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Drug Addiction, Psychosis and Redemption

Lizzie shares her journey from private school high achiever to drug addiction, psychosis and redemption.

By Taylah Fellows, Courier Mail
Pictures: Lyndon Mechielsen/Courier Mail

This article is from the Courier Mail. (Subscription required).


Lizzie’s journey from a privileged upbringing to a decade-long battle with drug addiction and eventual redemption is both an inspiring and cautionary tale.

She had a privileged upbringing, was an academic achiever at Brisbane private school and loved playing sport, but still found it hard to make friends.

For Lizzie, turning to drugs at age 14 was a way to connect with others.

Alcohol made her feel “comfortable” for the first time in her life, but it quickly became boring and was replaced with benders, marijuana, MDMA and cocaine.

Days bled together and sleepless nights merged into school days, so she took Ritalin and other study drugs to complete assessments and exams.

It wasn’t long after she morphed into a “party girl” that teenage Lizzie was introduced to methamphetamine.

“It was a big secret up until it wasn‘t,” she said.

“I knew how dangerous it was … we’d get amped up on ice and be super stimulated and then take GHB which does the complete opposite.

“I hid it pretty well for my family until friends were overdosing and I was failing school.

“I was getting really skinny and I wasn’t coming home and eventually, I was in a drug psychosis and I ended up just having to tell mum what was going on.”

Despite experiencing several mental breakdowns during her college years, Lizzie didn’t consider herself an addict.

She tried rehabilitation. It didn’t stick.

“While I was there my best friend died,” she said.

“I was in so much emotional pain I turned to self harm and I ended up taking someone else’s medication in there to try and soothe myself and I got kicked out.”

Mental health disorders, including substance use disorders, are the third leading cause of healthy years of life lost for Queenslanders.

Drug use disorders alone cost Queenslanders 50,854 years in 2022, up 2.1 per cent compared to 2021.

A 2022 inquiry into improving mental health outcomes found additional alcohol and withdrawal beds were needed across the state, as well as other specialist services to treat people living with substance abuse disorders including pharmacotherapy, psychosocial intervention, rehabilitation and harm reduction services.

There was a particular lack of treatment options and beds available in regional areas, with the committee also recommending more rehabilitation beds be made available for family members supporting loved ones with addiction.

Member for Moggil and member of the inquiry committee Dr Christian Rowan said there were significant accessibility challenges in the public rehab system and better service planning was needed to ensure various needs were being met in different communities.

“Addiction is a neurobiological disorder, a combination of genetics and neurobiological factors which need to be understood,” he said.

“That requires multidisciplinary care by various health professionals.

“Health workforce and planning for the future when it comes to medical specialists, physician and psychiatrists, nursing workforce and allied health professionals is really important and there are significant challenges in recruiting the workforce required to meet those issues.”

When Lizzie tried getting clean a second time, she completed her first year of psychology, got a good job.

But suddenly, “something clicked” and she “decided to self destruct again”.

“I lost that good job, totalled my car. I was getting done with possession, drunk driving, drug raids,” she said.

“Needles came into the picture. I started hanging around sex workers.

“But I was normalising it. I just saw the real world as a painful, unmanageable place … thinking like I just want to kill myself.”

A moment of clarity, and a deep desire to change her life led Lizzie back to the Hader Clinic Queensland Private.

She detoxed, completed three months of in-stay rehabilitation and another three months of transitional rehabilitation.

Lizzie is now 24 and 14 months sober, working a successful job with a new love in her life.

“For the first time in my life I don’t think about wanting to change the way I feel every minute of the day,” she said.

“I enjoy sleeping now. I don’t think I slept for like five years.

“I have people who care about me and they’re not transactional relationships.

“It’s cliche, but I had to figure out who I was, what colour I liked, what food I liked, just recreating my identity.

“I realised the real world is better than the world I was in.”

In 2021-22, 182 publicly funded alcohol and other drug treatment agencies in Queensland provided 49,674 treatments to 34,565 people.

Most received an average of 1.4 treatments, which is lower than the national average of 1.8 treatments.

A Queensland Health spokesman said three new residential rehab facilities were being built in Cairns, Bundaberg and Ipswich to meet rising demand.

