hc_sucure_admin_2016, Author at Hader Clinic Queensland

I’m Seven Months Clean of Ice

After previously undergoing treatment for his ice addiction, James came to the Hader Clinic QLD following a relapse. This is his honest insight into his recovery with us.

Hi, I’m James. I’m 39. I’ve been clean for seven months, but this isn’t my first rodeo with rehab – it’s actually my second time. I did rehab three years ago.

I was in jail and got sent to rehab as part of my bail conditions. Essentially, the first time was to get out of going to jail.

Don’t get me wrong. I did learn things – I learned that I was scared, lonely and angry – but I’m obviously a slow learner because I really didn’t understand my place in it all.

That time, I stayed six months clean then I relapsed. Then I did another six months clean.

I moved to the Sunshine Coast because that’s where we formed our Fellowship.

I was going all right but underneath there were a lot of dramas within my family that I was struggling to deal with.

The relationship I was having with my family was a trigger that opened the floodgates for my last relapse.

You see, I felt generally unsupported by my family in my efforts to turn things around. I have two brothers that are ten years younger than me and a sister who passed away eight years ago from cancer.

Unfortunately, I don’t get on well with my younger brothers. It all comes down to jealousy and my role in the family business.

Back then, I’d just do my own thing. I was a functioning addict, I worked in my own business and for the family’s business.

I got married, and had a daughter, who’s now seven.

When my marriage crumbled, I embarked on a bad journey which ultimately led me to being a criminal.

I went from a background of strict family life to finding drugs and liking them too much as a means of helping me cope with life’s ups and downs.

My drug of addiction was ice.

I first picked up at the age of 22. I was working in my family’s trucking business and using it to stay awake – all the while maintaining a house and a family.

My ex-wife had an affair, my sister died and my brothers didn’t want to know me, so as a means to cope, I turned to drugs and fell in with the wrong crowd of people.

I was very naive about the criminal lifestyle.

Even though I relapsed, I did learn things from my first rehab experience and understood the value of staying connected.

When I relapsed again I was living up the coast, I was feeling lonely and I was hanging out with people who I inherently knew weren’t good for me.

Plus, there was this girl I really shouldn’t have been seeing – and yes, I should have seen it coming but my world turned to shit and bang, I started using again.

My parents kept telling me that I needed to go back to rehab.

I kept telling them, “why would I want to do that? I’ve done it all before”.

But I agreed, and luckily the Hader Clinic Queensland’s retreat was close by.

This time around when I went into rehab, I was ready to accept that I did need to do it again.

I did ninety days in rehab and ninety days in the transition house.

There was more acceptance around going to rehab this time, which was driven by a lack of employment and a three year loss of my driver’s license.

I was living at home with my parents, sad, depressed and at a loose end – so rehab was the best option.

I needed to learn to sit down, shut up and listen in rehab this time around – and take on board the feedback and advice given to me by the staff.

I don’t believe in rock bottom. In the addiction game you can always sink lower. Rock bottom is when you’re dead.

This time around, I’ve learned and understood so much more. It’s a whole lot better for me than being there because of the issues I had with the courts.

This time, I went back because I realized that I was fucked.

The transition house has been great. It’s given me a chance to do the program and integrate back into the real world a bit.

A typical day in the transition house involves a reading, breakfast and a shower. Then it’s whatever the day brings around check ins, meetings and doctors’ appointments.

I’m also going to the gym.

I’m not quite ready to go back to work as that’s another of my biggest triggers.

My parents have bought a farm so I’ll be working on that eventually. I think it’s good for me to get into the country and away from any drug scene. I know I can’t go back to driving trucks.

I have to admit I’ve had a lot of issues with the dynamics in my family.

My mother has been unsupportive and judgmental in the past.

My father, well, last year he’s come around but they were really clueless about my addictive behaviours and how to manage them.

I felt like they wouldn’t listen to me. I got to the point where I thought that their lack of support would have driven me back to jail.

Today, I still blame them for some emotional blackmail.

My parents have come along for the rehab journey which has helped because they’re getting to understand their role in my addiction.

They’ve come to our family nights, they’re attending Al-Anon and I feel like they’re actually listening.

I can see a change in them and it’s helping me.

Their perspective on addiction has changed. 

Last time it felt like they paid me to go away.  “Here’s some money. Run along. Stay away from your brothers.”

I believe it was a way for them to deal with the conflict between us siblings – they paid me to stay away from them and from work.

Deep down I knew I didn’t want money. I wanted my family.

I always said to them that money didn’t buy love.

They thought that by keeping me at arms’ length that I would be doing really well, but the reality was that their money enabled my addictive behaviours.

The relationship with my brother still remains pretty frosty though.

Through rehab I have been able to see that I’ve indulged in behaviours that have needled my parents, such as trying to bring up the relationship I have with my brother – which eventually would have seen me getting worked up in the process.

This time around in rehab, I’m starting to see these things I do. I’m learning to accept the friction between my brother and me.

In short, I’m looking forward to rebuilding my life on the farm and staying connected with a therapeutic community. 

The transition house has made the biggest difference as it’s allowed me to assimilate back into the real world and the family nights have helped my parents understand addiction and how the family plays its part. 

Thanks to everyone at The Hader Clinic Queensland. I’m grateful for the opportunity they gave me.

I’m 12 Months Clean!

Mick, an army veteran, and a recovering alcoholic last shared his addiction treatment story six months ago. Now a year clean he’s sharing another insight into his ongoing recovery journey.

It feels like a lifetime ago when I last shared my story about my time in rehab and at the time being six months clean.

It is now a year since I completed the Hader Clinic Queensland’s ninety day drug and alcohol rehabilitation program and since then, I’ve been in the outpatient program or what I’d call “maintenance”.

I’ve stayed this long in the outpatient program to keep myself accountable and follow through with what I’d call “the basics” and most importantly, keep myself connected, because connection is the opposite of addiction.

I’m always trying to keep that connection going because the nature of addiction is isolating.

In the last seven days, I’ve secured a job and I will be moving out of the transitional housing.

Life is great, I couldn’t be happier with it. I’ve achieved so much in such a short time.

One year of being clean has been worthy of celebration – I even had three cakes that week!

Not that everything has been smooth sailing of course.

I’ve had a few wobbles along the way, but I’m learning that’s part of the recovery process.

There was a stage there where I was feeling like I wasn’t going anywhere in the program, I couldn’t see the final outcome and as a result, I really started to sweat the small things.

I think in general, that’s what I do when I’m a bit stressed – let the small stuff get to me.

How did I turn it around?

I started reading a lot of books that were recommended to me by the staff at the clinic. I did this to help me understand why I was feeling this way. That really helped pull me through. 

The staff here were a great help in helping me overcome these thoughts.

I decided to do some training (Certificate III in Cleaning Operations) to enable me to get a job.

I’m also saving to be able to do some community counselling courses because I want to help people.

I’ve always wanted to help others. I don’t know why.

I remember as a kid being told that I’d end up as a preacher or within that line of work. I’m always that person helping an old lady across the road or carrying her bags to the car.

It makes me feel good to help others.

Years ago, I read that helping others releases endorphins in the brain. They’re right, I do get a rush out of it.

On reflection, I used to help a lot of people out to make me forget about myself. I think that’s where I came unstuck a long time ago.

I helped so many people, I neglected to get the help that I so desperately needed. I lost my sense of self in giving too much.

These days I’m more balanced. I don’t seek gratification or praise for helping others now. I just do it because I can.

Another big “take home” message I’ve learned is that there’s always help available if you’re willing to ask for it.

Years ago, I wouldn’t have reached out, because I didn’t think I deserved those things. Recovery has taught me that I actually DO deserve these things and then some!

Whether those things are physical, financial, mental or spiritual I know that I am worthy and that I can get around my pride and ask for help.

I’m still volunteering with the Salvos.

I just don’t do as much as I did before – because I realised that I had to put my recovery front and centre – some days I miss volunteering due to this – however I don’t worry as I’m there to help for the long term.

