Cannabis Archives - Hader Clinic Queensland

Ten Ways to Avoid Social Triggers

Maintaining friendships and taking part in social gatherings – be it family functions, work events or the classic Australian backyard barbeque – is an important part of recovery.

However, it can also be one of the most complex aspects, as these occasions can be highly triggering for those recovering from substance use disorders.

Consider the following strategies to enjoy socialising without jeopardising your recovery process.

BYO

Bringing your own beverages to a gathering is a safeguard against well-meaning offers of alcohol or being cornered in an environment where no alcohol-free options are available.

Clear Boundaries

You are perfectly within your rights to let people know that, while you are happy attending the get-together, you will not be partaking in alcohol and/or drugs and would like your hosts and other guests to respect and support this choice.

Buddy Up

If you’re not comfortable announcing your recovery status to the entire party, choose a trusted friend or family member as your moral support. If anyone offers you alcohol and/or drugs or tries to pry into your motives for abstaining, your buddy can provide distraction or simply whisk you away.

Escape Routes

If you suspect that certain parties at a gathering could compromise your recovery, plan your escape. Set an alarm on your phone and claim a work or family emergency for a quick exit.

Communicate

It is unlikely that your loved ones will give you a hard time for abstaining from alcohol and/or drugs; but open communication is always a good idea. If you are comfortable talking about your recovery journey, your loved ones will gather valuable insights and be able to support you more effectively.

Be Selective

There is no need to attend every get-together you’re invited to. To avoid getting overwhelmed choose your social events wisely and save your energy for occasions you are genuinely excited about.

Compare Notes

If you are feeling anxious about a social event, have a chat with your support group, mentors, or fellow recovering addicts. Knowing you are not alone with your feelings can be tremendously helpful – as can exchanging coping strategies.

Realistic Expectations

Truthfully, the first attempts at socialising during active recovery can be challenging and awkward – and that is perfectly normal. Learning to socialise without alcohol and/or drugs takes practise and does get easier over time.

Debrief

Scheduling a call or coffee with a supportive friend or fellow recovering addict to recap your experience of a social event can be very helpful in identifying particularly potent triggers and reinforcing your recovery momentum.

Trust Your Gut

If you’re have a bad feeling about a gathering, don’t go. If you feel like leaving half an hour into a celebration, do it. If, to your surprise, you find yourself having a great time and would like to stay longer than planned – fantastic! Treat yourself kindly and trust your recovery instincts.

Christmas Addiction Triggers and How to Manage Them

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

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

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

Social Pressures

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

Family and/or Friendship Dynamics

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

Loneliness

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

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

Embracing “No”

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

Allies Assemble

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

Self-Care First

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

Guerilla Tactics

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

Why Christmas is a Good Time to Seek Treatment

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

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

It’s the Best Gift for your Loved Ones

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

Christmas is Risky

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

New Year, New Start

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

It Gives your Loved Ones Time to Adjust

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

It is the Best Gift for You

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

Lucy’s Drug Addiction Recovery Journey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Rose’s Journey to Drug Addiction Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.
https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/lizzie-shares-her-journey-from-private-school-high-achiever-to-drug-addiction-psychosis-and-redemption/news-story/a35da74405a4de4081f0bdc2ab8f90bf

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.

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