Alcohol Archives - Hader Clinic Queensland

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.

A Veteran’s Story of Alcohol Addiction and Recovery

After completing 90 days of Residential Addiction Treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland, Carlos is six months sober and moving forward with a positive outlook. This is his story.

I wasn’t really much of a drinker, my dad had an alcohol addiction and I didn’t want to be like him so I didn’t really drink, but then I joined the army and things changed. I got into drinking socially, it was a heavy drinking culture in the armed services, and then continued after when I became a tradesperson. I thought I was doing okay because my life looked good from the outside, but everything fell apart and I turned to drinking. My alcohol addiction kept getting worse until I went into the 90-day residential addiction treatment program at Hader Clinic Queensland.

When I joined the army, I really started drinking. They had these ‘boozer parades’ where it was mandatory that you turn up and drink. I was still doing well, I even got ‘Soldier of the Year’, but when I was drinking I was drinking hard. I was deployed during my time in the army, and I also had undiagnosed complex PTSD from a traumatic experience in my childhood. After the army, I became a tradesman, which involved a lot of social drinking. From there my drinking continued into partying, which I hadn’t been doing before.

Around this time I had my first child, and my partner had postnatal depression but didn’t want to get help with babysitters or anything like that. I did whatever I could to leave the house and go drinking, even hiding a lot of it from my partner. From the outside, we looked like a happy family as I built a house, and we had two children. We were trying to make it work. I was really into my fitness at the time and was only drinking on the weekends or on special occasions, but when I was drinking it was heavy.

Things started to change after my partner and I broke up. I started partying a lot and I got into a relationship with another alcoholic. Fitness began to take a sidestep, and I got into a car accident that rendered me unable to work. Because I was in this bad relationship and unable to work, I was just drinking all the time. After that relationship ended I was living in motels and my alcohol addiction was in full swing as I had nothing to do but drink due to not being able to work.

I was living in hotels at the time through the help of RSL, and my alcohol addiction was just so bad that I called them up one day and said I needed help. I couldn’t stop drinking, I couldn’t work, I was just so full of depression and suicidal, and I didn’t know what to do. RSL said I should try DVA-funded addiction treatment and suggested Hader Clinic Queensland, but that I had to make the call myself.

I ended up calling Hader Clinic Queensland when I was drunk, and they said I could go to the 90-day residential addiction treatment program in two weeks. At the time I was coming up with every excuse to try and push the start date back, but I realised that I was choosing to die instead of the opportunity to get better. So, I took the date in two weeks’ time. I drank all the way up until the night before I entered the residential addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland, but I got into the taxi, and I started the program the next day.

I progressed through rehab thinking I would stay for just over a month, but I ended up finishing the whole program. It was about week 10 when I was doing the Exit Plan strategies that I realised that this was the first time in my life that I had actually tried to stop drinking. Previously I had tried cutting down and controlling it, but I’d never tried to stop. Since my time in the 90-day residential addiction treatment program at Hader Clinic Queensland, I have been smashing my goals. I go to meetings as much as possible, sometimes even driving to the coast to remind me of what I was thinking and feeling in rehab.

I’m coming up to 6 months sober and have been spending that time really focusing on my addiction recovery. I haven’t had the desire to drink, and I think it’s because I’ve stuck with the program. Get a sponsor, go to meetings, do step work very thoroughly, and I don’t lie. I have my kids every weekend now and we spend time just doing what we want to do together with no devices. Everything is starting to come together, and I’ve really been focusing on staying grounded.

The photograph of this client has been changed to protect their privacy.

Lily’s Story of Alcohol Addiction Recovery

After completing 29 days program of Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland, Lily is moving forward and embracing her sober life. This is her story.

I was an awkward kid. I was bullied at school and in general just felt socially inadequate. It wasn’t until university that I found alcohol could ‘help’ me fit in socially. I started drinking socially but unfortunately, it turned into a problem and I had to seek out alcohol addiction treatment. I was 11 years sober when I fell into a cycle of addiction again and engaged in alcohol detox at Hader Clinic Queensland.

I drank socially for many years at parties and special occasions. Around the time of my first marriage breaking up, I would look after the children, but I also had my own business and was working from home. Back then I would have a beer at lunch, in the afternoon, and then in the evening.

I really got into trouble with my drinking when my second husband and I moved overseas and worked as teachers. The expat community is a very social lifestyle with lots of parties and plenty of drinking. As it was so social, I was drinking heavily to fit in, however, it started to impact me socially because I was too drunk to engage with people properly. In retrospect I feel like the alcohol really changed me as a person, there were health issues and I was just not enjoying things that I used to, like playing with my kids.

I noticed I was having issues and decided to see a doctor when I was living overseas, and then a psychiatrist. I did some alcohol addiction treatment and managed to stay sober for approximately 11 years. During my long period of sobriety, I moved back to Australia and retired, my mother died very suddenly which had a big impact on me, and I just didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin. I isolated myself a bit as I’m quite introverted and wasn’t feeling comfortable socialising with people at the time.

A whole lot of things just happened and eventually, I ended up drinking again. It really upset me, and I was very annoyed at myself, but once I started, I couldn’t stop. It was worse than it had ever been, I tried stopping by myself, but it just wasn’t working. Eventually, I turned to my husband and my two daughters and said I need some tough love. I found Hader Clinic Queensland and thought the 29-day detox program would fit me, as long as I put the hard work in.

So, I went to Hader Clinic Queensland, I did everything I had to do to get my sobriety back. It was the right program for me, it was the intensive rehab program that taught me self-discipline and introduced me back to my recovery. The program provided me with all the tools for me to start my new life.

The therapeutic community helped me feel not alone as we share each other’s journey of the good and bad times days. The staff helped me with their lived experience strength and hope. The lead support worker Mark was great, he gave me all the tough love and support I needed to open my eyes, he taught me about the disease of addiction and how to deal with it. Mark made me aware as long as I worked the program, it would work for me as long as I was willing to do the work.

Hader Clinic Queensland supported me to build a daily program and a solid exit plan for me to follow. The clinic also introduced me to the 12-step fellowships of AA to be part of the maintenance part of my recovery. I have taken so much from the AA program and still go to a meeting every day. Life has been really good for me and my family.