Sometimes it’s once a week or a couple of times a month – or even three days a week. I’m learning that I can’t save everyone too.

I’ll always be volunteering with the Salvos. It helps me identify feelings within myself of what I was like at the height of my addiction.

I was selfish, and didn’t care about anyone else’s journey. Actually, I was numb more than anything else.

Now I can go down to Streetlevel and I can see the growth in me.

I know it sounds bad, but I can also laugh at where they’re at – I can find the humour in it because I was there myself. It’s my way of separating myself from active addiction and not getting drawn into the drama of it.

With my new job, I’m starting with a small allocation of hours. It’s a trial period, but I’m not too worried about that as I know my confidence and ability will get me more work.

It’s not going to impose too much on my recovery – as it’s night time work. I feel like I’m ready to work now.

I had reservations about going back into the workforce and doing what I was doing before.

It wasn’t a lot of day time work and the culture of the job is that everyone has a beer or uses drugs after they knock off. I voiced my hesitation, prayed about it.

In the end I handed the problem over to my Higher Power and asked Him to help me find my way, to give me the right direction – and the next thing I know, I find this job where my commitment to recovery isn’t affected.

That’s the thing, our Higher Power opens and closes doors all the time for us – but most of the time we’re not noticing what’s going on.

We’re too busy sweating the small things. If we can just sit back, relax, we can see those doorways being opened to us.

It’s nice to be taking steps towards independence again.

I’m so grateful to the Hader Clinic Queensland for their help.

If it hadn’t been for my time in the Defence force, I would not have been able to access this opportunity to get clean as the Hader Clinic Queensland is a Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) Approved Provider of addiction treatment services.

I treat my recovery as a gift and something to be cherished.

I want to live each day honouring that gift, that chance that I’ve been given.

Breaking Stigmas of Mental Health and Addiction

What a loser, a no hoper, a junkie, a bludger. They’re a stain on society. They brought it upon themselves, why should I have sympathy for them?

Unfortunately when it comes to depicting the nature of an addict, it’s common to hear phrases such as the ones above bandied around to describe them. 

Such phrases are cruel and divisive and rarely prompt someone suffering with the disease of addiction to seek treatment. 

Most people don’t know that substance use and dependency disorders are officially classified as mental health disorders (1).

In recent years, initiatives such as World Mental Health Day have sought to raise awareness around mental health issues and reduce the stigma associated with suffering from mental illness. 

Stigma around mental illness delays or prevents people from wanting to seek help.

While great strides have been made around some forms of mental illness, the disease of addiction appears especially impacted by misconception and misrepresentation – negative references such as the ones above as well as blaming and shaming do little to prompt an addict to seek help they need.

Here are a few facts about addiction and mental health and how you can help someone who is the grip of substance use disorder.

  • It’s not clear cut what comes first – substance use disorder or other underlying mental health issues. What’s important is seeking out expert addiction treatment that addresses all aspects of mental health.
  • Labelling addicts with cruel, divisive labels does nothing to help them seek treatment. Neither does blaming them for “bringing it upon themselves”. Instead acknowledge that they suffering from a mental health disorder and that help is available.
  • Support an addict with honest language that supports the person, yet acknowledges the dysfunctional aspect of addictive “talk” and behaviour. Use language that separates the person from their addiction. Avoid enabling behaviours. Tell them that you love them but will not support them in addictive addiction and the behaviours that accompany it.  
  • Let an addict know that help is available, there is always hope and recovery is possible, provided they are prepared to put in some hard work. Encourage them to make that hard work count by seeking expert help to assist in the recovery process.

Focus on what recovery entails and the benefits of freedom from addiction – strength, resilience, courage, bravery, perseverance, colour, life, service and connection are but a few!

Sources

(1) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5” (DSM-V)

Pete’s Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Despite losing his wife and kids, Pete continued to drink. He didn’t see a problem with it and never thought he was an alcoholic. Then one night a family intervention put Pete on a road to recovery. This is his addiction recovery story.

Hi, I’m Pete, I’m 57 and a recovering alcoholic.

I served in the army in my early twenties but didn’t drink much then.

My drinking really started socially in my early thirties and as the years passed, it became more and more excessive.

A couple of years into my social drinking, my then wife and I decided to brew our own spirits. It was a cheaper option, and my drinking became a daily habit. We had that much alcohol in the house that you could pretty much name your drink and it was there.

My wife was also a reasonably heavy drinker, but the difference was that she could stop, and I couldn’t.

I was a workaholic as well and always looked forward to coming home at night and drinking which would give me a bit of a break from the daily grind or at least that was my excuse.

Back then, I didn’t see my alcohol use as problematic. I thought that I could stop at anytime I wanted to.

Drinking would also help me sleep. That was my reasoning behind it at least. That was followed by, “why should I stop?” “I’m not hurting anyone else; I drink at home and I’m not drinking in public hurting anyone”.

I never drank in the morning if I had to work. I would wake up early so I could have about ten coffees before I went to work, trying to get going as my job demanded a lot of me mentally.

I did however drink in the mornings if I didn’t have to go to work and those drinks are what I’d call “sneaky ones”.

Before I started drinking in my thirties, I was obsessive about fitness – I was the National Powerlifting Champion. As a matter of fact, that was my addiction back then – I trained for two to three hours a day, five days a week.

Yes, it was an addiction but a socially accepted one. One that also would not have taken me to a rehab like the Hader Clinic.

Over the years, I found I couldn’t stop drinking.

My first wife asked me to leave home about ten years ago.

I was still drinking when I met my next partner and she has also left me.

My kids don’t speak to me either (unfortunately, they haven’t yet had a change of heart since I completed my time in rehab).

Despite my wife and kids leaving, I continued to drink. I didn’t see a problem with it and I certainly didn’t think I was an alcoholic.

However, my sisters and their husbands and my niece were the ones that said, “enough is enough”. They invited me over for dinner one night and ambushed me, trying to convince me to get help and go to a residential rehab.

I had brought a few sneaky drinks with me in the car, and throughout dinner, I was excusing myself to head out to the car to have a drink.

Anyway, I agreed to go.

Then I put if off for a week, then for another week. Because I own my own business I was worried about what would happen to it.

Then, eventually, I spoke to Hayden at the Hader Clinic Queensland and organised to head into rehab on the following Monday.

On the Monday I was reluctant, but my family convinced me to get in the car and dropped me off at the Hader Clinic.

At the time, I couldn’t believe that I agreed to it, thinking that I wouldn’t do the full ninety-day program.

I thought that I would go there, they would give some pills and I would be cured in a couple of weeks and then leave.

Anyway….

After four weeks, I had planned to leave. I was all good. I thought, “I know what this is about, I’m not stupid, I can handle myself, I will be fine”.

However, the staff convinced me to stay for another thirty days and at the sixty-day mark, I realised that I would not have made it had I left at the thirty-day mark.

Again, I thought I would leave at sixty days, but the same thing happened – as I progressed towards ninety days, I realised that for me the sixty-day mark would have been too early.

I completed the ninety days.

Towards the end of my drinking I was starting to lose some memory and cognition, but I had been able to do what needed to be done in my business.

My employees were also a great help in keeping things going.

While I was undergoing rehabilitation, I learned that alcoholism is a disease.

I didn’t believe it before my admission to Hader, but I believe it now.

Learning about the AA steps and realising that my life had become unmanageable as a result of my alcohol intake was another watershed moment for me.

Five years prior to my admission into rehabilitation, I went to AA meetings.

I was in denial – I didn’t think that I was an alcoholic, reasoning that my life wasn’t unmanageable, I thought, “I run a business, I go to work every day, I also thought “I do what I need to do every day to live, so I’m not an alcoholic – and I manage my life quite well”.

However, our minds tell us that we’re doing well but often we’re not.

When I was in rehabilitation, I did everything I had to do. In fact, I went back to the Rehab last week for a meeting and I still can’t believe how many people both male and female came up and gave me a hug.

What made me stay a bit longer each time? It was the staff.

If it wasn’t for the staff explaining addiction and other things to me I may have left.

The staff were brilliant with a person like me.

