Cannabis 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.

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.

A Mother’s Story – Jayne’s Story of her Daughter’s Addiction

Jayne’s daughter Charlie has recently completed residential addiction treatment for her drug addiction. Jayne shares her story.

My daughter Charlie is 32 years old and struggled with drug addiction for over 15 years. Her stay at Hader Clinic Queensland was her third attempt at rehab, but this time I have real hope she can recover. And our family (myself, my husband, and Charlie’s sister) have the kind of relationship I never thought possible. Our home is a place of laughter and love. It hasn’t been this way since the girls were very young. We have our Charlie back.

For a long time before she was admitted to Hader, interacting with Charlie was exhausting. I couldn’t spend more than half an hour in her presence. Her mood swings and anger came on suddenly. We never heard from Charlie unless she needed money, or there was some sort of crisis. I was hypervigilant all the time. My heart sank whenever I saw an incoming call from her.

Charlie was 16 when she had an overdose from prescription pills. My husband and I were devastated. We didn’t know that Charlie was using hard drugs. We vaguely had an idea that she tried marijuana with her friends. But she was dismissive when we tried to talk to her about it. Charlie was 17 when she and her boyfriend were caught smoking marijuana in her car. The boy’s family didn’t take it seriously. Apparently using pot was normal for young people in our area.

My husband and I never tried drugs and were quite naive. I remember our neighbour found a plastic bottle with a hose in it near our fence. I didn’t know what a homemade bong looked like. Charlie denied leaving it there, and I believed her. There were many things I didn’t understand about her, or about addiction.

Charlie moved out of home in her teens because she wanted to be independent. I missed her of course, but sometimes the distance was necessary. Seeing her always involved some amount of drama. I know it’s not normal to feel relief when your daughter leaves after a short visit… It’s not normal to have constant arguments… But that was my reality.

I saw other women out with their daughters, talking and being affectionate, and felt envious. And a sense of hopeless grief. Why couldn’t I have that kind of relationship with Charlie? Deep down I thought I was a terrible mother.

When Charlie started using drugs as a teenager her personality changed. She was the apple of my eye as a young girl. Our family is British and my daughters grew up in the UK. Charlie was an outgoing and determined child. She was a talented swimmer and ranked number 1 in England for breaststroke. We still have all her trophies. But she didn’t continue swimming once we moved to New Zealand.

Charlie managed to graduate from school early and trained as a hairdresser. But she was often unreliable at her job, and I was helping her out financially. Charlie was in and out of counselling for years. She got into a relationship with a drug dealer, and then with an abusive man who put her in the hospital with a broken nose. She went to one rehab in her early twenties but left before she finished the program. I paid for Charlie to attend a second rehab, but she was discharged after testing positive for cannabis. There was denial and excuses, but no real change.

Charlie was in the habit of blaming me for her troubles. I found out she’d been abused when she was little (by the same relative who abused me as a child). I felt terribly guilty for not knowing it was happening, for not protecting her. I felt guilty for moving her away from the UK when she was 13. Charlie was never afraid to mention my failings as a parent when we had fights. I felt obligated to rescue her or give into her demands – including covering her expenses. It didn’t help either of us.

Before we moved to Brisbane, my husband and I bought a house where our daughters could live together in Dunedin – with room out the back for Charlie to run a hair salon. But none of this seemed to give her any stability. My daughters were close as children, and Charlie has always been protective of her little sister… but by the time of Charlie’s admission to Hader Clinic Queensland, they were not living together anymore. There were things she refused to tell me. And things I knew in my heart which I didn’t want to face.

Both my daughters have struggled with mental health issues and drug use. But with Charlie it was particularly serious and (unknown to me at the time) she was abusing methamphetamine, not just cannabis.

When my daughters visited us in Brisbane we could see Charlie was extremely unwell. I thought she must be using hard drugs. She overreacted much more than usual. Even a shopping trip was too much for her to manage. At Christmas, Charlie refused to come over with her sister because they’d been having arguments. The girls’ relationship with each other had deteriorated so badly. I was sobbing when I sent my youngest daughter home, because I couldn’t convince her to go and visit Charlie to check in on her.

I was afraid that someone would call me one day to say Charlie was dead. I felt I had two choices – get her into rehab or wait for that dreadful phone call.

I found Hader Clinic Queensland on Google and spoke to Jo. She was compassionate and understood my situation. But she was very firm that nobody can force another person into rehabilitation treatment. My daughter had to want this for herself. Jo helped us find the right words to tell Charlie; “I love you, and I will support you in your recovery. But I will not support you in your addiction”.