My husband has also learned so much from The Hader Family Program, where he was introduced to Al-Anon the 12-step support network for families, and he now goes to those meetings as well. We have stuck to the same morning routine that Hader Clinic Queensland gave me. I have followed my exit plan and now me and my husband are doing a daily reading in the morning and setting our intentions for the day. I take each day as it comes.

For anyone that’s thinking of going into an addiction treatment program and has tried on their own and with their family, the 29-day detox program at Hader Clinic Queensland is very giving and supportive. You never feel like you’re the one who’s doing all the work. I feel very thankful for the program.


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

Jordan’s Story of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery

After completing the residential addiction treatment for his drug and alcohol addiction, Jordan is applying what he learnt in the program to build a solid foundation for himself to recover on. This is his story.

My name is Jordan and since I was twelve I’ve been dealing with a drug and alcohol addiction. From the outside, I looked like I was doing well, but I was high functioning and eventually everything started to unravel until the point that I asked my family for help, they got me into drug and alcohol addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland.

Alcohol has been the backbone of my addiction, but drugs have been there too. I was twelve when I started smoking marijuana. I was a shy kid and I probably used alcohol and drugs to take the edge off, help ease anxiety and to fit in. I knew that I was probably doing more than others but I didn’t really see the alarm bells going off as I was still enjoying it. I was about sixteen or seventeen when I started using party drugs like ecstasy, and twenty when I started using speed. I was about twenty-four when I started using ice (meth) and the party drugs sort of went away. So, I settled on drinking alcohol, using ice and smoking a bit of marijuana.

That whole time since I was fifteen I had been working as a plumber, so I didn’t have any issues going to work and holding down a job even though I was drinking and using, but I was still getting into trouble and making mistakes along the way. By the time I was twenty-four, I had been caught drink driving five times and ended up in jail, and drug driving three or four times before that. When I got out of jail I went to AA and NA meetings, but it scared me, and I never went back. I was a young man who couldn’t open up, I was too embarrassed to talk or say I had a problem.

Life moved on and I had a good job, bought a couple of houses, and from the outside things were looking good. Mentally I just thought everything was alright. But the reality was that things were building up until the last three or four years when it started to get the better of me and everything was falling around me. I was staying up too long, I was drinking as soon as I got home and using drugs overnight and then in the morning to last through the day. Eventually, I started to have days where I was too fried to work, or I just kept wanting to do what I was doing and not go to my job.

It really got out of control at this point, and I ended up in a psych ward. I ended up there eight times in about six months. In between I tried to go to another rehab but I only lasted sixteen days. My family has always tried to get me help for my drug and alcohol addiction but I was selfish because I didn’t want anyone to get in the way of my addiction, so I’d push them away. I had probably five or six cracks at recovery, but they didn’t stick and eventually, my drug and alcohol addiction got so bad that I just couldn’t understand why I was doing it anymore. It wasn’t fun, I didn’t see a purpose and I couldn’t see a future.

I was out of control but for the first time, I was saying I am an addict, I am an alcoholic. I had been saying that to myself for about 12 months, pulling my head in and not stuffing up. Then one night on Boxing Day I had been with my family and I got home and stuck straight into alcohol. I’d been up for a couple of days at this point under the influence of drugs but I thought I was doing okay. I’d been playing with the kids and my nieces and nephews in the pool and spending time with my family, but when I woke up the next day I had crashed my car, thirteen years after my last drink driving incident. It had been building up to this point and I just realised how horrible it was, that I couldn’t remember anything and that I could have killed someone. I realised I wasn’t in a good place and needed help.

That was the first time I really asked for help. My parents had offered me help plenty of times before that, but this was the first time I was asking them. In about two or three hours they came back to me and said they’d found a place in Queensland if I wanted to go. I knew I needed to do something and get out of the place I was in, so I went to residential addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland.

It took me about three or four weeks at the clinic before I knew what was going on. I had gone in with the determination to give one hundred percent, listen as much as I could, answer all the questions and just do all the things that were asked. I knew I needed to do what made me uncomfortable, like opening up and talking about myself. I’d never done it before, but I had nothing to lose. It took about a month before I started to see a bit of light so then I started to pick everyone’s brain and ask questions and talk to the amazing staff and counsellors.

After five weeks I opened up and answered questions, which then my answers to the questions were answering my own questions, and it was just amazing. They’re really good at what they do and they were digging deep. I gave my all during my time in residential addiction treatment and it has really worked for me. I was even on medication for depression and anxiety for years, and about a month before I left Hader Clinic Queensland I managed to get off them and I’ve been off them ever since. Now I just take every day as it comes and use what they taught me there and everything’s been going really well.

Since I finished my ninety days at Hader Clinic Queensland, I’ve been going to one meeting a week in town, and I’ve got a few people I can talk to that I’ve met along the way. I decided not to work for twelve months so that I could cruise along and ease myself back into life after treatment. I didn’t want to put myself under too much pressure and wanted to build a good base while I tinker around my farm and do odd jobs here and there.

If you’re thinking of going to residential addiction treatment, you’ve just got to give it a go. What I loved about Hader Clinic Queensland is that they’re all ex-addicts so they do know. You’ve got to really listen and let everything go, even when it’s embarrassing and hard to sit with all those uncomfortable situations you’ve just got to do it. I turned to drugs and alcohol because I never wanted to sit with those uncomfortable and weird feelings and situations, but in there, you’ve got nothing to lose and you can sit with and address them. It can be challenging but it worked for me, so just give it a go.


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

Larisa’s Story of Addiction Recovery

Larisa recently completed the 29-day residential addiction treatment for her addiction. This is her story.

My addiction started when I had my first child in the middle of the COVID pandemic. It took much convincing from my husband and his family for me to seek out residential addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland.

As any woman would know, having a child can be a very isolating experience, but in addition I had the pandemic and was in a different state to our extended families. I had a very traumatic birth that ended in an emergency c-section, and I have since been diagnosed with PTSD from the experience.

I used to take prescription opioids for back pain and period pain when you could just get them over the counter and never seemed to have a problem with them. It wasn’t until the traumatic birth of my first child that my addiction really started. My cycle of addiction started with opioids when I was prescribed them after the birth of my son as I was in a lot of pain. I was taking them for a while until the physical pain subsided, and when I stopped taking them I realised that they were making me feel better in other ways.