I like to work for myself and have done so for most of my life in several different businesses. I also have two university degrees and thought that I was more intelligent than the average person, so reasoning with me could be quite hard, but the staff managed to convince me to stay for sixty, then to ninety days.

I now average four AA meetings a week – often I’m away for work where I have no access to a meeting.

However, when I’m in town, I’ll attend several meetings a week.

I love the meetings because they keep me focused.

On the days that shit happens, the fellowship of AA really picks me up as I can identify with their shares.

There’s some merit in confessing your defects, troubles, shortcomings and whatever else, through sharing.

I’m much better at expressing my feelings since rehab.

Before my time in rehab, there would be no chance of getting me, this “tough man” telling you how I felt.

I thought expressing feelings was a sign of weakness, along with the fact that I didn’t want to bother anyone else with my crap.

Pre-rehab, I wouldn’t open at all. Post-rehab it’s one of the things that I’ve learned is so beneficial in life as a healing tool.

I honestly think that because I plan things to the minutest detail, the best thing I can do for myself is to take one day at a time, and practice patience and tolerance, simply because that works for me.

I’m was a bit slow on the uptake of the higher power thing. But since accepting the spiritual side and the 12 Steps of the AA program, I’ve now got the tools to be able to live without alcohol.

I’m learning not to be so pedantic and rigid about planning because things don’t always go to plan. I’m learning to be open minded about that.

Acceptance, patience, tolerance and one day at a time are some of the keys that I have to be aware of daily for continued sobriety.

Rosie’s Addiction Recovery Story

Rosie has been wrestling with addiction for fourteen years. Now 33, she has just completed rehab at The Hader Clinic Queensland. Here she shares her rollercoaster recovery story and what she learned that will help keep her in recovery.

I’m 33 now and have just completed a ninety day residential addiction treatment program at the Hader Clinic Queensland. I actually joined the fellowship at age 19, after my first rehabilitation and have had extended periods of time where I’ve managed to stay clean and times when I’ve relapsed, often for a few years at a time.

My drug of choice? I would have happily taken anything and everything, but mainly I used heroin.

I ended up in rehab at the age of twenty. I tried a Naltrexone implant but that only stopped me from using the one drug. That’s when I realised that I had a problem with all drugs. I thought that if I removed one drug, then I’d be OK, but it clearly wasn’t the case.  Things got a lot worse – I had no choice really but to end up doing rehab.

That was probably the best thing that happened to me at the time. I completed rehab and stayed clean for a few years. I did all the things that I’d never been able to do before such as getting a job, renting a house and starting university.

I did a couple of years of a paramedic degree and decided that while I was at university, that I could, “drink responsibly”.

I was young and I still didn’t fully understand the nature of addiction. At the time, I’d never had any issues with drinking alcohol.

Drinking alcohol led me back to using drugs very quickly.  My drinking wasn’t out of control, I’d drink every couple of weekends with my work mates if they were going out – I was working at a bar to support my university studies.

However, the feelings of “obsession” around drugs had entered my head, if that makes sense.

It only took a few months for me to decide that alcohol wasn’t what I preferred, it was drugs. I had actually fooled myself into thinking that if I could drink responsibly, then maybe I could do drugs responsibly.

It was such a delusion of course. Once I separated myself from the fellowship and my friends, I didn’t have anyone around me to combat my delusional thinking.

That delusional thinking got me back into drugs and the lifestyle that goes with it. The user lifestyle, you’ve probably heard it all before – doesn’t need explaining. 

Did I steal to support my habit? Absolutely. It was much worse for me than the first time around. The crime got worse anyway. When I was younger it was more petty stuff that got me into trouble like possession. This time I continued on to violent crime within the community and just really did things that I would never consider now that I’m clean.

These issues still affect me today. I had nearly finished my paramedic science degree and as a result of the crime, could not go back to finish that study.

I guess that it wasn’t meant to be, but I’m OK with that.  I’m studying business and marketing within the creative industries now.

As a result of that relapse I ended up serving twelve months of a four year prison sentence. That relapse was my longest, about four years. Being in prison didn’t stop my drug use, but it certainly was a reality check for me.

I also had to do three months of community service. Life began to get better for me again. I came back into the fellowship. I was still in the maintenance program, accepted and welcomed and spent the next few years working my way off a methadone program. I got clean and stayed that way for a few years.

Then I relapsed last year.

Looking back, I believe that I had quite a full life, which meant that I really wasn’t focusing on recovery. I had two jobs, I was studying – I have now come to a place these days where I’ve realised that I just have to take my time.

I didn’t set out to use drugs that fateful day, they were put directly in my path and I had no defences to counter them with.

I was tired, I was stressed, I had exams coming up – it was a perfect storm. Someone near to me had used and normally that wouldn’t be a trigger for me. I just wasn’t paying attention to my recovery – at the time I was getting to one meeting a week, if that. 

I wasn’t doing step work, or service – all the things that are keeping me clean today.

I can now see where I made mistakes and have come to the conclusion that if I have to slowly plod along at life and take longer to finish my uni degree because I’m putting recovery front and centre, then that’s OK. I’d rather get there and achieve something than lose it to drugs.

I know it sounds crazy but In that moment of relapse I had the thought of “you know what? Stuff it. I’ll come back (to a meeting) tomorrow. I’ll be fine.”

And I did exactly that – I went to a meeting the next day, thinking that, “these people are a complete bunch of idiots here”. 

My head had already started with the distorted thinking – I had unleashed the beast.

It wasn’t until I bumped into my friend, Jay, who’s been in recovery and has notched up ten years clean that things changed.

We were holidaying in Noosa for Christmas with my family and I was still trying to go to a meeting.  I bumped into him there. Knowing that he would understand, I levelled with him, telling him that I wasn’t well and that I was struggling.

I asked him if there was any chance that he could help and he replied, “yes” and that’s how I ended up coming to the Hader Clinic. Jay is one of the Clinic’s highly valued staff. I am very grateful to him.

I detoxed from the heroin the week before I was admitted into rehab. I was still suffering withdrawal sickness, though I had managed to get through the worst of it.  I had insomnia, and I was sweaty and shaky. I could still move around quite easily though.

My experience of rehab was great. The fact that it was ninety days made the biggest difference – it was a good time frame, given that I’d been exposed to the fellowship before. It was comfortable. There was an excellent therapeutic community within the rehab and surrounds.

The staff were caring and accommodating. It’s a wide open space and the food, the food that was served was fantastic as was the group work. I found the limited contact from the outside world a little challenging – fifteen minutes never seemed like enough. However, it did give me time to focus on myself and learn to “sit” with what I needed.

This time around in rehab, I spent more time helping those who were new to the recovery process which made the time pass quickly. I was also able to work through the 12 Steps with a local member from the community, Janet.

I found that really cool that if I was serious about working through the twelve steps that I could ask someone local for help – and the staff at Hader were very encouraging of that.

Because I got to do that in the time that I was at the rehab, I felt like I was better equipped to start practising what we do on the outside, and that is to help other people with the same issues. I found my day a lot easier if I was OK and I could reach out and help someone else. I could reach out and ask how their day was going and what I could do for them.

What also hit home for me was that it’s a daily program. The staff have all walked this road and keep working at their own recoveries. I’ve never got past two years clean because I’ve let things fall away.  The most profound understanding has been that it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in recovery, you still have to work at it.  I’ve got more insight into the connection you have with the fellowship and the importance of a daily routine in recovery.

As well as my recovery, I’m slowly working my way towards finishing my uni degree and live with my partner, who is also a recovering addict and our puppy.  This recovery has taken longer than previous times at rehab where I seem to have landed on my feet more. I still have previous belongings in my life like my house and my car, but emotionally it’s taken me longer to adjust.

My partner works and I’ve only just gone back to uni. You can sometimes feel like you don’t have any other purpose but NA. It can get a bit dull – I just felt overwhelmed with life when I left the rehab.

My dog’s been really therapeutic for me as he gets me out in the mornings and the afternoons for a walk which helps me clear my mind.