The Ipswich rehab location is still under consultation, with the Bundaberg facility due to open in late 2024, and Cairns by 2025.

“The new adult residential treatment services will improve access to specialist treatment and support by delivering withdrawal management and care, as well as rehabilitation programs,” the spokesman said.

On a mission to destigmatise addiction, Lizzie now uses her success story to remind other addicts that help is available if they want it.

But she considers herself lucky to have stayed at a private facility, with many unable to afford it or struggling to access a public rehab bed.

“When I was 19 I thought, surely I can’t be an addict,” she said.

“People see addicts as criminals who are going to rob you and they’ve got diseases.

“But I’ve seen addiction look like so many different things to different people and -the feelings are the same, that deep despair and hopelessness and dependence on something outside of yourself to feel okay.

“To find others who feel like me was mind blowing and rehab is about surrender. It gave me space between that last use to really build up some sort of willpower or ability to not use drugs.”

Aids is a confidential support service for people in Queensland with alcohol and other drug concerns is available 24.7. Call 1800 177 833. To find out more about the Hader Clinic Queensland Private, click here or call 1300 856 847.

This article appeared in the Courier Mail on November 11, 2023.

Fears in Recovery

The fears in recovery can be overwhelming for individuals seeking help with addiction.

From the fear of withdrawal symptoms to the fear of relapse, these concerns can hinder the progress of recovery. However, there are effective strategies to overcome these fears and achieve long-term sobriety.

Explore the top 10 fears in recovery and learn about proven ways to beat them.

Top 10 Fears in Recovery:

  1. Fear of withdrawal symptoms: Intense physical and psychological discomfort during detoxification.
  2. Fear of judgment: Stigmatisation or labelling as a “drug addict” by friends, family, or society.
  3. Fear of failure: Concerns about successfully completing the rehabilitation program and maintaining sobriety.
  4. Fear of change: Intimidation towards making significant lifestyle, routine, and social circle adjustments.
  5. Fear of losing control: Anxiety about surrendering control to a treatment program or therapist.
  6. Fear of facing emotions: Frightening and uncomfortable feelings associated with confronting and working through emotional issues.
  7. Fear of the unknown: Anxiety and uncertainty due to unfamiliar environments, therapies, and routines.
  8. Fear of isolation: Apprehension about being away from friends, family, and support networks.
  9. Fear of addressing underlying issues: Overwhelming emotions linked to facing deeper underlying issues like trauma or mental health disorders.
  10. Fear of relapse: Anxiety and uncertainty about the possibility of returning to old habits and facing the consequences.

Ways to Beat the Fears

The good news is that any fears you may experience once you are in recovery are completely normal.

Here are 10 proven coping strategies to help you overcome these fears  and enhance your overall recovery experience:

  • Taking it one day at a time: Focus on the present moment to alleviate anxiety.
  • Connecting with recovered addicts: Find inspiration and perspective through group therapy sessions and support meetings.
  • Communicating your fear: Share fears with counsellors, therapists, and the recovery community to release their power.
  • Reaching out to family and loved ones: Seek open communication and family support to overcome feelings of failure.
  • Taking a leap of faith: Embrace the safe environment provided by trained professionals for psychological recovery.
  • Giving yourself permission to be vulnerable: Allow honesty and vulnerability as part of the healing process.
  • Engaging with the program: Trust the process and professionals to regain a sense of control.
  • Trusting: Believe in the decision to seek help and have faith in the staff’s expertise.
  • Fine-tuning your support system: Maintain connections with support groups, counsellors, sponsors, and mentors for ongoing assistance.
  • Accepting the possibility of relapse: Understand that relapse does not equate to failure and access support to get back on track.

By acknowledging and addressing these fears, individuals in recovery can overcome them and find the support needed to achieve successful recovery.

Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential rehabilitation program offers comprehensive assistance and guidance throughout the recovery journey, providing the tools and support necessary to conquer these fears and thrive in recovery.

Ethan Moon – From Addict to Australian Idol

Almost one year after completing rehab for drug addiction, Ethan Moon captured the hearts of Australia with his heartfelt performances, and the sharing of his addiction recovery journey, on Australian Idol. This is his story.