I quite liked the feeling the opioids were giving me but managed not to take them for a while because I was breastfeeding, and I didn’t want to keep taking them. However, once my son weaned it felt like I could do what I wanted. I remembered the feeling they gave me and as I was stressed from other things and going back to work I started seeking them out again.

This was when they changed the laws around over-the-counter medicines and you needed a prescription, so I started doctor shopping. I was doctor shopping to be able to get more and more prescriptions and I was in denial for a long time as even though I needed them for my back pain, I didn’t need as much as I was taking. I kept saying I didn’t have a problem which made the doctor shopping last as long as it did since I was justifying to myself that I actually needed them.

My husband and I were living in Queensland and when I was diagnosed with postpartum depression we made the decision to move back to South Australia to be close to our families. We thought this would be helpful as we would have more support from our loved ones. It was a stressful time moving, but I thought it would help overall, unfortunately, I just got more and more stressed with family drama and other things.

What took me down a really bad road was the fact that my mother-in-law and father both had chronic illnesses with basically an infinite supply of opiates. For example, my mother-in-law was being prescribed 180 Panadeine Forte at a time and I knew exactly where they were kept. I started to get really clever with sneaking a few pills out of my mother-in-law’s room, and then from my father’s prescribed opiates as well.

While I was doing that I was constantly saying to myself how it was wrong and wasn’t like me. I’ve always been a very honest person, but it was like I completely lost control of what I was doing and just couldn’t stop.

Eventually, my mother-in-law realised that a lot of her tablets had suddenly gone missing, and my brother-in-law figured out it was me. They staged a family intervention with my husband, and I went to the doctor and planned to detox without going through opioid withdrawal. I was doing well for maybe a week or two and then I changed to alcohol instead.

Everyone kept telling me that I shouldn’t drink alcohol because I would just replace the opioids with the alcohol, but I convinced myself that I wouldn’t and that I would be fine. There were a few family gatherings where I’d only drink a few glasses but within a month it turned into buying bottles of vodka and hiding them from my husband. It was the addict side of me taking over again as I knew I couldn’t get the opioids anymore, so I turned to alcohol instead.

I was a high-functioning addict because I was still able to work and do most things during this time. I did feel unwell a lot of the time, but I hid it well as I was never throwing up or anything like that, I would just get up and have another shot to get through the rest of the day. I’m not sure how I was still able to function, but I did.

Eventually, I hit rock bottom, I kept blacking out and my husband noticed so he found Hader Clinic Queensland and convinced me to go. At first, I kept saying I didn’t want to go to rehab and that it would be too hard to stay away from my son.

I remember going to my mother-in-law’s house and she was talking about it and then my brother-in-law turned up as well and was bringing it up, saying that they didn’t think I had a choice and that I couldn’t do it alone and it would be helpful. It took a lot of convincing as I thought I could beat addiction myself even though I clearly couldn’t.

Eventually, I gave in and said I’ll go up for Hader Clinic Queensland’s 29-day program. There were a lot of tears, but I was worried that if I didn’t do it my family wouldn’t trust me again, so I made it up there.

I learnt a lot about myself at Hader Clinic Queensland and having those four weeks to focus on myself was really great. I think everyone should do it for themselves, even just for their own mental health.

It was great having the sessions with the Psychologist and Psychiatrist, the classes and just talking to everyone else in the community as well. I learnt a lot about what led me to use substances in the first place, it wasn’t just something that happened, there was a reason why I needed them to make myself feel better.

The residential addiction treatment really helped me deal with the underlying issues of my addiction, like the trauma from the birth of my son that I haven’t appropriately processed, so now I’m doing therapy for that. I was also diagnosed with OCD which has also helped because I’m getting on top of that. I learnt so much about addiction, the disease and how it works and that I’m not alone in it, and the support and going to meetings as well.

I never thought I would go to meetings as I didn’t know what they were except what you see on movies or on tv shows, but since my alcohol addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland, I’ve been going to meetings daily. It’s nice to be able to share how I’m feeling and be the most honest I can be with no judgement. It’s also good to hear others’ stories as they can be really motivating.

It’s been challenging as it’s definitely easier in the clinic, but the main thing I am doing is going to meetings and I’ve managed to find a sponsor who will help me progress through the steps. I’ve also been really honest with my husband and trying to keep myself as accountable as I can.

The biggest impact my addiction has had is on my relationships due to the lying and stealing, which was not like me at all. Everyone trusted me, even when things were missing I was the last person they would suspect, so my addiction has really impacted that trust.

My family is still walking on eggshells a bit but I’m hopeful that I’m getting there. They’re all really supportive and they’ve been telling me that it’s great to have ‘me’ back. I’ve been with my husband for 11 years, so his family knows me very well, and it’s been really rewarding having them make those comments that I’m like myself again because I felt like I completely lost who I was before going to Hader Clinic Queensland.

Lastly, I want to tell anyone that is struggling with addiction, is thinking about going to rehab, or is trying to be talked into going like I was, it’s so much more rewarding than what you could imagine. It was nothing like I expected, and it was so beneficial to have that time away from work, away from any triggers to just focus on myself and get myself together, recover and make some connections with people. It was such a rewarding experience and it’s not something to be scared of, there’s nothing really bad that can come out of going. It’s worth it in the long run. My husband said to me before I went because I was worried about being away from my son for such a long time – it’s a month or it could be the rest of your life, and I think that’s something that is really valuable.

Bec’s Story of Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Bec is 170 days sober after completing 90-day residential addiction treatment for her alcohol addiction. This is her story.

My name is Bec, and I am grateful to say that I have been sober for one hundred and seventy days and counting. Thanks to the ninety-day alcohol addiction treatment I received at Hader Clinic Queensland on the beautiful Sunshine Coast, I have been able to reclaim my life from alcohol addiction. However, for twenty-three years, I lived a vastly different existence, one that not even those closest to me had a single suspicion of.

On paper, my world looked perfect. Semi-retired at thirty-eight, married, a great circle of friends, a beautiful house, and a car. But behind closed doors, I spent my afternoons alone on the couch, lost in the grips of addiction, drinking until the next day. This was the harsh reality that nobody knew.