My partner and I needed to be separated – it just doesn’t work trying to get clean together – he did his on the outside with the fellowship. We’re very open about our recovery journeys but we don’t directly support each other – we both have separate sponsors and support networks and that works well for us.

If I had any advice for someone contemplating recovery, it would be to go for it.

If you want a change in your life, seek help – people do care and others can help you.

Don’t Give up on Yourself, it’s Never Too Late to Recover

Helen fell into the grip of active addiction as a child and continued her struggle for the next thirty years. Realising that she didn’t want her addiction to kill her was the first step towards a new life.

Helen is the Hader Clinic Queensland’s art therapist who shares her talents and her personal addiction experience helping others in their recovery from addiction. 

This is her rollercoaster journey.

Hi, I’m Helen, and I suffer from the disease of addiction. I’ve been clean since September 22, 2012.

Through sharing my story, I hope that my experience can give others who are suffering from the pain of addiction, strength and hope that they can make a change for the better.

As a child, I have few memories of actually feeling happy. I must have had moments of joy, but my dominant memory is of feeling isolated. 

My mum tragically died when I was just three years old, which left my two brothers and me to be raised by her ex-husband, who was not my dad.

I grew up grieving and confused, and feeling like I didn’t belong anywhere. I felt like I had no connections. I had no idea why I felt so alone. 

As I grew up, my Nana tried to reach me, however either she didn’t know how to help me or by then I didn’t want to be helped.

I discovered alcohol at eleven years old and became instantly obsessed with it.

It had the effect of sending me from being withdrawn and sullen into rebellious and angry behaviours, which, at the time, I openly enjoyed.

By the time I was thirteen, my life was spiralling rapidly out of control.

My step parents and grandparents struggled to discipline me. I was already too far gone. I was wagging school, lying, fighting and drinking with every waking breath I could. 

I barely passed high school, but I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was drink and party. I was able to get away with this for several years. 

Then, I fell pregnant at seventeen.

Naturally, I was completely unprepared for motherhood. 

My addiction was so cunning that the birth of my beautiful son was not enough to curb my drinking.

By this stage, I was also using illicit drugs.

When my son was three, I surrendered him to his father, admitting that I was utterly incompetent to parent him.

To this day, my heart aches with regret.

However, at this time I just wanted to get back to serious party mode. The more I used, the more terrible my life choices became. The men I chose were all emotionally damaged, just like I was.

I couldn’t handle money, I couldn’t keep a job, my life was was completely without purpose and I was just twenty one.

For the next twenty three years my whole life revolved around alcohol and drugs. 

Every relationship I started involved alcohol and drugs. It was a crazy, crazy ride.

Domestic violence, arrests, driving under the influence, blackouts, “geographicals” (location changes) – you name it, I did it all.

Drugs and alcohol turned me into a person that was dishonest, unreliable, volatile and cunning.

I manipulated and stole my way through life thinking that it was my right. 

I moved from one relationship to the next, from one town to the next leaving a trail of destruction and disappointment behind me.

My talent as an artist was the only valuable contribution I made to society, however, I would use that talent to get way with unacceptable behaviour. 

I believed my art was the only thing about me worth anything, eventually I lost that as well.

I believe that, at times people tried to love me, maybe they even did love me, but I only loved whatever I could take to could get me out of it. I loved the feeling of being high and smashed.

I was utterly broken. I was completely lost. I was slowly killing myself and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it.

My brother loved me anyway, even as he watched me dying, inside and out. I’m not sure how he did that, and why he didn’t walk away. 

Finally, I reached a point where I wanted to change my life.

I began to slowly realise that I didn’t want to die. I also knew that I couldn’t keep living the way that I was.

You see, I made so many attempts to stop and failed every… single… time. 

Failed miserably, failed magnificently.

It seemed that psychiatrists, doctors, police, judges, family and my parents couldn’t help me.

I wouldn’t listen, I couldn’t hear them through the cravings. I believed I needed the drugs to deal with how I felt. 

Being straight was unbearable but active addiction was a living hell.

Picture this: I had nothing left, no friends, no relationship, no family, just that one unshakeable brother who never gave up on me.

I was 41kg, skin and bone, I smelt bad and was extremely ill. My kidneys ached, I drank and drove every day and I rarely ate. 

I was beginning to understand that I was living on borrowed time. I had to change but I didn’t know how.

I had tried getting help before so I didn’t see how AA or NA would be any different. Out of desperation I attended anyway. 

I remember being two days sober at my first AA meeting only because I was too ill to drink.

I don’t remember anything that was said at that meeting but I remember leaving with the tiniest whisper of hope. I went to another meeting the next day, and another the day after that. 

Suddenly I found myself 5 days sober for the first time I could remember in over 25 years.

Then I stretched it out to ten, then thirty days. I was amazed. 

I was frail, fragile, emotionally immature and I felt like an alien on a new planet. I had escaped death, now I needed to learn how to live again.

I did exactly what my sponsor said, I worked my way through the steps and I went to meetings. I worked at helping others and I made amends where I could. 

I spent every day in AA so that I could live.

I learnt who I was, I learnt to forgive and I learnt to really love.

Through my association with the fellowship, I was becoming a person that I could actually like.

Slowly I began to regain my self esteem and respect. It was the beginning of my new life.

Finally, I found connection.

I connected with people in the fellowship who knew what I had been through, I connected with my sponsor who gave me unconditional love, and I connected with a power greater than myself.

Today, I am almost seven years free from alcohol and drugs.

Tears of gratitude fall down my face as I write this – yes, tears of gratitude and joy.

My brother is proud of me.

My son is back in my life and thinks that I’m a good person, this is a miracle! 

I have healthy relationships today with good people. 

I’m fit and strong and a part of my amazing community. I care for myself, and I care for others. 

I can face adversity without the need for alcohol and drugs.

I have art back in my life and today I have the privilege and joy of using it to help others like me. 

Without the program of AA and the community within both the AA and NA programs I have absolutely no doubt I would not be here at all.

My life in recovery is a gift and so is yours.

Don’t give up on yourself, it’s never too late to recover.

Peter’s Addiction Recovery Story

The story of how Peter came to hit rock bottom is one of desperation, then a springboard for getting the help he needed to recover from alcohol addiction.

At 67 years old Peter wasn’t expecting to be heading to a drug rehab clinic for treatment of alcoholism. 

He’d lived and worked in the bush where having a few beers was the norm, and where he’d never given having a drink a second thought. 

However, a traumatic event at work was the catalyst for his descent into an alcoholic hell.

Peter shares his incredible journey.

My introduction to alcohol was unusual to say the least. I’m originally from Holland, and at the age of 15, my parents decided to go back to Holland and I was to stay in Australia.

They arranged for me to stay at a friend’s place. My parents drove off and I proceeded to find the house I was to lodge at.  I knocked on the door, only to find out that my parents friends had moved on.

Here I was, standing on the side of the road, with a suitcase and no money. I wasn’t sure what to do or how to feel, so I walked along the side of the road, kicking a rock as I went.

I ended up at the local pub. Luckily, I knew the people that owned it – I think I went to school with one of their kids. Anyway, they gave me a place to stay and let me off the hook a bit because I had no money.

However, I had started my apprenticeship in panel beating and spray painting, and had bought the family home from my father.

Somehow I think he collected the rent and I made the repayments. Then, as I mentioned, they left the country and I struggled through my apprenticeship. I did all sorts of trades, not just panel beating and painting.

Around this time, I had my first drink – when I was staying at the pub. After I finished my apprenticeship, I renovated the house and sold it for a tidy profit.

In my lifestyle, out in the bush, drinking was part of the culture. I didn’t drink habitually at that stage, it was just everywhere you went.

There’s a pub on the corner block of every country town, right? 

And they’d yell out your name as you walked or drove past.

I got into motorbike racing, I got into fishing.

I even went on a working holiday around Australia – mostly in the bush.

There was always a drink involved, that’s what you did. But I never drank to the point of intoxication. You went out somewhere and there were always three or four beers – never thought anything of it.

