DVA Archives - Hader Clinic Queensland

Veteran Reclaims Life After Addiction with DVA-Funded Rehab

From joining the military to facing the depths of despair and homelessness, Jaymie’s journey is a raw and powerful testament to the challenges of addiction and the resilience required to overcome it.

Jaymie’s life took a dramatic turn when, at age 18, she enlisted in the Australian Defence Force, a decision that unwittingly steered her towards a harrowing battle with alcohol and drug addiction.

Her struggles with substance abuse during and after her military service, her courageous fight to reclaim her life through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) funded rehab programs at Hader Clinic Queensland, and the transformative power of recovery has led her to a fulfilling life with her family.

This is Jaymie’s story.

I had never touched alcohol or drugs before I joined the defence force when I was 18.

Since then I have lived normally, lost everything to my alcohol and drug addiction, and then fought for it all back.

I have completed DVA funded residential addiction treatment and the Transition House Program at Hader Clinic Queensland.

I am now living a great life in recovery with my husband and our children.

I had my first drink in the military when I was 18 as it was heavily encouraged.

Throughout my career in the military drinking was promoted as a coping mechanism.

You’re exposed to high risk situations where you need to be able to react quickly, so it’s this constant state of fight or flight response.

When we’d travel overseas for defence the first thing people did was go get a drink.

I’ve been all over the world from my time in the military but I’ve barely seen outside of a bar. I drank quite heavily and identified as an alcoholic from the very beginning.

After I left the defence force I became a parent and lived a double life.

I was a normal Mum during the week, looking after my kids and functioning normally, and then I was a binge drinker on the weekends.

I was married with a nice house and nice things, but I couldn’t stop myself from drinking excessively at the end of the week.

That isn’t to say I didn’t try.

I committed myself to being sober for one year, and then switched out alcohol with pharmaceuticals.

They are still the most dangerous drug for me.

I was trying to change the way I felt all the time.

I couldn’t sit with myself, my emotions or the stress of being a mum and trying to be perfect.

I thought I was fine because I wasn’t drinking but I was really unwell from overusing prescription drugs, eventually ending up in hospital.

My marriage broke down as my husband was struggling with PTSD from his time in the military, and after years of abuse I took my kids and left.

This is when things really went downhill as I turned to drinking to cope.

It was almost like the beginning of the end for me.

The week that I didn’t have the kids I would party and drink and use drugs to numb everything.

I went from having a normal home and going to parent/teacher and P&C meetings, to being homeless and waiting in front of the bottle shop so I could stop the withdrawals as soon as it opened.

I ended up losing my kids and had no idea how I was going to get them back and get free of my addiction’s hold on me.

So I turned to harder drugs to escape and cut off communication with everyone.

I just wanted to disappear as I didn’t feel like I was worth anything.

Then one day I went to walk in front of a train and I suddenly thought about how I just wanted to see my kids one more time.

I called my Mum for the first time in three months and this was the turning point in my addiction.

I had presented before at a hospital asking for help and telling them that I was a veteran, but they turned me away.

My Mum was able to get in touch with the local police officer (I had been reported as missing), and from his experience with DVA services, he told us about a detox service that takes Veterans.

I detoxed and felt much better but I knew that 6 weeks wasn’t enough time so I worked with DVA on a longer-term solution which is how I found Hader Clinic Queensland.

I signed up for the 90 day rehab program and walked into Hader Clinic Queensland full of hope.

I entered Hader’s program and finally learnt the reasons why I was doing what I was doing.

They introduced me to AA and NA, and the incredible Fellowship on the Sunshine Coast.

I was exposed to this world of people like me who got better and were happy.

The best thing about my time in drug and alcohol addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland was the community.

I was surrounded by like-minded people going through similar things, and together we were healing ourselves and each other.

And then as you progress through the rehab program you become the older, wiser member to the new people coming in, and you get to see how far you’ve come in the little time that has passed.

It makes you feel proud that you’re in the right direction and motivated to keep going.

I had 3 months of being able to completely switch off from the outside world and focus on me and my recovery.

Then I spent about 5 months in the Transition House Program, which was really valuable.

You have a bit more freedom but you still have that accountability.