Until I went to Hader Clinic Queensland, I had no inkling that I was a blackout drunk. For twenty-three years, I religiously consumed a bottle of wine every day, and after ten of those years, two. Yet I was completely ignorant of my disease, along with the people in my close circle. To be honest, I think I knew for fifteen of those years that I had a problem, but my denial was strong. I was still active, I ran five kilometres every morning and managed my own business – in terms of life, I was on fire! There were people out there way worse than me – I was ‘functional’!

The truth is, my addiction was slowly killing me. Though I presented a carefully crafted image to the world, inside, I was dying.

Every day, the world saw the successful career woman, happily married with a vibrant social life, a lover of adventure and spontaneity. They had no idea that as soon as the workday ended, I would retreat to my home, craving the solace of my couch and a bottle of alcohol. Society’s perception of me checked out, while the real me indulged in alcohol, losing consciousness, and repeating the same destructive cycle day after day.

I struggle to pinpoint the exact moment my addiction took hold or what triggered it. Growing up in the countryside with traditional parents, I was exposed to drinking as part of Australian culture, but it never reached excessive levels during my teenage years. Yet somewhere along the way, my relationship with alcohol transformed into an all-consuming daily ritual, dictating my entire existence.

Alcohol had a numbing effect on me. It provided an escape from my thoughts, feelings, and stresses. It became intertwined with every aspect of my life. Going out for a meal, celebrating birthdays, after-work catch-ups – alcohol was always involved. Simple activities like ten-pin bowling required finding a venue with a bar – I wouldn’t attend any event unless alcohol was present. Society readily accepted my drinking without question, making it the only drug I didn’t have to justify consuming.

Occasionally, my husband would express concern about my excessive spending on alcohol, but my friends and family remained oblivious to the extent of my addiction. I didn’t fit the stereotypical image of an alcoholic portrayed in the media. Financially, I could afford my addiction, and I maintained the illusion of functionality. This only fuelled my denial further.

Around seven years ago, my partner and I sold our business, which removed the need to justify missed appointments or manipulate others to maintain my façade of normalcy. This newfound freedom seemed like a green light to indulge in alcohol without restraint. As a childfree woman in addiction, I sometimes wonder if motherhood would have acted as a barrier to my drinking, with responsibilities and daily routines interrupting my ‘medicine.’ But in my independent and financially stable state, nothing seemed capable of stopping me.

In the end, my decision to seek help was driven by several factors. Drinking was no longer a source of fun as it had been in my younger years. Instead, I turned to alcohol to escape from my thoughts, feelings, and anxiety. I vividly remember my anxiety being so overwhelming that I questioned why the medication I was taking had no effect. Little did I know, it was the alcohol itself that was fuelling my anxiety, rendering the medication ineffective.

Once upon a time, I was a vibrant and buoyant person, full of zest for life. However, that version of me had faded away. I no longer desired social interaction or any activities that once brought me joy. In the end, I reached a point where I didn’t even want to exist on this planet anymore. The drinking and isolation had consumed me. The alcohol had lost its magic; it no longer provided the escape I sought.

My journey to recovery began when I completed the ninety-day Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland. Today, five months sober, I am filled with gratitude for the vibrant life I now embrace. This is my story of recovery from addiction, a testament to the strength and resilience I discovered I was indeed capable of, thanks to the split-second courage I found one otherwise typical Sunday evening.

In a stroke of fate, two events converged and played a pivotal role in my choice that day. First, a close friend of a friend shared their own experience at Hader Clinic Queensland. They spoke passionately about the transformative journey and newfound happiness they had discovered. My friend would excitedly tell me of her journey and amazing transformation; they painted the clinic as an incredible place. Deep down, I knew that if I ever decided to seek help, that would be my destination.

The second event was a spontaneous decision to spend two months in Bali. While I continued to drink during my time there, living among Balinese families exposed me to a different way of life. The simplicity and serenity of their existence left a profound impact on me. I observed that their happiness didn’t rely on alcohol or material possessions. This realisation planted a seed of hope within me. Perhaps there were alternative paths I could explore. Maybe my life story didn’t have to be one written in the ink of alcoholic-fuelled pain; perhaps a different way of life was possible for me also.

It was on a Sunday afternoon, shortly after returning from Bali, that I mustered the courage to search for Hader Clinic Queensland on Google and make that life-changing call. The experience was nothing short of incredible. After leaving a voicemail, I received a prompt response the following day. Initially, they informed me that they couldn’t accommodate me until the following week. However, I expressed my fear that postponing my intake might cause me to lose the courage to try again. The compassionate staff at Hader Clinic Queensland understood my concerns and rearranged my admission to that very Wednesday. Their unwavering support touched me deeply.

Hader Clinic Queensland saved my life—there’s no exaggeration in that statement. As I walked through their doors, I had no idea what to expect. But the ninety-day program transformed me from the inside out. It wasn’t just about overcoming addiction; it was about gaining a new perspective on life. The impact on my outlook has been profound – I find myself radiating with happiness.

The staff at Hader Clinic Queensland were nothing short of amazing. Being educated by individuals who had personally battled addiction was an invaluable aspect of my recovery journey. Mark inspired me immensely with his unparalleled ability to connect with others. His classes were captivating, and he genuinely wanted everyone to succeed. Prue, Wade, Riri, Jason and Maria – truly, every staff member I encountered was approachable and willing to lend an ear at any time. Even the nurses in the detoxification unit provided the most comforting hugs, making me feel safe and loved, regardless of my age. I had the opportunity to engage in counselling for the first time with Sally, and I can’t help but wish I had utilised such an incredible resource much earlier in life.

Hader Clinic Queensland has been a transformative and life-saving experience for me. Through their unwavering support and guidance, I have emerged a different person—grateful, enlightened, and filled with newfound happiness. I firmly believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to embark on a journey of self-discovery and healing, regardless of whether they are battling addiction or not. Hader Clinic Queensland has gifted me with a fresh perspective on life, and for that, I will be forever grateful.

Life since leaving Hader Clinic Queensland has been an incredible revelation, like being reborn into a world filled with hope and possibilities. Each day, I wake up with the privilege of watching the sunrise, free from lies and shame, and no longer burdened by a secret life. I have learned so much about this disease, and have so much understanding and compassion for those around me now. Gone are the days I would have zero tolerance for the world around me. The Bec of today makes excuses for people’s bad behaviour – I would have been the longest to honk my horn in frustration once upon a time!