I met my wife around that time, too. We’d actually gone to school together. We married and had three daughters and eventually shifted to a mining town in Central Queensland, which felt like the middle of nowhere.

I worked my way up the ladder in mining.

Mining also had that “drinking culture” – you’d knock off from your shift and have a couple of drinks.

I worked my way up from being on the shovel (as an operator) to overseeing two hundred and fifty men.

I also moved around doing some contract mining work, then ended up at the mine I originally started at.

My mining career spanned 27 years.

One day at work, I collapsed. At the time, I was doing an emergency evacuation, and as the boss, everyone was following me.

I collapsed underground, then the mine had to do an emergency evacuation to get me out. 

After this event, I went to the doctor for a check-up and received clearance to go back to work.

When the bus turned up to pick us up to take us to the mine, the weight of responsibility I was carrying for the safety and welfare of my employees and colleagues was crushing.

It was overwhelming. I could not bear the thought of experiencing another underground fire incident and being responsible for everyone’s safety – especially those men with wives and children.

It was hard because I knew everybody that worked there by name. I felt like I couldn’t afford the risk of another collapse at a time when everyone at the mine would need me most.

I ended up going home and resigning that day.

That was when my relationship with alcohol started to change.

I got a job at the local marina. There was alcohol involved then, but I didn’t have the responsibilities that I had at the mine.

My alcohol use started to increase.

Looking back, I can see that the events at the mine really kicked things up. I’m a hard worker and basically I’d moved to the beach, had less maintenance to do at home, and had fewer responsibilities.

The marina even gave me an account where I could book up a beer when I knocked off and I could finish work anytime I wanted to.

Then I collapsed again, and was found unconscious at the marina. I had to resign from that job because I couldn’t run the risk of walking out on the marina in case I collapsed again and fell into the water.

That was the end of work as I knew it. After lots of testing, including a few trips to specialists in Brisbane, I was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy. 

This was the cause of my collapses and it took six years to find out what was happening to my health.

After my diagnosis, I stopped work completely. With nothing to do, the alcohol use started to increase – until exactly what the book says happens – you start off with one drink, then have another and then decide to keep drinking to “fill the day in”.

Then you start feeling crook and then start drinking early in the morning to get over the night before.

 Before long, my drinking led to life turning into a total disaster. My wife and daughters were horrified and soon started monitoring me and tracking my movements in an effort to stop me from drinking.

I even handed over all of my money to them. Anything to make it stop.  But my behaviours persisted.

You still get very sneaky to find a bit of grog. They’d be driving around town to find me if I’d gone out for a walk.

One particular day, I found a dollar coin on the ground. I walked five kilometres to the newsagent to buy a Scratchie.

Then I won two dollars. I cashed that Scratchie in and got four dollars. Then put that in again and I won eight dollars.

That was enough to buy me two bottles of red.

I didn’t make it home.

I collapsed unconscious on the side of the road. I was found by my wife and children. Then the ambulance and the police turned up and that was the day we had a family meeting.

We decided that I’m an alcoholic.

My daughter had done some research and contacted The Hader Clinic Queensland and I was at the rehab two days later.

I don’t think I had realised the impact of the stress of my mining career.

As the deputy in charge, you couldn’t afford to make one mistake. And running on time is of utmost importance because the machines are expensive to run and every second has to be accounted for.

Plus, you’re responsible for educating the men and even being a bloody psychologist and dealing with absenteeism etc.

I started to drink more in order to be able to cope with these things.

My experience at Hader has been terrific.

I’m the kind of person that takes things on seriously and I thought to myself, “the position I’m in is that I’m coming in here an alcoholic – they’re not going to fix me, but they’re going to give me the tools I need to fix myself.”

And I got that from day one – and I’ve chased that the whole way through. I’ve asked so many questions and I got all the answers that I wished whenever I wanted.

The day I arrived at Hader, my memory was hazy.

My family thought that I was developing Alzheimer’s. I had been to the doctor several times, and I’d been trying to use that as an excuse, rather than blaming the drink.

I think I scored 30% on my first memory exam with the psychiatrist and now I’m scoring 100%. All my memory has come back and I have no sign of Alzheimer’s.

It was all to do with the bloody drink.

The first week I was here, the staff had to put my name on the door of my room so that I could find it. I couldn’t find it without help.

And the shakes I got were tremendous.

The bookwork was illuminating. One of the books asks, “am I an alcoholic?”  Well, that was just “tick, tick, tick, ticking boxes” all the way down the page.

As time went on, I’ve been going through the “withdrawal symptom” checklist and ticking off all of those boxes as well.

The shakes have gone, amongst other things. Everything has cleared. I was even getting hangovers for the first six weeks of the program at all times of the day and night.

I’ve been keeping a daily diary of my time here. Looking back, I can see the changes in my handwriting and my personality.

It’s pretty exciting, actually.

The staff taught me to keep a diary. They check that I’ve written, but they don’t read what I’ve said.

In fact for the first four days, you can’t actually read my writing because my hands were shaking THAT much.

I have a new lease on life. I’ve put on weight and look twenty years younger.

I’m looking forward to seeing my wife again.

I told her not to visit.

You see, I did a bit of a risk assessment and I thought the 400km drive down and back to visit me in rehab was potentially unsafe.

I’ve seen two of my daughters though and the whole family are visiting me for my send off from rehab in a couple of days.

My family have been very supportive and did lots of research on many rehab facilities. A lot of them had day leave, to which I said “that’s no good, I can’t be allowed to leave”.

I knew that I needed to be locked away from alcohol as a starting point.

Hader taught me that to stay away from alcohol, I needed to educate myself and join a fellowship that supports me in my recovery. I have done 85 AA meetings so far and have no plans to stop!

Yesterday, at my meeting, I shared my story about my arrival from Holland on the boat, and what happened with my parents etc. It took me an hour!

But I got a big round of applause from the residents and plenty of questions after.

Now I have a sponsor lined up for when I arrive home.

My wife has already been to a meeting and the Hader Clinic have been in contact with her to help her with my arrival back home and I’ve just finished my plan as to what I’m going to do when I arrive back too.

It’s taken me two weeks but the staff are looking at that with me.

I’ve also got a counsellor lined up at the local hospital once a week, I’ve got a long appointment with my GP booked as well.

I can’t wait to do a comparison of my blood tests, now that I’m healthy again. Hopefully my kidneys and liver are returning to normal.

I still live on the beach and I volunteer on Beach Patrol, which is a four kilometre walk each way.

I pick up any rubbish on the beach, empty the bins and make sure there are doggy doo doo bags available for those with pets. 

That’s not so much fun, but someone has to do it!

Everyone at the clinic has been amazing.

I’ve always had an ability to mix with princes or paupers and we all get along tremendously.

We’re all on a first name basis here.  

I’ve learned a lot from when new people come into the rehab and to see the changes that occur in them is mind blowing.

When someone new turns up, there’s not a lot of eye contact. But eventually they relax.

I’ve been on the buddy program for four new people here already and have loved it.

I’m looking forward to the best days of my life and thank the Hader Clinic Queensland for all their help and support.

There was Only Darkness, now there is Light

Bonnie is a recovering alcoholic and former Australian Defence Force employee who used alcohol as a means to cope with feelings of isolation, depression, hopelessness and breast cancer. This is her amazing journey.

I’m Bonnie, I’m 63, and I’m a recovering alcoholic.

I was in the army for 22 years – and I wasn’t a drinker back then, apart from the occasional social drink.

I had a very productive career in the army and achieved a lot.

The only reason that I left was that I was pregnant with my first and only child. I didn’t have her until I was 42 as my career in the army had taken precedence – I didn’t have time for anything else and hadn’t actually met anyone who was Mr Right. My husband was also in the army.

Before I left the army, my husband and I bought an investment property which we now live on. At that stage it had cattle on it and we remained stationed in Melbourne.

When our daughter, Sara, was of school age, we decided to leave the army and the “big smoke” in favour of raising her in a quiet country town.

While that was all happening, my husband was inspired by his neighbour’s winery and we decided to turn the property into a vineyard.

