used speed and started injecting it from my second use. I was deep in drug use and injecting speed for about 3 years before I got pregnant and completely gave up. I was clean about 10 years after my daughter was born. Then I started a new job and used sleeping tablets to get through the night, and Mum’s cancer pain medication to get through the day. Once Mum’s leftover pain meds dried up I started doctor shopping to get more, sometimes going six months at a time without using just because I couldn’t get some.

Because of my high-pressure job and this routine of drug use, I just got worse and worse. My relationships fell apart, my finances were struggling, and I was just in a bad place. But I felt like if I could just get to the end of my high-pressure work contract I’d be fine. So, I started looking to overseas countries to buy cheap pain medication in bulk, but this meant risking myself and my future in the process. My life had fallen apart and I just wanted to numb myself from everything. I knew I needed help.

Hader Clinic Queensland popped up on my Facebook. I hadn’t ever considered rehab or knew what it was like, but I thought here was an opportunity to get away from everything and get help. So, I called Hader Clinic Queensland, spoke to JJ and he booked me in. I realised that I had to tell my family, so I sat them down that night and told them I was going to residential drug addiction treatment, and had completed the admission process within a week.

The first 10 days were hard. I didn’t know what to expect and I think I struggled with realising that I was a drug addict. But I loved it. Hader Clinic Queensland was life-changing for me. I loved the structure of the program, and just being able to stop everything and put myself first. I even make my bed every day now! I am very grateful for my experience at Hader Clinic Queensland, and I could just live there, it was that good. Upon leaving my whole life was still very much in the air and quite messy with my failing marriage and just being unsure of what to do next. So, I listened to Hader Clinic Queensland’s advice and I took a year off to focus on myself and my recovery. I attended meetings every day and swam laps, really prioritising my recovery. It was the best decision I made.

Unfortunately, I did experience a small lapse by drinking a couple of beers in a pub one random afternoon after running into someone I knew, and then driving 45 minutes later which resulted in me blowing 0.06 and losing my licence. That really shook me up and reminded me that I still had a lot of work to do to prevent relapse and that I needed to be kind to myself and deal with my shame around my past. I even thought about ending it all, but that experience had happened for a reason.

After that happened I moved back home and ended up finding a job that I absolutely love. I now live on my own, am still prioritising my recovery, and have a beautiful little puppy to keep me company. By feeling like my luck was running out with buying pills overseas and jumping into rehab at Hader Clinic Queensland, I’ve now built a life that I love and can embrace this new chapter of being clean and sober and putting myself first.

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

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