I’d highly recommend the Transition House program to anyone considering it as it really helped me adjust back into the real world with support still from Hader Clinic Queensland and the accountability to keep you on track.

It’s been some time since I completed the DVA funded residential addiction treatment and Transition House Program.

I’ve gotten married, I have my kids back and a new baby, my life is better, and I’m happy.

From homeless with nothing to a nice home and normal family life in just a few years.

I found someone that I can share my life with who understands the journey I’ve been on and celebrates what has been overcome to build what we have together.

I feel like I got to redo my life because I have the support from DVA that allows me to access services like Hader Clinic Queensland.

Going to rehab saved my life and every day I am really grateful for that second chance.

Alan’s DVA Funded Addiction Treatment

Alan is 6 months sober after completing DVA funded addiction treatment for his alcohol addiction. This is his story.

I didn’t see myself as an alcoholic until I ended up in alcohol addiction treatment and started to see my life in a new perspective.

By that point I had been drinking heavily for about 20 years and I realised I was becoming a slave to it.

I ended up signing up for 90 days of DVA funded addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland and now I’ve been sober for 6 months.

I grew up in a pretty big family, had a pretty good upbringing and was in music.

Times were different back then so you’d go round to a mate’s house as a teen and have a couple of beers.

But being in the music scene there was a pretty strong drinking culture that then continued into my time in the Navy.

I participated somewhat, but I generally tried to distance myself from it.

I did transport in the Navy so I had to stay sober to drive the trucks and operate the machinery.

When I left the Navy I got a job driving buses, so I didn’t drink and drive.

It wasn’t until I was let go from work due to a back injury that I started drinking heavily and my alcoholism started to take hold.

Being unemployed I couldn’t afford to go to the pub, so I drank homebrew, which unfortunately lead to isolation.

I was living out pretty remotely with my wife and kids so we didn’t even have neighbours to interact with frequently.

My weekly outing was going to get treatment for my back and doing the grocery shop.

This continued on for about 20 years, and as the heavy drinking and isolation continued I stopped feeling like myself and eventually ended up in hospital.

The mental health ward staff were the ones who referred me to Hader Clinic Queensland.

I agreed to go, and DVA moved quickly putting everything into place, so soon after I was on my way into 90 days of alcohol addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland.

The first 28 days were hard, but I knew pretty quickly that I did need to complete the whole 90 days.

The rehab program gave me back structure and discipline, but the best thing was the education.

Learning about yourself and where your problems lie, which can be hard to come to terms with.

It was an emotional time for me.

When it came to the end of the 90 days, I had a choice to make.

Go home, or continue on in the Transitional Housing Program.

I’d been drinking alcohol for 47 years and I was determined to give myself the best chance for recovery post treatment.

This meant I needed more time, and with my family’s support I went into the Transitional Housing Program.

I live in the country and don’t have access to a lot of alcoholism support out there, so I need to have a strong base of recovery knowledge and practice what I could pull from when I went home.

I’ve now done 12 weeks of the Transitional Housing Program at Hader Clinic Queensland in addition to the 90 days of residential rehab and it’s been very valuable.

I’m 6 months sober, and if it wasn’t for DVA and Hader Clinic Queensland I wouldn’t be here.

I’ve started sponsoring another alcoholic which has made me stronger in my sobriety.

I’m passing on what I’ve learnt from AA to someone else, reinforcing my knowledge base.

I’ve got a few more months until I’m back home, but I’ve got a lot of people that are helping me and I’m helping others too.

 

 

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

Joe’s Journey Through DVA-Funded Addiction Treatment

Now in Hader Clinic Queensland’s Transitional Housing Program, Joe completed 90 days of DVA-funded residential addiction treatment and is feeling better than ever. This is his story.

I lived a life of active addiction after experiencing some trauma in childhood, difficult experiences in the army, and losing a child to Sudden Infant Death syndrome. Most of my time as a young adult I spent using drugs and drinking alcohol, and eventually, it affected every aspect of my life until the point that it was either get help or die. I have now completed 97 days of residential addiction treatment through Hader Clinic and am in the Transition Program, with a new life ahead of me.