My husband ended up working away from home a lot and I ended up solely running and managing the vineyard, which really wasn’t my cup of tea – but I did it anyway.

I wasn’t really drinking at that stage, but soon after that, my parents moved into the area and I bought them a property close by.

That became a full-time activity in itself as my father was very old school and expected me to come and visit him every day, which I found stressful.

I was on my own – living and working on the vineyard seven days a week, looking after my little girl and trying to look after, and please my parents.

My parents eventually moved into aged care, but the expectation was that I would visit every day.

My daughter was also growing up by this stage and became ill, developing an eating disorder. The stress was tremendous.

From having a highly responsible job managing a lot of people I knew in the army, I came to a property in the Victorian countryside where I knew no one.

During my time in the army, I developed post natal depression (PND) which wasn’t properly diagnosed.

In the country, the doctors were just like those in the army – it was hard to get a diagnosis.

It took a visit from my husband with me to discover that I was indeed suffering PND.

Ten years had passed from the time my daughter was born to the time I was diagnosed, I was pretty desperate by this stage and feeling pretty out of control.

I was trying to deal with my depression, my workload, and this is when I started to drink.

Sara was about 15 or 16.

So it’s virtually been the last ten years and also coincided with my mother developing Alzheimer’s disease.

My father put so much pressure on me to visit every day.

I was visiting her and doing her hair in the morning, then coming here to the vineyard, doing homework with Sara, though she was pretty independent by that stage.

To settle myself down, I’d be drinking away every evening.

Sara was suffering with anorexia, and watching that suffering and worrying about her well being was stressful to the max.

Her mood swings were horrendous. I’d be shut off from her, you know the saying that you hurt the ones who are the closest to you? That was really hard to handle.

I was trying to look after her and do what was best for her without knowing or understanding how she came to be that way.

My mother then passed away.

I was driving away from the aged care facility when they rang and told me. I had to turn around and then go back and tell my father, who was devastated and inconsolable.

The drinking continued to escalate.

It was so gradual, it seemed to creep up on me. It seemed to snowball over the last ten years where I experienced such an abundance of stressful life events.

My father eventually became ill and fortunately Sara had improved and was quite stable.

My husband was still working away interstate. He had an excellent job. I don’t hold that against him, but it was tough not having him around.

As Dad deteriorated, he told me that he loved me – which was a new experience, as he’d been a military man working in secret service type roles.

He became the father I’d always wanted. I spent many hours at his bedside, and one evening a doctor told me to go home and get some rest, that he’d still be here in the morning.

I left, and drank an entire bottle of red wine.

Shortly after, I received a phone call telling me that Dad was dying and that I should come back quickly.

I went there in my PJs, got in the car, despite the wine and by the time I arrived, was told that he’d passed. I stayed with him until the nurses told me that I had to leave.

It was hard coping with the passing of my Dad and I did my best to get back on top of things.

However, now Sara had relapsed back into anorexia and we decided to withdraw her from university and get her into a specialised eating disorders clinic.

It was the worst thing I did.

They put a lot of pressure on her to eat and my visits were punctuated with smashed jars, paintings and generally irrational behaviour.

She was at her lowest point, telling me that she hated me and that everything was my fault. My husband had seen none of this and I felt like because he hadn’t seen it, it was not real. I felt so alone and helpless.

I wasn’t feeling great either and visited my doctor who performed a few tests and dismissed my concerns.

I switched doctors and upon having a mammogram, discovered that I had some suspicious lumps.

My drinking escalated.

It was my only form of escape.

I was now living alone, managing a massive vineyard with only the dog for company. At this stage it was now two bottles of bubbly each night.

I had an appointment at the Royal Melbourne Breast Cancer Research campus at Parkville.

I was assured on the phone that it was only a routine check to make sure that what they had seen on the mammograms was not cancerous and that 90% of patients were gone from the building before lunch.

I was still there at 17:00hrs.

I had had two x-rays, scans, ultrasounds and finally a biopsy of my right breast.

I was exhausted at this stage and starting to get very concerned. I asked the doctor who had taken the biopsy what does all this mean???

She turned to me with no expression of any feelings and said “You have breast cancer and will have to have surgery in both breasts. Most probable chemo and radiation treatment”.

I promptly vomited and almost passed out.

I saw my surgeon that day too who was very kind and said she will be looking after me (she was and is a saint).

All up I had three conservative surgeries to save my breasts but they kept on finding more lesions and eventually I had both breasts removed and reconstruction surgery at the same time.

This all took nine months.

I swore to myself that I’d never drink again after that. I’d been given a second chance and wanted to make the most of it.

Six months later I went on a short break with a girlfriend who said, “Bonnie, do you notice that you drink a lot?”

Inevitably, I started drinking again and my daughter got really angry – “it’s the drink or me” she said.

And I said, “I know I drink, but I don’t have a problem. I can control myself.”

She said with a worried expression, “but you drink a lot.”

When she said that, I was irritated but Sara had already told me that she was worried about my drinking because of my health.

I was suffering from gastritis from drinking too much, I had facial rosacea, I put on weight.

Everything was very negative with the drinking – not only from a health point of view, but that my daughter had noticed and given me an ultimatum.

My best friend put me onto the Hader Clinic Queensland. She said she was going to go there, but said “I think you’d better go there”.

I phoned the clinic and spoke to Hayden. I still didn’t believe that I had a problem. That’s the scary thing.

I had the interview and a week later I was at the rehab.

It was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.

Before I went, I started to cut down and by the time I got there, there was no requirement for me to do a supervised detox.

I was told that I could take a few days to settle in, but I was of the mindset, “no I want to start the rehab and classes straight away, I want to be a part of what I came here for”.

It wasn’t until they gave me all the bookwork and I was actually reading, “what is an alcoholic?” that I realised I had a problem.

There were 29 characteristics and I had only gone through nine, yet had ticked all the boxes. It was then that the penny dropped.

It wasn’t until I read things about hiding alcohol, denying that I had a problem when I really did, drinking on my own, only “drinking socially” in front of others then drinking when I got home.

That’s when I became very aware of the problem and that was really my first day of true recovery.

I got stuck into the program at the rehab.

As soon as I got there, I felt at home right away, because I love having structure – my military background is probably part of that.

I can see that moving to a country town where I didn’t know anyone, where I had no community and no one to talk to as well as no discipline to achieve anything was detrimental to me without the right skills to cope with the changes.

The staff were brilliant. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to be treated but I felt so at home.

As soon as I realised that I truly was an alcoholic, I wanted to participate in the program 100%. I was hesitant about doing any physical work, as I was still getting over my mastectomy, but I worked around that – I got up earlier and did extra walks, which made me feel much better.

The healthy way of eating really helped, especially the “no sugar” part – the nutrition program was excellent – the fact we participated in making our meals was great.

The whole program was very holistic.

Not only did I feel like I was being coached on what drinking does, but they made you feel part of the community, that you weren’t alone – that everyone had some sort of issue there.

Everyone was there for a reason and that made me feel good being there.

The staff were supportive but didn’t stand for any rubbish. I liked how the program supported me both physically and mentally.

Jack the counsellor was brilliant. I’ve seen others over the years but left with no strategies for living.

I was able to say what I wanted to say, cry as much as I needed to, (being military, and my father being old school, crying was a sign of weakness), I don’t think I cried, as I did at Hader but it was such a great release.

I discovered so many things about myself and found out what my home environment was actually doing to me, that I never realised.

When I came home, I didn’t tell people I’d been to rehab, but rather, that I had attended a wellness clinic in Queensland.

I continued the yoga and meditation classes that I started with Paula. I felt at my fittest in many years, when I left.

I had a better temperament too – before I went, I spent a lot of time feeling very angry, but after, I found my tolerance to others and my peace of mind had come back. I was a lot clearer in my thought patterns and the whole experience just helped so much.

Within two weeks of being in the clinic I began to feel a lot like my “old self” – I was exercising, and my brain felt much clearer as a result of not drinking.

Also the best thing was the counselling given to me by the psychologists (counsellor) Jack.