My name is Ethan Moon and in 2023 I was a contestant on Australian Idol. I stood in front of Kyle Sandilands, Meghan Trainor, Harry Connick Jnr and Amy Shark and sang “Half A Man” by Dean Lewis. I had a sinus infection, had under-slept and was extremely nervous that day.

When they told me I was going through to the next round, I shook their hands in gratitude. The judges called my parents into the room to tell them in person. My mum thanked Kyle Sandilands – who I found to be a kind and humble man – and he said to her “No, thank you for bringing him back to us”

The reason Kyle said this is because I had told the judges my story.

I decided to be completely honest about my reasons for auditioning for Australian Idol.

I had no vocal training and had never been a singer, but I found out I could sing while I was in rehab.

Ever since I was 13 I had been fighting a mostly losing battle with drugs, mainly ice addiction. In a weird coincidence, I realised that the date of my audition was exactly two years from the date I first walked into Hader Clinic Queensland.

After I came outside, the realisation hit me, and I broke down and cried. It just flooded out. My parents were there beside me, but not long ago I had been out of contact with them for almost a year.

They had taken out a DVO for getting into a fight and breaking into their house. I still have scars on my wrist from that incident. I had woken up in the hospital after overdosing and crashing my car. I was using ice, cannabis and benzos every single day. I thought I would always be a criminal and was suicidal at the time.

But now here I was, clean and sober, about to travel to Sydney for Australian Idol. There were over 70,000 people who auditioned and I was one of only 50 who made it in front of those judges. Although I got voted out in the next round, I’m glad I had this experience. I never would have discovered I could sing unless I went to Hader Clinic Queensland’s drug rehabilitation treatment program.

I started using drugs around age 13. I had run away from home after fighting with my dad – we can both be hot-headed and easily lose our temper.

I ended up at the house of an older guy who sexually assaulted me and then offered me drugs afterwards. I didn’t tell a single person about this until I saw a counsellor at rehab.

My dad was in the army and my mum is a police officer. Authority was respected in our home.

I was a sensitive kid, I loved sports and excelled at playing soccer. But I didn’t do so well at studying. I was known for being a troublemaker – talking back at teachers, picking fights, and wagging school with my friends.

When I was in Townsville during my teens I would spend a lot of time smoking weed with my friends at the underpass near my school, then I progressed to using ice. Townsville has a big problem with methamphetamine, and many people I knew started using it as teenagers. At the time it was a cure for my boredom and my feelings – I felt unloved and unwanted 99% of the time.

I had a job refereeing soccer games, and I could still play in matches. My parents would punish me for the infractions at school, but I just kept doing it. So, when I was 16 my mum sent me to a trade college in Brisbane to get certificates in Sports and Business. She tried to get me away from the crowd I’d fallen in with.

But when I moved to college, I made friends with other students who were into drugs and the cycle started again. I got some qualifications, but soon dropped out and went to work at a fast food restaurant – but my main gig was selling drugs. I liked the profits and the prestige. I didn’t have many real friends, but that lifestyle helped support my habit.

I had a girlfriend for a couple of years, but it didn’t last. I was selling pot, coke, and acid. And Xanax whenever I could get my hands on it.

I’m 6’5 and was able to fight, and sometimes I just could not control my anger. When one of my workmates made a joke about my ex-girlfriend I took him out to the back room and beat him up. I was sacked straight after.

I grew up with an emotionally distant father, and his dad was a Vietnam Veteran and used to flog me with his belt when I was disobedient. I wasn’t really a violent person – but sometimes I felt I needed to defend myself just to survive.

My mum moved back down to Brisbane, and I stayed with her and my siblings for a while, but she found weed under my mattress. I had another massive fight with my dad and moved out to a friend’s place where I could smoke whenever I wanted.

At this time in my late teens, I was still playing soccer in local competitions. I got the golden boot for a season and was the top striker and fastest runner. But I would also smoke bongs in the car park before a match. By the time I got on the field, my head was numb. I also started getting into cars and taught myself how to tune and build engines. That kick-started my interest in street racing.

My parents heard I was selling drugs, but I was mostly out of contact with them. They would try to reach me, but I didn’t want a bar of it. I got a criminal record pretty early from being caught so many times carrying drugs. I didn’t want to stop at the time. The substances helped me cope with my feelings.