One vital lesson I learned is that if you suspect you have a problem, then you most likely do. The solution exists, and it’s possible to turn your life around. It took just one drink to unravel everything, and I experienced the devastating consequences firsthand. Another is understanding how much I truly mean to my friends. I always knew how much my friends meant to me, but never how much I meant to them. I don’t think we addicts really understand that we are loved – it’s hard when you don’t think that highly of yourself.

I went to Hader Clinic Queensland an alcoholic, and I left an alcoholic. Today I know that I can arrest this disease’s hold on my life, one day at a time. No longer do I hide from the world, alone in my room, trying to control every single aspect of my life. No longer do I look for my feelings’ off switch at the bottom of a bottle.

Maintaining my sobriety since leaving the Clinic is also manageable, thanks to the ongoing guidance from Hader Clinic Queensland. For one, taking care of my physical health has become a priority. I still see the nutritionist from my time there – she has been invaluable. Additionally, the introduction to the 12-step fellowship remains an integral part of my journey. Attending regular meetings provides me with strength and support, reinforcing the principles that guide my recovery. The Hader aftercare app also plays a significant role, offering tools and resources to enhance my ongoing efforts. It’s remarkable to think that the person who spent twenty-three years numbing herself on a couch now leads a life so fulfilling that I haven’t even had the opportunity to fully utilise these resources.

Hader Clinic Queensland has truly changed my life, equipping me with the tools, knowledge, and support needed to overcome my addiction and embrace a brighter future. While my recovery journey continues, each day brings renewed strength and a deep appreciation for the life I have reclaimed. I am forever grateful to the compassionate staff, whose unwavering dedication to my well-being has made all the difference.

For those like me, who are suffering like I once did – you are not alone. Nor do you have to overcome this alone. This disease incessantly lies. It promises us the world, yet instead delivers a colourless Groundhog Day type of existence. Much like an undiagnosed cancer, its progression is disastrous and can be fatal. If my story can inspire just one person to seek help and embark on their own journey of recovery, I would be eternally thankful.

I hope, like me, that you embark upon that different path. That you take that chance and make that call. After all, nothing changes if nothing changes. Today, thanks to the ninety-day alcohol addiction treatment I attended, my life has become a colourful landscape. It is overflowing with optimism and joy, and if I can get here, anyone can get here. You just have to take that first step.


The image of this client has been changed for their privacy.

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.

Patricia’s Story of Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Patricia has been sober for 15 months after completing 28 days of residential addiction treatment for her alcohol addiction. This is her story of recovery.

My name is Patricia and I’m 58 years old. I’ve been sober for almost 15 months now. And since I started heavy drinking years ago this is the longest period I have ever spent without alcohol in my system.

I have lost over 30kg just in the last 10 months. Before I checked myself into Hader Clinic Queensland for 28 nights of alcohol rehabilitation treatment, I had lived for years as a chronic alcoholic but it wasn’t even obvious to my family or colleagues that I had a serious problem.

I think of myself as a kind of “Plain Jane” alcoholic. My story doesn’t involve any DUIs, hospitalisations, violence, or episodes of blacking out. But in late 2021, I’d come to a point in my life where I realised I could not control my drinking. Even when I wanted to stop, I found it impossible to cut down.

I had gone from a woman who barely drank for most of her life, to putting away a couple of bottles of wine a day (and sometimes spirits too, if they were on special). On the weekends I might start the day off by drinking tea, then switch to alcohol, and pass out exhausted sometime in the afternoon. I would wake up around dinner time, tell myself I wasn’t going to have anymore, but then pick up the bottle again.

My addiction to alcohol seemed to creep up later in life. I married young and by age 22 was settled in with two kids and a mortgage. My husband might have had a couple of drinks on the weekends socially, but I barely touched the stuff.

When my kids were growing up I was very much anti-smoking and anti-drinking. I don’t like peer pressure and wasn’t strongly compelled to join our friends when they drank. The effort of raising the kids and working as a Registered Nurse kept me busy. But one divorce and one long-term relationship later, my genetics caught up with me.

Addiction was rampant in my family. I think that’s why for decades I avoided substances – growing up in a family of violent alcoholics will do that to you. As a kid, I remember cowering under our kitchen table when my father and uncles got stuck into each other during boozing sessions. My mum was a chain smoker more than a drinker. But when she did have a couple of drinks, she would turn argumentative and start baiting my father, and he would hit her.

Mum always said she would die with a cigarette in her hand, and my father would die with a drink in his. And my mother did eventually die of emphysema. Dad realised he had a problem a few years ago and has cut back on his alcohol intake, but he’s never stopped completely. I think I’m the only person in my family who’s managed to go completely dry after living as an alcoholic.

After my divorce, for most of my 40s, I was in a long-term relationship with a woman I loved dearly. My two sons had grown up, and I moved in with her into a big house we shared with four other people. For those years my world was very different. I started a life of socialising and drinking.

Our home was the party hub for our group of friends, and my partner was always at the centre of that crowd. Our friends would stay over for the whole weekend drinking and taking drugs. The partying would start most Friday nights and keep going until Monday morning. I was known as the Hostess With The Mostest – topping up everybody’s drinks and providing food for everyone.

Alcohol was part of the fun and interesting lifestyle we had together, but it soon made things difficult for me and my partner. I would get verbally abusive with her when I drank. I spent years after we broke up feeling guilty about it and feeling lost without her. I kept in contact with some of her friends afterwards, but it wasn’t the same. My relationship with my ex had become part of my identity and my drinking habit continued after we separated.

Since giving up nursing, I worked in a medical supply chain role. Some of our employees had ‘obvious’ drinking problems. As the line manager, I was the one in charge of sending someone home if they showed up inebriated (eg: with slurred speech or brain fog) but nobody knew the person making these decisions was a high-functioning alcoholic herself.

I was great at my job, and never had any performance issues (apart from taking some time off when I broke up with my partner). I never seemed drunk or hungover, but perhaps that’s because I’d built up a tolerance.

I would plan my life around my drinking, ensuring I had enough to sustain me during the week. And I put effort into hiding my alcohol consumption from everybody, even strangers. I used to visit many different bottle shops so that none of the staff would see me come in regularly.