When I left the army, I had seen several psychologists, as I found everything at that time difficult and none of them gave me any strategies or really seemed interested, a bit sad for me.

After rehab I could see that I had been thrown into a perfect storm for addiction – I’d gone from this regimented army career where I was highly decorated and respected to a country town where I was isolated and knew few people, to owning a winery of all things.

Because my husband worked away from home so much, he had no idea – and neither did our daughter for several years.

It wasn’t until Christmas last year that she really noticed I had a drinking problem – and then after a yelling match where I got so frustrated and angry and ended throwing objects around the room at my husband because he was not happy about me going away for 30 days to the rehab; that he realised there was an issue.

This is how things used to be if he was not happy then I would be the one to suffer and things would not get settled until the next day, but by then the damage was done.

However, after he had read a few things and saw from my reaction that there was a problem, and that I needed to be my old self again, I needed to go.

He was so sorry and said he was being selfish as he would miss me very much but I should go.

After this conversation I had spoken to the Hader Clinic Queensland and that it was important that I go, he began to come around.

During the time I was away, he stopped drinking as well. I was very pleased – he had problems with his weight, he was pre diabetic and had high cholesterol and blood pressure.

When I returned home he had lost 10kg and was no longer pre diabetic.

His cholesterol is great, blood pressure normal and he still hasn’t had a drink.

He’s now very supportive of my recovery and he now understands the extent of my issues with alcohol.

I am so proud of him and he of me. He has done a complete turn around and is now my rock.

My husband is away for work again and I have made sure that I have a support network here that I can call on if things get rough.

I think of all of those kids (I say kids but I mean young adults and adults) I went through Hader with as my family, and I don’t want to let them down, or myself and I don’t want to let my daughter down.

I realise now that a lot of the anger she directed towards me was because she was worried about me.

However, at the time, I was in denial.

The friend that directed me to the Hader Clinic Queensland would say, “I want my old buddy back”, my other friend was getting concerned and could see something was wrong too.

Sara would say, “I want my old Mum back!”

And here I am, “I’m back!” She now has her old Mum back and she also has become such a strength to me; and has also taken enormous steps to get well.

Both my friends have been amazing and great supports.

On reflection, I got to the stage where I couldn’t see a future, my husband was away, my parents had died, my daughter was ill and I was on my own.

I couldn’t see any prospects, I felt really low.

I had to change things while I was at the rehab so that I could have a life when I got home.

I made a list and am actioning these ideas, one by one.

These included getting someone to look after, and lease the vineyard, going to the gym, seeing Sara more, and rekindling my interest in painting and dressmaking.

I have also started a project in turning a property I have into either a B&B or a place to do my hobbies. So far it is looking great.

Also I have been accepted to at an aged care facility as a volunteer and will be writing little life stories for the residence as a keep sake.

Life is looking great.

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, but before there wasn’t, only darkness.

Simone’s Addiction Recovery Story

Once Simone gave birth to her daughter, her fantasy bubble of perfect motherhood quickly burst and soon the pressures of parenthood, isolation and loneliness saw her turn to ice in an attempt to cope. This is her inspiring addiction recovery story.

Hi, I’m Simone.

I grew up in a close-knit family in the small coastal town near Mackay. It’s the type of place where you know everyone.

I had a wonderful upbringing and have always been close to my parents, brother and sister. 

Growing up, I was a good student too, always bubbly, happy and bright. I love people and being around others – you could say that I’m the extroverted type that lights up the room when they enter it.

I met my ex-husband, at 18 and he introduced me to drugs.

For several years, I used party drugs sporadically – a bit of ecstasy here and there and the odd point or two of speed.  Naturally, I didn’t think anything of it.

After school, I wasn’t certain what I wanted to do, but landed a highly paid job with a mining company and became engaged. We married, bought a house and I fell pregnant.

At this time, I felt I was living my ideal fantasy – the house with the white picket fence, the handsome husband, and now a beautiful baby to look forward to.

My ex started using ice when I was pregnant.

Once I gave birth to our daughter, the fantasy bubble of perfect motherhood with a perfectly well-behaved baby well and truly burst.

I was having trouble coping with the demands of a baby, feeling isolated and feeling lonely.

I turned to using ice with my ex. husband as a means to cope. Early on, I made strict “rules” around my usage – it was only occasionally and on weekends.

However, this use increased when I felt like I couldn’t cope as drugs made me feel motivated to get up and get going.

Drugs were causing my world to fall apart – my ex husband started being unfaithful, and my marriage broke down.

I was absolutely beside myself when we split up – I didn’t know how to cope and the thought of being alone with nobody to “complete” me was horrifying.

This inability to cope would lead to four suicide attempts over the next few years.

Eventually I was hospitalised and diagnosed with anxiety and depression.

After I left hospital, I stopped using drugs for a while as I was feeling much better about life and able to cope.

Then a chance meeting with an old friend, who also used, started the drug taking cycle up again. 

The loss of my marriage was hitting me hard, working in a job I didn’t enjoy was taking its toll as well as the responsibilities of paying a mortgage and raising a child.

I simply did not know how to “adult”, for want of a better expression.

I was depressed, and the best way to numb the anxiety and all the painful feelings was to use ice.

Eventually, I failed a drug test at work. I had to undergo some counselling, which helped keep me clean for a while.

By that stage, I had met a new partner.

A short time after we met, he started using drugs and I started to use again with him.

The effects of ice made him abusive – mainly emotionally and mentally, then physically. I got the courts involved and domestic violence orders were put in place.

At work, things were going from bad to worse.

Two years after my initial drug test failure, I stumbled again. This time my employers weren’t so sympathetic – I lost my job. At the time, I had wanted to resign and wish that I could have done it on my terms.

After my termination, I went a bit haywire on partying and ice – all the while my state of mind was becoming more fragile.

I decided to upend my life and move to Townsville.

In hindsight, this was the worst thing I could have done as I moved from the only real support that I had – my family.

My family were aware of my use, but I always used to deny it and reassured them that I was fine.

I wasn’t.

I was involved with ATOD and managed to stay clean for a while.

Then my ex-husband had my daughter for a weekend and didn’t return her.

I was beside myself and suicidal. Eventually after a two-month court battle I had her back.   

She was my sole reason for living and I tried to pick my life up for her.

I wanted desperately to be happy and rid of the continual anxiety and depression I was feeling.

In Townsville, I was trying desperately to make connections, to make friends but all the “friends” I ever made were users, or even worse, dealers.

My partner used to tell me how naïve I was, how trusting I was, and he was right. I was so desperate to have human connection that I was oblivious to the warning signs.

My life was starting to reach a crisis point.

I was so broken, so numb and desperate to end it all.

I stood on a cliff, looking out at the stars, willing my deceased grandmother to “give me a sign”. I saw what I thought looked like a shooting star.

“Perhaps this is her telling me to stay for my daughter,” I thought.

However, I was a complete mess – I didn’t know how to solve the hole I found myself in. 

After my home was raided just before Christmas and I took the rap for possession of an ice pipe that wasn’t even mine, I came to a decision to break things off with my partner.

By then I was suicidal again, I hated using, I was angry with myself, I had lost myself and I had lost my spark.

At Christmas time I visited my family.

They were shocked to see how far I had fallen.

My sister asked, “how can we help?”. They were all sitting around crying, everyone except for me. I was simply too broken to care.

I had exhausted every avenue to me except “getting help” and my family found The Hader Clinic Queensland. 

They chose The Hader Clinic Queensland because of their experience with dual diagnosis – that is, addiction is often accompanied by other mental health issues like depression and anxiety (that was me!), as well as having the Family Program.

My ex-husband took my daughter and when I asked him if he would let me see her during rehab, he surprised me by saying “of course”.

He was living with his parents and I knew that everything would be OK.  

When I knew that I was going to rehab, I became a nervous, agitated wreck.

I was able to withdraw from drugs a few days prior to going in. I must have been anxious as I was prescribed Valium and think I slept for a week.

By the second week though, I felt refreshed and ready to tackle the program.