I got another girlfriend who fell pregnant, and I was saving up money to prepare for the baby. After not seeing her for 6 months I learned the pregnancy was terminated. I wasn’t ready to be a dad, but I still grieved.

I was in a spiral. At this point, it was hard to make a living off dealing drugs as I was smoking most of my profits. My family reached out again and asked me to come home – this time I did.

I went to a GP and got diagnosed with depression.

Then my parents held an intervention – my grandparents and siblings and aunts and uncles were there. They told me I could either go to rehab or be out of their house.

It was intimidating, but I agreed. My parents paid for me to do the 90-day program at Hader Clinic Queensland. They told me they just wanted their son back.

I was the youngest person at the clinic. I found the staff very understanding, but after I left I thought I could manage on my own. Everything I learned there went out the window.

I stopped going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings.

Things got worse from that point.

I remember having an argument with my sister when I was off my face. Dad came home and intervened, the fight escalated, and I pulled a knife on him. He kicked me out of the house and called the police.

I drove away and 10 minutes later was back banging on the door demanding to collect my stuff. I punched in a window to open the locked door. I was barely inside when the police came in to arrest me.

Paramedics took me to the hospital and spend most of the night extracting the shards of glass from my arm.

My parents took a DVO out against me so I couldn’t go near them or contact them. Not that I wanted to anyway – I had returned to my old life of dealing, staying with friends at their houses, ignoring my loved ones, and driving around recklessly.

It was only a couple of days after the DVO that I was caught doing 75km over the speed limit and driving under the influence, and I lost my licence.

One of the worst experiences was when one of my drug runners got robbed. I was so angry.

Me and a couple of mates got high on meth and Xanax, jumped into the car and went to get those drugs back.

When we got to the house a fight broke out, I saw my mate stabbed in the kidney. It was a very confronting sight. We dropped him off at the hospital, and as I was driving home I blacked out.

I barely remember what happened when I woke up in the emergency room. I told them to not bother calling my parents because they wouldn’t care anyway. I’d lost all hope for my future with them. The car had $10,000 in drug money stolen out of it. I’m pretty sure one of my friends did that… Like I said, I had no real mates.

I was completely sick of my life. I had one guy I knew who also wanted to get clean and we went back to meetings together. I started to rebuild my life and made contact with my family again.

When I was in Hader Clinic Queensland the staff got each of us to write our life story down.

My mum found those pieces of paper at her house when she was clearing up my stuff. She saw everything – my childhood, my experiences in the drug world, my feelings about my family.

Dad hadn’t hugged me since I was 8 years old, and I felt disconnected from him.

Mum showed this story to my father, and something changed in him. He sat me down and apologised, told me that he loved me. For the first time in my life, I saw my father cry, and we embraced. Now we talk every day, and he is my best friend.

Back when I was in Hader Clinic Queensland, I was cleaning up the kitchen and singing Elvis Presley. I was embarrassed to find people had been listening. They were impressed.

Me and some of the other residents practised and performed in a little concert at the rehab. I sang “Holes” by Passenger and afterwards, I could see some people crying.

One of the biggest and toughest older blokes at the rehab came and hugged me afterwards saying “Thanks mate, I needed to hear that”.

One of the staff, JJ, told me I had a gift. I started to think about making a career out of music.

It was my mum who signed me up for Australian Idol. I did two rounds of online auditions and made it through to see the judges. I stayed clean the whole time. I was working at a pub and I still am, doing the night shift. I don’t feel the urge to use or drink anymore.

Hader Clinic Queensland was where I learned my addiction is a disease and there is a way out.

I want to use my music to help other young people struggling with drug abuse. There are a lot of us out there, and many of us feel alone. I’m only 21 but I managed to turn my life around, so I know it’s possible for anybody.

I love how music has the power to move people. When I sing, I feel a deep connection with others.

Since I got clean I’ve learned that I’m a caring person and that I can have my passions like cars and sports but don’t have to live dangerously. I am close to my family. I look after my nieces and nephews and I’m a trusted employee at my job. I now have real friends who are also clean, and we help support each other.

I have dreams and plans for my future. I want to be a performer and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. I have too much to lose now to go back to my old life.

Next week I am celebrating one year clean.

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!


(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.


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.

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