I could spend a weekend with my aunt (who is a religious non-drinker) and managed to restrict myself to only a couple of glasses. She had no idea I was an alcoholic. One of my sons has three kids of his own. I would drink before visiting him and the grandkids, stay dry for the whole day, and then start drinking the moment I came home. It was my priority to keep my family in the dark.

I was made redundant in 2021 due to restructuring after COVID. All the other available roles were physically more demanding, or at a lower wage. So, I took a few months off and lived on my redundancy payment. It was then that I began to drink every morning, not just in the evenings.

Without work to distract me, I was living a very isolated life with drinking as my only companion. I was living on my own in a unit. I had put on a lot of weight and my blood pressure was terrible. I remember my doctor saying that my knee pain would never get better unless I lost weight. But addressing those issues was impossible while I was an alcoholic.

Around Christmas 2021 I went to Melbourne to see my dad. I announced to him and to both my sons that I was entering rehab. I decided on Hader Clinic Queensland because the admission process was very easy and I knew that I needed to have a proper break from my normal life to get any hope of staying dry.

My family was very understanding. One of my sons drove me to Hader Clinic Queensland. We had a very open discussion. I think he understood I must be needing help very badly if I was going into treatment.

My first two weeks in Hader Clinic Queensland were in the detox unit, and I found the nursing staff very helpful. I used to be a nurse myself and I believe their staff did a wonderful job. I contracted COVID halfway through my stay and had to go home to self-isolate for a fortnight. But I managed to spend those two weeks completely sober, which is the first stint I’ve had without a drink and by myself for many years. I came back to complete my treatment with much more confidence about sticking to sobriety.

We got up around 7.30, had assembly check, breakfast, a fifteen-minute walk and then commenced our classes. We read the daily reflections from 12 Step Literature, and they asked us all how we felt about it. Some days were better than others, it was not always easy. I still preferred my own company but was willing to try and make connections there.

I related to some of the readings we did, even though I’m not a spiritual person. I learned I have an addictive personality. That my thinking patterns contribute to my problem with alcohol. I felt better in tune with who I am. I accepted my alcoholism is a disease.

Being away from my normal environment made a huge difference for me. What made me stay was a genuine desire to stop drinking. My doctors told me I had to reduce my weight, and my health was failing in other ways. I was sick of the endless routine, the repetitive lonely cycle of alcoholism. I had often wondered why I was drinking when it didn’t bring me any joy. It was always a compulsion and I used it as a crutch.

I organised a trivia night with a couple of the friends I made in Hader Clinic Queensland. We were all there for a common goal and had similar experiences. After I left I have not touched alcohol again which I feel – along with the weight loss – is my biggest achievement. I’m not putting away all the calories in booze and junk food while I was drunk. And my blood pressure is down to a manageable level.

I sleep much better now and don’t have afternoon naps like I used to. I believe my body was just exhausted by processing all that alcohol so it’s nice to have more energy.

After I left rehab, I called my ex-partner and managed to make amends for what I said and did during our time together. For the first time 6 years, I was able to get some closure on that relationship.

I have a new job now in a similar field, so I’m still learning new things and figuring out what I want to be. I have to pay attention a lot more than before and that’s a lot easier with an alcohol-free brain. I’ve always been a very outspoken person but since I’ve stopped drinking I’ve learned to have a filter. And I can now think before I act.

My younger son and his three kids are in my life much more now, we are mending that bridge. I can be closer to the grandkids and more emotionally connected. I didn’t really communicate much before I got sober, raising my kids to be independent and not having much closeness with my loved ones.

Now my sons and I have a better relationship. They actively want me to spend time with them and be a part of their lives. I still live alone but I’m not isolated the way I was when drinking was my whole world. After work, I usually have dinner with the family a couple of times a week. I spend weekends with my grandkids and during the footy season, I love seeing my eldest grandson play his games.

I still do the daily readings and have not had the urge to drink. The decision to enter rehab and get sober has improved my life in so many ways. There is more to look forward to now that I am not drinking to regulate my feelings and give my life meaning. I’m getting closer to who I want to be, one day at a time.


Photographs of this client have been changed for her privacy.

Leonard’s Alcohol Addiction Recovery Story

Leonard has recently completed residential addiction treatment for his alcohol addiction. This is his story.

When I came back to work after completing my 60 days at Hader Clinic Queensland for alcohol addiction treatment, a couple of my colleagues asked “how was your holiday”? There were also rumours I’d had a heart attack. But I told them the facts – I’d been to rehab because my drinking was out of control.

I’m not afraid to disclose my condition. I manage a large team, and having an understanding of substance abuse allows me to contribute more in the workplace. Both at a company level (such as HR policies) and a personal level (co-workers whose relatives struggle with addiction have confided in me).

My patience and empathy have expanded. I deal with conflict in a patient manner now – in the past, I internalised those feelings with drinking and self-harm.

My heart is at the front of everything I do. I’m looking forward to being able to guide others in their recovery. Inside I am a caring man, and I always feel good looking after people.  I’m happy, healthy, and sober. A complete turnaround from where I was – depressed, and always drunk.

I have type 2 diabetes and since I left rehab my insulin is down 75%, which is a miracle. But that’s only the physical improvement. Hader Clinic Queensland helped me feel mentally and emotionally whole again.

My name is Leonard. I’m 50 years old. I’m a Production Manager, a husband, a father of five, a grandfather… and an alcoholic. That last part of my identity almost destroyed the rest.

Before I went into treatment, I was putting away at least 16, maybe up to 24, pre-mixed bourbons every day. I tried booze-blocker pills, but they didn’t work. I’d been in and out of the psych ward for suicidal depressive episodes and received electro-shock treatment, and while that did help the depression I continued to drink.

Not even the pain I could see this inflicting on my family was enough to stop me. In the lead-up to my admission to Hader Clinic Queensland in February 2023, my wife was crying nearly every day. She didn’t feel comfortable leaving me at home to supervise our 12-year-old daughter by myself.

I was a full-time single Dad to the children from my first marriage. They’re all adults now. Raising a family came naturally to me. But now I was drinking so much that my wife couldn’t trust me to look after our kid, and that really hurt.

My wife had taken over control of our joint account to try and curb my drinking. I found ways around it, like lying to her about how much money I needed for groceries or petrol and spending the money on alcohol.

We had separated for about a month because my wife couldn’t handle my behaviour. She was shocked when she found out that I’d stolen money from our daughter’s wallet to buy alcohol. I was out of control and my mental health was getting worse.