This advice was life-changing for me and my husband. I believed supporting and loving my daughter meant I had to fund her lifestyle, accept every decision she made… and if I withdrew that support, then I was a bad mother. Hader Clinic Queensland staff educated us on how to be there for Charlie in a healthy way, with boundaries. And to this day we use the tools we learned in Hader’s counselling sessions and workshops.

The conversation with Charlie was surprisingly calm. She cried and agreed she needed help. I rang her GP who said my daughter was in the “pre-contemplation stage”. Charlie had some reservations about Hader Clinic Queensland, but I told this could be her last chance. My husband and I took out a loan for treatment. Olivia helped us to understand the intake process and access some educational resources.

Hader Clinic Queensland is a structured program – her first few days were difficult. She had a stress-induced fit, and became furious when she wasn’t allowed to call us when she had had her fit. Charlie was stood down for a week and came to Brisbane. She agreed to daily check-ins and drug tests with the staff at Head Office, then went back to complete her treatment.

A staff member who saw Charlie’s meltdown said that, underneath her rage, there was a frightened and vulnerable little girl. But since she came home from rehab, my daughter has become a woman. She was really committed to the process. During her stay, we talked on the phone, then went to visit her every week – first-day visits, then progressed to overnight leave – which she really enjoyed.

Hader Clinic Queensland is holistic. Charlie saw a psychiatrist and a counsellor, did exercise, ate nutritious food, and even massages. Physically she looks amazing now – healthy and glowing. Since leaving rehab, I’ve seen Charlie make good decisions for her wellbeing. She has firm boundaries and won’t be around drug-using friends or people who have relapsed. She did the intensive outpatient program, checking in with Hader Clinic Queensland staff for counselling and drug tests. And she still attends 12 Step Meetings. Nobody has to tell my daughter to do these things. Charlie is independently choosing a better life for herself.

It used to be just my husband and I living by ourselves… Our kids were often struggling with their mental health, not talking to us or to each other. Now when I wake up for work in the morning, I see one daughter in the kitchen smiling and making coffee. The other is helping with the housework. Charlie puts her arms around me and asks me how I am. The girls go out shopping together, and we have dinner as a family. Perhaps one day we’ll get to go on a holiday. At the moment I’m just settling into the feeling of emotional peace.

Having a child with addiction is very isolating. I used to be afraid that if I died suddenly, Charlie would be unable to cope with nobody to look after her. But I don’t have those feelings anymore.

Before Charlie went for treatment, we didn’t know any other families who shared our experience. Hader Clinic Queensland made it possible for us to make those connections. There’s still plenty of stigma and judgement out there. But we’re not alone. I want to share my story with other parents who need help. If my daughter can do it, then I feel there is hope for anyone.

In my living room – next to a photo of the girls – is the medal Hader Clinic Queensland gave Charlie when she completed her 90-Day Program. Of all the trophies and awards she’s received in her life; this one is the most dear to my heart. I am so proud of my daughter.


Photographs of this client have been changed to protect 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.

Seven Signs of Addiction

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

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

Holly writes:

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

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

What is addiction?

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

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

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

#1 – Increased Tolerance

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

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

Holly describes her spiral like this:

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

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

#2 -Withdrawal Symptoms

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

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

Physical withdrawal symptoms in the early stages of addiction include:

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

Psychological withdrawal symptoms can include:

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

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

Holly reports:

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

#3 – Loss of Control

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

Holly experienced this:

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

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

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

#4 – ‘Bad Luck’

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

As Holly puts it:

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

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

#5 – Self-Imposed Isolation

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

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

Holly describes her rock bottom like this:

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

#6 – Becoming unreliable

Holly writes:

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

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

#7 – Wanting to Stop

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

Holly experienced this during her recovery journey:

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

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

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

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

Holly did it.

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


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

How to Support an Addict at Christmas

The festive season is hectic and stressful at the best of times, but when you have a loved one struggling with addiction Christmas time has the potential to be an absolute nightmare. Family get-togethers can seem incredibly daunting when you throw an addict into the mix, especially since parties are a natural trigger for destructive drinking behaviours.

If you are dreading this year’s family functions, take a deep breath, and read through our list of coping strategies for friends and families of addicts during the holidays. It won’t solve all your problems, but it may ease your anxieties.