I spent a lot of time working with the psychologist.

I spent a lot of time working on shame, grief and guilt making peace with my past.

I was also taught to learn to “sit” with my emotions rather than running away or using drugs. It was a revelation to me that I could actually do it.

During my time in rehab, I started feeling more like my old self – the perennially bubbly, cheerful Simone who is always up for a chat and who loves to meet, and be with people.

I had times when I got sick of rehab and wanted to leave, but inevitably all of the girls I met in there enticed me to stay.

As I mentioned, I love connecting with people and The Hader Clinic Queensland taught me that this is an integral part of what makes me who I am.

I especially appreciated the connections I made with the support workers who, having been through addiction, understood what I was going through.

I’ve also made a few good connections in the therapeutic community and have a sponsor.

My plans are to move to Rockhampton, where my ex-husband lives, get a job, and co parent our daughter.

However, what I have learned from the Hader Clinic is that I need to put my recovery front and centre if I am to succeed.

The first thing I did was visit the town and make sure there’s a therapeutic community that can support me and keep me focused on my recovery.

I didn’t rush back home either.

I chose to undertake the three-month transitional housing program so that I could really honour myself and my recovery. I am so glad that I did because it’s improved my self-confidence and belief a million times over.

My other big learning is that you truly have to want and believe in recovery.

For me it was a choice between suicide, running from my problems or doing the hard work that it takes to get better.

I’ve seen many people who are half hearted about rehab – and I see them relapse.

Living an addict lifestyle is a special kind of hell I don’t wish to return to.

It hasn’t been a walk in the park but it’s been worth it.

I am excited about the future.

When I was in rehab, counselling showed me how much I like to connect with other people – I would love to be able to support and help people with drug and alcohol addiction – the support workers at the Hader Clinic made all the difference to me due to their lived experience.

I’m looking at enrolling into a Diploma of Alcohol and Other Drugs/Mental Health so that I can help others.

Today, I am the most content and happy I have been since I had my daughter all those years ago.

The bonds I have with my family are stronger than ever and my ex-husband and his family now know everything and are supporting me in recovery as well.

I’m looking forward to the rest of my life with my daughter – happy, healthy and drug free!

Cocaine Destroyed my World but Rehab Brought it Back

Hi, I’m Caroline. I’m a former advertising executive and I struggled with a cocaine addiction before it blew my world apart. This is my story about how I came back from the brink.

My addiction happened so slowly I didn’t even realise it was an addiction until the end, when it was too late.

I was working in the advertising space in Sydney when I first starting using cocaine, and tried to get away from it by moving to Melbourne.

I was earning a lot of money pretty early on in my career, and I had no idea how to manage it. Not that I’m blaming what happened on that, but rather, I’m trying to paint a picture. I was young and had a lot of money.

I started using cocaine and then hoped my move to Melbourne would help me stop (it didn’t) and my drug use got really bad. My reputation started to deteriorate as a consequence.

I tell people that I resigned from my job to go to the Hader Clinic Queensland, but the reality is I lost my job. I ended up having to do some things that weren’t right to pay my debts to drug dealers. I lost my house, my car and my job. And I lost myself.

It all blew up when I started prioritising paying for drugs over paying rent and other debts so in the end, I had lost my job, I was two month’s behind in my rent. I just had to flee. I had dug a hole so deep that the only way out of it was telling the truth really.

I remember the day that I was confronted at work by management about what was going on. I was driving to work thinking that it was all going to come to an end soon and that the only way out of it was just to be honest about my struggles. I just wanted it to be over.

I was lucky enough to be able to secure a bed at the Hader Clinic Queensland otherwise I would never have had the opportunity to attend.

So, that’s how I ended up there. Everything with work kind of came crashing down. That was the biggest part of my identity and my life. I moved out of my place in Melbourne and my partner and I simply walked out and left everything there. We flew to Queensland, thanks to my mum’s help and the help of family getting our stuff packed up and out of the apartment in Melbourne.

They talk about some people being born with a predisposition towards addiction. I don’t know if I was that. I went through a lot of trauma as a kid, but I don’t remember that much. My psychologist at the Hader Clinic Queensland reckons that I dissociated from a lot of those experiences, hence the hazy memories.

Anyway, I remember always living well beyond my means and having obsessive behaviours, plus all the things that go with it. Every time I used drugs early on, say as a teenager, I would always be the one who would secretly have five times more drugs than anyone else but not tell anyone.

That kinds of tells me that upon reflection, that I was always going to end up here. It just didn’t start that much earlier because my two previous partners were quite introverted and anti-social. I catered to their needs and never saw my friends or went out.

When I got out of my previous relationship, I started partying pretty hard. When I met my current partner, she was outgoing and displayed many of the same traits that I did.

I got introduced to cocaine when I was living in Sydney through some friends and I just remember thinking that it just had me from the beginning. I just never wanted to stop, I was just that person that never wanted it to end.

I’ve always been a big self sacrificer and I’ve always found it difficult to express what I’m  feeling, what I need and what I want. I think maybe using gave me some sense of self control.

Somewhere down the track, you cross that line without even realising it, and suddenly it’s not fun anymore. It becomes a thing where you’re on that hamster wheel and you can’t get off. But you don’t that’s happening until it’s too late.

I’d make half-hearted attempts to break the cycle. I’d binge use and then swear never to do it again. I was hating it and didn’t want my life to be like that and you’d pick it up again once you started to feel OK.

I’d only buy a small amount thinking, “I’ll just do one night only, just one” and that would be it. But that was never the case. Once I had that first hit, I was gone for days.

Initially, I felt like the drug gave me superpowers and I could go to work. However not sleeping for two to three days at a time meant that it became unproductive. I would tell myself that I needed it to get stuff done, to clean the house or whatever but nothing gets done.

When I moved to Melbourne, it didn’t take long to realise that I had more drug dealer contacts than I had friends.

I hadn’t spoken to my mum for a couple of years, I slowly drifted away from my whole family over the years. But when things all came crashing down, I had to tell everyone – my mum, dad, and my siblings.

I went into rehab with ten days’ clean under my belt after leaving Melbourne. Cocaine is such an expensive drug, so I probably couldn’t have used it even if I had wanted to. I was just at the point where I was happy to stop.

Once at the rehab, I was feeling so beaten. At that point I was so willing to recover. I took it all in from the get go. There were people struggling with being there, the program and its rules. I don’t think some people could understand why the rehab was set up a certain way.

That wasn’t my experience though. I could see that everything in rehab was designed to teach you something. I really loved everything about it. I had a room to myself, air conditioning, a bed, a safe space. I felt really good there and I actually didn’t want to leave.

What helped me the most in the rehab was the education classes and psychology. I also loved the discipline and the routine and I really tried to use the time to set some behaviours for myself that I could carry to the outside because I’ve always been the sort of person who’s been inconsistent, always sleeping in and not so great with self care.

While I was in rehab, I put a lot of energy into getting up at 6am and exercising and getting that routine going.

I remember the first psycho education class. It was about the Karpmann drama triangle and I just cried. I spent a lot of the first few weeks in tears because I was having all these lightbulb moments. The classes taught me a lot about relationships and boundaries, anxiety, mental health and addiction. I found all of that really great.

I think the best thing the rehab is that it’s part of the 12 Step fellowship program, because it  introduces you to a new way of living. That’s the thing that will help keep you clean on the outside even though rehab gives you the opportunity to reset and refocus.

Throughout the whole process, the relationships I have with my family have improved as well.

The other thing in the program that worked really well for me were the one on one counselling sessions I had. I found them to be really beneficial and it uncovered a lot.

I think that’s important because the program really strips you bare and the counselling  helped fast track the progress that I made.

I finished the 90-day program at the Hader Clinic Queensland about 8 weeks ago now. And already my life is better. I’ve decided to stay in Queensland because of the connections I’ve made here. I’ve been approved for a rental property and am back in full time work in marketing.

I still just try to live in each day, but I cannot thank the Hader Clinic Queensland enough for the support and help that they’ve given me in reclaiming my life back.

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