I grew up in New Zealand and I was a dad from a fairly young age. I met my first wife when I was still in school, and we had three children together. I was always reliable at work; I’d been working for my parents since I was 8 and had my own job at age 14. I used to smoke a lot of weed in between my daily responsibilities.

When I moved to Australia with my kids around age 30, I stopped using pot daily because the drug testing policies for my industry were pretty tough over here. So, I switched to alcohol instead.

The binge drinking started around 2007 when my first wife and I separated. She moved out and I cared for our 2 teenage sons and pre-teenage daughter. My wife’s younger brother was around the same age as my kids, and he also moved in with us. Somehow, I kept up a household of all these kids by myself, and a full-time job. I was able to lean into the challenges, even as my drinking escalated.

As the boys got older and started drinking with their friends – though it wasn’t very often – I had all these young fellas at my house teaching them “how to drink”. I’d pass water around and look after them, play drinking games, and be a kind of Party Mentor.

I felt very connected and valued. I was in a fog, but it was a happy fog. I’d be the last one to fall asleep but also the first one to get up, make everybody breakfast, and ensure they got to work and school on time.

I met my second wife in my late 30s and we quickly fell in love and had a daughter together.  I don’t think either of us could have prepared for what was to come. I used to abstain from drinking during the work week and just get hammered on the weekends, but it soon became a daily ritual.

My wife and I tried everything. I told her I would try AA meetings, and I got drunk on the way there and back, then just stop going. When I was committed to the psych ward, I would be sober for a few weeks on release, but always start drinking again. I still had a job, but I was making excuses to leave early and run to the bottle shop. And I was drunk nearly every day when I was working from home during Covid.

I went to see a GP who suggested I try Hader Clinic Queensland, because nothing else was working. I was able to use our medical insurance to cover the first 29 days of detox, and my admission date was set for late March 2023. I timed it so I could go straight into treatment after my son’s wedding in February.

Well, I never made it to that wedding. I attended my son’s bucks party where everybody was drinking manageably and having fun with each other… and I spent most of that night sitting out the back by myself, getting extremely pissed. I thought it might be like the old days when they were kids and we partied together. But the reality was I was alone with my alcoholism.

After that night I told my wife I needed Hader Clinic Queensland right away. I was drink driving every day as soon as the bottle shop opened, regularly missing days at work. At this stage my wife was giving me a small daily allowance for alcohol until I got into rehab, but I was burning through that pretty quickly. I told her the metho in the back shed was starting to look tempting.

I called Hader Clinic Queensland in desperation, and said “I can’t do this anymore”. I felt like any further delays would cost me my life. I wasn’t sleeping or showering. I had daily thoughts of moving out bush and drinking myself to death.

The staff I spoke to took me seriously. Hader Clinic Queensland did everything it could to move my admission forward, and I was lucky that it happened. I had to miss my son’s wedding, my daughter’s 12th birthday, and the birth of my third grandchild. But it was necessary to save my life.

Hader Clinic Queensland’s 60-day program was intense but comforting and exactly what I needed. The first month of supervised detox helped me get off the booze safely and the staff got straight into educating me on the nature of my disease.

I’ve been to many counsellors and psychologists over the years because of my mental health issues. I can honestly say the counsellors at Hader Clinic Queensland were the best I ever met in my life. We had many sessions, which is helpful because I got to dig into who I really am and what is underneath my drinking.

Rehab is where I learned what I needed to treat the underlying causes of my alcoholism, not just try to control the drinking. I got introduced to the 12 Steps and I still go to meetings today. I had wonderful experiences with the staff who told me I can have a new life and use my experience to help others.

I am 86 days clean and sober today and each day I find something new to be grateful for. There are so many little things. Hader Clinic Queensland taught me to value healthy routines, so I have a good system now for laundry, cooking, brushing my teeth a few times a day, going to the gym every morning, and making my bed. I’m not hungover and sleeping half the day.

I’ve reduced my medication and have a clearer head. I look forward to building a bond with my new grandson. I also have an older grandson who I never spent much time with when I was a hopeless drunk. I’m very keen to take him fishing. And I get to be a present dad to my youngest daughter without a foggy brain.

I’ve begun to rebuild things with my wife, although it’s early days. I’m not bothered by her questions or keeping track of my movements and spending. I have nothing to hide anymore. We’re having another chance at love and marriage.

The other day my wife and I were walking and holding hands. We used to do that all the time at the beginning of our relationship. It’s only something we started again recently.

My wife suddenly apologised to me. She said we’d walked past a bottle shop, and she didn’t mean to take us along this route in case it was difficult for me. But I hadn’t even noticed. I was just so happy to be holding her hand.


Photographs of this client have been changed for their privacy.

The Best Mother’s Day Gift – A Drug Free Son

It was a long journey to get my 24-year-old son Carlos into Hader Clinic Queensland for residential addiction treatment. He’s been clean ever since he got back. There were many times when I almost lost him though. Not just only to drugs but the powerful cycle of denial.

Hader Clinic Queensland staff helped me understand how I’d been enabling my son. I learned addiction is a disease that needs serious intervention and long-term vigilance. No matter how loving and supportive we are as parents, we can’t deal with our drug-addicted children without the right tools. I no longer blame myself. Hader Clinic Queensland helped me, and my son find a new path in life.

When Carlos was 19 I walked out of an appointment and saw missed calls on my phone from my mother. I’d dropped Carlos at his grandma’s so he could make her lunch because he loves cooking. It was nice to get him out and about. For the past 8 months since Carlos moved out of home, I hadn’t heard much from him.

Mum told me Carlos “slipped over and wouldn’t wake up”. I drove over and found him unresponsive, and he spent the next 4 days in hospital with a serious concussion. The doctors showed me the blood test results – it was positive for cannabis, opioids, and benzodiazepines. I went cold with shock. My son had been harming himself, but I didn’t understand why.

I knew Carlos’s housemate used drugs and my son had previously told me when he was caught smoking weed with friends at a music festival. He had a couple of drug charges for cannabis but took full responsibility and paid me back for the solicitor fees. Carlos struggled with anxiety since he was a teenager. He’d quit his first job and wasn’t studying. As far as I knew he only occasionally drank and smoked weed. I thought he was just going through a phase where he didn’t know what to do with his life.