Give yourself permission to feel

Having a loved one struggling with addiction is a minefield of emotions – guilt, anger, fear, shame, anxiety, you name it – and the best thing you can do for yourself is to acknowledge these feelings. Trying to stay strong or ignoring your emotions is not going to get you anywhere; especially if you are trying to protect your loved one by bottling everything up.

Talk to someone you trust

Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or relative can be a huge relief. Venting your emotions will make you calmer when faced with the fall-out of your loved one’s addiction and it will make you feel less alone. Having a person who simply listens to your side of the situation can be imperative to maintain your mental health.

Be open with your loved one

Having a conversation about how your loved one’s addiction is affecting you is incredibly hard. However, it can also be very powerful – even if it doesn’t impact your loved one’s behaviours immediately. If you simply tell your loved one that you would love to see them during the Christmas period but absolutely don’t want to deal with them in a situation where they might potentially be intoxicated, you have taken the first step to protecting yourself.

Make a Plan B (or C or D)

By now you probably know your loved one’s patterns of alcohol use quite well; and there is nothing wrong with using this to your advantage. Schedule a Christmas breakfast with them rather than a lunch if it means they won’t already be intoxicated or make plans to meet them for a Christmas walk away from any drinking opportunities. Remember, you are allowed to withdraw if your loved one’s behaviour causes you pain, you have no obligation to put up with this.

Set clear boundaries

This is especially important if you have children to protect from your loved one’s destructive drinking. Making sure your children don’t have a traumatic Christmas experience is much more important than sparing your loved one’s feelings. Yes, this is a rough call to make; but this is not the time to be vague about your needs and the needs of your children.

Do not drink with them

It may not change your loved one’s drinking behaviour, but it will take away the illusion of a shared, social drinking experience. Politely but firmly refusing to join your loved one when they start drinking can be a powerful way of making a stand, regardless of the immediate reaction.

How to Stay on the Sleigh this Christmas

The silly season, glorious though it might be, can feel like an absolute minefield to the recovering addict. Parties, family get-togethers, loss of routine…Christmas in recovery is hard. Thankfully, as we all know, hard doesn’t equal impossible.

To make sure you get through the holidays without relapsing or tearing your hair out, we’ve compiled twelve strategies you might find helpful:

#1 – Yes, please, I would love a drink…of water!

There’s no getting around well-meaning friends and family offering you beverages, especially if they don’t understand your recovery journey. If you don’t feel like saying ‘no’, say ‘yes’ and specify the non-alcoholic beverage of your choice. 9 times out of 10, the person offering won’t push for alcohol, but if they do:

#2 – Be clear

Repeat after us: “No, thank you. I’ve got to get up early/I have the kids tomorrow/I’m meeting a friend for a dawn run.” You can be polite but still stand firm and it is very unlikely that anyone will insist you have alcohol, but if they do:

#3 – Use Humour

“I’ll have a drink if you eat one of these Christmas ornaments – you first.” Or maybe: “I’ve only just gotten off the naughty list!” Anything you can think of, really. Pre-rehearse lines if you think it might be helpful. It’s almost certain that this will end the discussion, but if it doesn’t:

#4 – Be open

If you’re comfortable doing so, sharing your recovery journey can be a powerful tool. When your friends and family know what you’re going through and how hard you are working to maintain recovery, they can fight in your corner and support you. But if they don’t:

#5 – Have an Exit Strategy

If you think a Christmas get-together has the potential to go south pole rather than the north pole, plan your escape in advance. Get a friend to phone you an hour into the party and pretend there’s an emergency…or, if you like, just do the rounds, say hi-and-bye and go when you’ve had enough.

#6 – Choose an Ally

Having one person in the room, who knows what you are going through and is standing by to support you can make all the difference. Whether it’s a favourite relative or your bestie, confidants can be invaluable in challenging Christmas situations.

#7 – Take time for you

There is no harm in sitting out a Christmas party if you don’t feel up to it. If you would rather go for a walk with a friend or on your own, spend the day at the beach with a good book or go to a meeting – you are allowed.

#8 – Keep up the good work

You are in the middle of recovery, so acknowledge how well you’ve been managing and keep going. Whether you are a regular at AA, go to individual therapy or do recovery work at home, this is not the time to take a break.

#9 – Deep Breaths

No matter how stressed out Christmas gets you, remember to keep breathing and stay in the moment. Try to keep grounded as much as you can and reach out to your support network when you need them.

#10 – Remember Self-Care

Whatever your self-care routine might be, ramp it up a notch this holiday season. Go for an extra swim, eat some amazing food, and hang out with your favourite people.

#11 – Stay Connected

The idea of isolating yourself until Christmas is over can be tempting, but you must be careful to stay connected with the people who support you. If you don’t feel up to any big Christmas dos, no problem; so long as you stay in touch with those who are essential to your recovery.

#12 – Be Kind to Yourself

The holiday season is hard enough as it is, there’s no need to beat yourself up for not coping as well as you hoped. Every recovering addict struggles during festivities and everyone has a bad day or week; give yourself some love this Christmas. You deserve it.

Maintaining Your Recovery During the Holiday Season

Christmas is supposed to be a joyous time. A time to get together with friends and family, let bygones be bygones, share the love…all the good stuff.

Unfortunately, when you are recovering from alcohol and/or drug addiction the holiday season can be trying to say the least. In fact, the whitest thing about Christmas may well be your knuckles as you are desperately trying to maintain your recovery.

First and foremost: Don’t panic! Struggling during the silly season is a standard experience for recovering addicts and you are not alone.

Secondly, let’s take a look at what makes the holidays so hard; knowledge is power after all and the better we understand holiday triggers, the better we can work around them.

Trigger #1 – Christmas Parties

As soon as December rolls around, it is open party season. Work functions, family get-togethers, backyard barbeques…the list is endless. It’s important to remember that any invitation to a Christmas shindig comes from a good place, but it’s equally important to maintain healthy boundaries to keep your recovery going.

The best way to deal with this overload of opportunities to relapse is to give yourself permission to decline. You are allowed to be selective and you are allowed to put yourself first. If you decide to skip Christmas drinks with co-workers you can choose to be open about your recovery, but you can also make an elegant excuse (i.e. conflicting family event, a date, a sick child…anything goes).

Trigger #2 – Broken Routine

During the Christmas period, routine is usually the first thing to go. Whether you are working extra hours to cope with the holiday rush or have a couple of weeks without work due to holiday closures, things will not run as normal and that is always a challenge for a recovering addict; especially if it means you will be alone for long stretches of the holidays.

It might be helpful to make plans to replace some of the lost structure. Whether you schedule some form of daily exercise, make some extra coffee dates or just stock up on good books or binge-worthy series to keep you occupied, the most important thing is to provide yourself with anchors to avoid reverting to unhealthy coping strategies.

Trigger #3 – Family Get-Togethers

Families are great, but they are also a massive source of stress and anxiety – especially during the holiday season. You may be faced with meeting relatives for the first time since you started your recovery, you may be dreading explaining your journey and dealing with any judgement that might come your way…and on top of that, these people expect presents!

If the thought of the family festivities is sending you into a spiral, confide in your most trusted family member and make them your Christmas buddy. Having one person in the room who knows what you’re going through and has your back can make all the difference.


Trent’s Story of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery

“Life is still life, and I would be lying if I said it was all sunshine and rainbows. I have good days and bad days, but I now have a daily program that helps me manage feelings and situations without the use of drugs.”

Trent is 33 years old. He recently celebrated 1 year clean and sober after completing a 28-day detox at Hader Clinic Queensland. This is his story of recovery from alcohol and cannabis addiction.

I had a normal childhood. We lived in a rural NSW town. I was the youngest of 3 with 2 older sisters. I went to a good school. I enjoyed sport and I excelled at it. My dad was the principal of the school, so I felt like I needed to try harder than others to fit in and I was a people pleaser. The overwhelming need to be liked meant I didn’t really know who I was or what I liked to do. I was a chameleon. I liked whatever the crowd I was in liked so I could fit in.

As a teenager, I drank a bit at parties. Nothing too serious, it was what everyone else was doing and didn’t cause too much trouble for me. When I finished high school, I moved to London for 2 years. I worked in the hospitality industry. I worked in nightclubs. It was a lifestyle. The culture was to party all night and sleep all day. I enjoyed my time overseas. I experienced a lot and travelled around Europe and saw some amazing places.

When I returned to Australia, I was 21. I started at University and continued living a party lifestyle. Smoking marijuana became part of my daily life. I needed it to function throughout the day and would feel agitated and anxious if I didn’t have it.

After uni, I worked as a sales rep for an alcohol company. This really enabled my lifestyle of partying and going out all weekend. I had developed a serious marijuana habit. I had to have it to eat and to go to sleep. The only way I could function was if I was stoned. I became very withdrawn and reclusive. I didn’t want to go anywhere; I thought it relieved my stress and anxiety. I didn’t realise that I was addicted to it.