Carlos never invited me inside his house, he always met me outside. There were signs my son’s situation was worse than what he told me. But I just couldn’t reconcile the good-natured boy we knew so well hiding anything from us. I raised him as a single mum. We’d travelled to other countries together while I was teaching. He was a worldly kid; always popular and well-liked.

Sometimes when I saw my son he looked skinny and unwell and I thought “he looks like a drug addict!”. But at the hospital, seeing the evidence first-hand, I still rationalised that perhaps Carlos had been partying that weekend and didn’t have a chronic problem.

Carlos had to tell doctors his story. He was in active drug withdrawal. He said he’d been taking drugs he couldn’t afford. My son had no income, his savings were dwindling, and his roommate was helping supply him. Carlos wasn’t eating properly and experienced regular bouts of fainting. He got high the morning of visiting his Gran, passed out while cooking and hit his head on the stone counter.

The doctors told Carlos he couldn’t take any drugs or alcohol for six weeks, and it was too dangerous even for him to drive. They regularly tested him and monitored his heart rate. He moved home with me and found a new job in hospitality.

Carlos badgered me to let him see his old housemate. Usually, I would not try to control or embarrass him, but I told his friend that he was not to give my son any drugs or alcohol on doctor’s orders. I waited outside for 3 hours to drive him home.

For the 6 months he was living with me, I knew Carlos must be using. I found a parcel of drug utensils he ordered from China but threw it out without confronting him. I called a hotline for advice on drug abuse and followed their suggestions. I told my son that, while I couldn’t stop him smoking weed, I would not allow it in the house. He was playing video games a lot and not socialising. His anxiety was coming and going.

Carlos seemed to turn things around for a few years. He worked hard at his job and moved in with a very nice girlfriend whom he cared for deeply. Carlos was spending time with our extended family in Townsville. He would come round and cook for us. Mind you, on the day I came to pick him up for a trip to Bali for his 21st birthday, he hid in his bedroom, and I had to knock on the window to get him to come out. Carlos told me he was paralysed with anxiety. On the trip, he didn’t interact much with other tourists.

After rehab, I found out Carlos used drugs and alcohol initially to feel more confident, but they soon had the opposite effect. I thought his bouts of severe anxiety came out of nowhere or were triggered by stress. In reality, Carlos was using drugs to cope with life even as they made his mental health worse. At his job or social events or even on holidays, he was always thinking of going home and using. He would make arrangements to leave places early to use.

I was travelling around Australia with my partner when I received a phone call from my 24-year-old son. He broke down and told me he couldn’t stop doing drugs and was considering suicide. I flew back to Townsville straight away and that’s when the whole story came out. Less than 24 hours later I was on the phone to Hader Clinic Queensland.

Carlos told me he was heavily addicted to drugs and hiding this for a long time. I had told myself – as I had so many times before – that my son only used cannabis socially and his real problem was his anxiety disorder. I knew Carlos was dealing with a breakup with his girlfriend. And he’d moved back to a share house with some friends (the same ones he lived with when he got his head injury years ago).

I thought his drug abuse issues were behind him. Part of it was Carlos deliberately downplaying and hiding his situation and partly my own denial.

For a long time before Carlos called me begging for help, it was nearly impossible to get him on the phone. I noticed a pattern – my son would ring me for a friendly chat, and everything seemed ok. We drew on that good rapport we’d always had with each other. Then the next day he’d call again and casually mention that he’d blown his wages somehow, or couldn’t afford his rent, or a surprise expense had come up. I would always offer to send him money. I saw the signs I was being manipulated, and yet I did not see them. I couldn’t face reality; both of us were playing along.

When I came home, I tried to keep it together while Carlos confessed that he’d been smoking cannabis daily and sometimes putting away 20 standard drinks a night. I don’t know what other drugs he was using. I couldn’t cope emotionally if I knew any more specifics. Carlos said he was barely keeping a job and was losing friends because he didn’t show up for social events. He worked until midnight, stayed up until 6 am playing video games, and got a few hours of sleep before his next shift. Three days after his payday he had no money left for food.

Carlos has a chronic physical health condition that requires injections every few months, which cost $30. He hadn’t even been getting his medicine – that money was going on weed. I took all of this in and Carlos asked for my help getting into rehab.

My son is 6’2 tall, and when I checked him into Hader Clinic Queensland he weighed only 68kg. I lived with him in the 4 weeks before his admission… that was one of the longest and most terrifying months of my life. I kept it together for my son but was on the phone with my sister and partner every night in tears. I felt like I was treading water, just barely keeping my head above the waves.

It was very calming to speak to Alex, who did the intake assessment for Hader Clinic Queensland. He was able to get my son to open up and be honest. When Carlos went to rehab I thought I would drop off my broken boy and after his 60 days he would be “fixed”. But that was only the start of the process.

A few days into Carlos’s stay, JJ did a video call and introduced us to the program and sent us a family handbook. He explained how we can educate ourselves with resources and support groups. We had some work to do, not just Carlos. I still attend Nar-Anon meetings, where loved ones of addicts learn how to manage their own well-being and have healthy boundaries. I had a phone call with Carlos early in his stay, and my partner said it was the first time he’d seen me smile in a long time.

We did workshops and had counselling sessions with Olivia where we could ask any questions we wanted. These people are phenomenal. Without their personal and professional support, my family would not be where we are today.

Since Carlos got back we take long walks in the morning and cook together, talking very openly. He’s maintained his recovery and I can look forward to him having a happier life. My son’s time at Hader Clinic Queensland was a worthy investment. I’m fortunate to be the mother of an addict who has been to rehab and done the work. I feel positive, empowered, and equipped to face reality.

Underneath it, there is still a bit of fear because I now understand that addiction is a life-long condition. There’s always a possibility of relapse. But if that ever happens I will know the signs and exactly what to do. I have my own support system I can lean into.

I’m an avid traveller, and we know everyone has to walk their own path in life. But Hader Clinic Queensland gave each of us a map. My son has what he needs to find a way forward.


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

Queensland’s only private rehab centre with ACHS accreditation

We are proud to be the only private drug and alcohol addiction treatment centre in Queensland to be independantly accredited.

How much does private rehab cost?
Use our online calculator to estimate the cost of treatment.
Calculate Cost of Rehab