I wasn’t a daily drinker, but when I drank alcohol, I did it to excess. I would get to the point of blacking out nearly every time. I would do embarrassing things and would always wake up full of guilt and shame about the night before. When I drank alcohol I became a different person. My behaviour went against everything I believed in. I felt so ashamed. I was unpredictable. I did not know how I was going to behave once I was under the influence.

Still, I continued to live this way for many years. I didn’t think I had a problem. I always held down good jobs. I was a functioning addict. From the outside, I looked well, and I had a mask that made me feel like everything was ok, even though I felt so empty and sad. I would ask myself, “how could I be a sober alcohol sales rep?”  I was very successful. I had worked really hard to get where I was in my career. I made empty promises to myself on a Sunday night. I would try to moderate my drinking and stop completely, but by Thursday, that would all go out the window and the cycle would continue.

When COVID-19 hit in 2020, I became even more isolated. Working from home enabled my reclusive lifestyle, and my social life dramatically changed. Instead of partying out at nightclubs and parties. I began drinking and using cocaine at home. I was so depressed. It was a very uncertain time. This is when things really spiralled out of control for me. I didn’t feel good inside myself but didn’t know what to do. I felt trapped and alone.

Throughout the years, my friends always knew me as a party person. It was an intrinsic part of my personality. My family was sick and tired of watching me burn my life to the ground and rebuild it. They knew I was deeply unhappy but didn’t know how to help me.

I was very self-centred and didn’t think my lifestyle affected others. I had a victim mentality. I would ask myself, “why does this always happen to me?” I could not take any personal responsibility in my life.

I got arrested for drink driving multiple times. On the third occasion, I was away for work in a hire car. The industry I worked in had a zero-tolerance policy on this. I was immediately fired from my job for “gross negligence.” Although I couldn’t see it at the time, this was the best thing that could have happened. It was my way out of this lifestyle I had become trapped in.

My partying and daily marijuana use was affecting the people around me. I had no time for relationships as alcohol and drugs always came first. The longest relationship I had was 4 years. She didn’t like that I smoked pot every day. I was completely unreliable. She would make plans and I would go out all night and be asleep through the day.

After I lost my job and was in serious trouble with the law I was lost. I could no longer deny the impact alcohol and drugs were having on my life. My sister knew I needed help. She found Hader Clinic Queensland online and told me my private health would cover the cost. I didn’t want to go but my life was such a mess I had nothing to lose. I had never sought help before. I wasn’t sure what it could do for me.

I learned so much at Hader Clinic Queensland. I thought I was walking into a prison yard, but it was the opposite. I was set free. Everyone was so understanding, they were not judgmental at all. Being around other addicts and hearing their stories made me feel so comfortable and safe. I realised we were all the same, and I had many “yets”.

For the first time in so long, I had time to sit back and reflect on my life. The foundations I learned in there have helped me immensely. I was taught how to be present with meditation and daily readings. I was introduced to 12 Step fellowships and literature. Narcotics Anonymous meetings have become an important part of my life over the past year.

Life is still life and I would be lying if I said it was all sunshine and rainbows. I have good days and bad days but I now have a daily program that helps me manage feelings and situations without the use of drugs.

I recently celebrated 1 year clean and sober. My life today is so much better. I am gainfully employed in a new career where I get to help people and contribute meaningfully to their life. I have a better relationship with my family and friends. I always had their love, but now I have their respect. I attend regular meetings; I have a sponsor and I work the steps.

Thank you Hader Clinic Queensland for giving me the foundations to build a life I want to be part of.


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

A Mother’s Journey with Her Son’s Addiction

“Being a mother brings great joy and great sadness when it doesn’t go the way you planned”.

Katherine’s son, Tom, was a polydrug user, addicted to Marijuana, alcohol, amphetamines, and Nangs (Nitrous oxide). This is Katherine’s story of recovery.

My son, Tom was a happy boy growing up he had a lot of friends. Our family is a very close and supportive one. His father is a Doctor and Tom had a very supportive and stable life growing up.

Things changed around the age of 14, Tom started to become disconnected from school and his family, he was less interested in learning and more interested in being “cool”. He started drinking and smoking cigarettes, then started smoking marijuana.

Watching my happy and intelligent son change was heartbreaking. Tom was attending a good school and had great opportunities. However, he was very rebellious against authority and was angry at what he perceived as an unjust world.

When Tom was in year 11, we went to America for 6 months and Tom was doing his schooling via correspondence at a school there. It was meant to be a great time for us as a family and an amazing life experience.

Tom was caught smoking marijuana and as the school had a no-tolerance policy for drugs, they suspended him for 6 months. He was then home with me for around 5 months, he was very negative and difficult to be around at times. This was the first time Tom’s drug use had consequences and caused family issues.

In years 11 and 12 I got an email saying his Naplan results didn’t match his school results. He was smart but just didn’t apply himself at school. His drug use was often more important, and he appeared to be interested in little else.

Even so, Tom went to university and finished his degree in psychology. I thought that his life was back on track. He was 21 and in a good relationship with a lovely girl that was a good influence on him. He had some good friends, and they had a lot of fun drinking which appeared to be normal for his age. I wasn’t worried about him and felt he was doing well.

Tom was very anti-establishment. He had always felt there was injustice in the world, and he focused on it. He was very rebellious and found it hard to be happy.

Around 23 his relationship broke down and he became extremely depressed. He didn’t want to be around people, so he got a night shift job on the Gold Coast and we did everything in our power to help him launch.

One day he came to us and said, “I need to get sober; I need to stop drinking and stop using drugs.” I was so happy he had reached out for help and wanted to assist in any way we could.

We told him to come home, and we would help him, but even at home with us and with the biggest desire to change, he couldn’t stop using. He was out of control. I feared he would end up dead or in jail. He had been arrested a few times and was often heavily intoxicated while driving.

He went to stay with my Mum, her house was a good circuit breaker for Tom, we would send him there to detox and be supported. We gave him an ultimatum. We told him to get help, or he couldn’t come home to us.

It was very difficult to be around him. He used my credit cards, he spent thousands of dollars on drugs. He would always be so remorseful, but I could see it was out of his control.

We kept propping him up all the time, giving him money, giving him a place to live and now I know now I was enabling his drug use. I had no idea what that meant before the family education sessions at the Hader Clinic.

I thought giving him money and support would help him, but we were enabling him to continue his lifestyle with very few consequences.

After some research, we found Hader Clinic Queensland, and Tom was admitted there shortly after. The first week was tough for him. We wanted him to stay for 90 days but he decided to come home after 28 days.

The day he was getting out we were ready to get him, and we had tested positive for covid. My mum had to get him and he was really upset about this, he couldn’t come and stay with us and had to go back to his flat in Kangaroo Point. He lapsed that day.

I realised then that this was not going to be a straight road. The Hader Clinic had given me so many tools from the information session and group education sessions with other family members of addicts.

This helped us in so many ways. We learned that we can’t do everything for Tom, if he was going to get clean, he needed to want it for himself. Enabling him by giving him money and fixing things for him was harmful.

After this lapse, I was really disheartened and wanted him to go back to rehab. Tom believed he could do it himself.

I could really see a change in Tom when he came home, he had a complete change in his attitude, focusing on living in the day and caring more for other people. It has been 3 months now and he is doing really well, he is regularly attending meetings and staying clean. He uses so many of the tools he was taught at the Hader Clinic, he even teaches us how to practice gratitude at dinner time. It’s so beautiful to have our son guide us in gratitude at dinner. I know that this is because he was taught the fundamentals for success in rehab.

Hader Clinic Queensland’s education has made me understand the disease of addiction in a way I never could before. I really understand that this is a sickness, that there is no pill and no cure. For him to be happy and free from addiction he needs a community and tools. It is not something I can do for him.

Going to the family groups helped me connect with other parents going through the same situation. Hearing the other families’ stories gave me hope that we could get through this.

Their stories were really emotional and humbling.

I am so happy that my son got to the Hader Clinic. It has completely changed the outcome of his life. He is fully aware and has a very good understanding of how addiction works and is attending as many meetings as he can get to which really help support him in his journey.

I know that we will face challenges ahead, but I feel that we have the tools and support to get through this.

My biggest advice for other families struggling is to get help, it is so hard to do this on your own, it is a chronic illness, and it is so important to seek support from people that know what to do.

It’s been such a privilege to work with the Hader Clinic Queensland. I have my happy son back. He is journaling every day and is teaching me so much. He is a very calm presence in our house, and we love being around him.

Thanks to the Hader Clinic I believe my son has been given a second chance in life.


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

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