I started taking prescription pills when I was a pre-teen after an event that happened to me early in life. Through my teens, I was using speed, marijuana, party drugs, painkillers and dabbled in intravenous use. When I was 17 I joined the army and attempted special forces and completed recon and several other courses including combat first aid.

I experienced some pretty tough medical incidents as a combat first aider that have stuck with me. Drinking culture in the military is huge which meant if you didn’t drink you were left behind pretty quickly. So, my drinking was pretty heavy and I was also using heavy amounts of pain medication. As a combat first aider, I had access to lots of painkillers, including morphine. Eventually, I spoke up about what was happening, I tested positive and was discharged from the army.

When you leave the army you lose all sense of purpose and are completely lost. I got a job in a pub and was still using drugs. I was definitely a poly-substance user, but the one thing that was pretty consistent was the painkillers.

When I had my first child I reduced my drug use, slowed my drinking, and stopped intravenous use. After my second child was born I lost my job as I was stealing money to fund my drug habit. I got involved with the wrong kind of people as I had been missing the brotherhood feeling from the military. I left my partner and started up intravenous meth use in addition to what I was already doing at the time, but I always made sure that I didn’t inject through my arms to hide it from my kids and family.

I ended up getting a job in a hospital that I loved so I applied to study medicine. But things were getting worse, so when I was supposed to start med school I ended up in the ICU a couple of times. I had some overdoses but was still able to hide it from my family and kids. I had been lying for years and using a friend as next-of-kin so they didn’t know about the hospital visits.

I blew every opportunity to break the cycle of addiction and eventually was told by a doctor that I had six months or less left to live. I went to the pub to celebrate. My Mum found out about my alcohol and drug addiction when I locked myself out, called her to help, and she found me completely passed out with tracks in my arm. She googled rehabs and found Hader Clinic Queensland and suggested it to me. To please everybody, I went in but when I found out that I wasn’t going to be able to leave rehab to go use I did freak out.

The first month in drug and alcohol detox I was a complete mess. I eventually realised that when you’re in my kind of situation, 28 days was not going to be enough. I needed to grasp the concept that I had a problem before I could start to do the work to change. Rehab was good, the staff were awesome, and the best thing was definitely the fact that all of the staff had lived experience. It was imperative to me that I wasn’t going to be told stuff from someone who had just read it in a textbook. I could actually learn from someone who had been there before and done it. The individual support was amazing and there were a couple of specific people that definitely saved my life.

I did 97 days of DVA-funded addiction treatment and am one month into Hader Clinic Queensland’s Transitional Housing Program. I didn’t think I had changed, but the people I respect and trust said that I have grown incredibly as a person. The Transitional Housing Program is a brilliant program that has been really really good at getting me used to the realities of life with the support I need.

If I had gone straight back into the real world I would likely be in active addiction again. My life now is good. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been, my head’s clear, and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in a very, very long time. I’m nowhere near as reactive and I can face life’s challenges head on and not blow things out of proportion. I am in the best mental state I’ve been in since I started using painkillers as a pre-teen and it’s all because I decided to do the work and complete 120 days (and counting) of DVA-funded addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland.

 

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

Veteran Ross’ Journey Through DVA-Funded Ice Addiction Treatment

After becoming homeless Ross completed the 90-day residential addiction treatment, and the 9-month transitional housing program at Hader Clinic Queensland, and is now over two years clean. This is his story.

Most of my life I’ve been using drugs and alcohol but things really began to spiral out of control when I started using meth. It was when I really hit rock bottom that I decided to try rehab and called Hader Clinic which got me into DVA-funded addiction treatment, and after some hard work, I’m now two and a half years clean.

I started when I was a teenager, smoking marijuana and drinking a lot. I just worked, smoked and drank until my 20s when I went to work in the mines and then joined the army. I quit the drugs and just drank alcohol while I was working in the mines, and I proceeded to do that when I joined the army as well. I was in the army for a few years and left toward the end of my 20s. It wasn’t really until my 30s that I started up on the drugs again. I’d tried amphetamines, or speed, before so when I was hanging out with some people that offered me meth I thought, why not.

But that’s when things really went downhill for me. Once I started, I was hooked. I started selling weed and that covered the cost of the meth for me, and at that time I was only smoking it every couple of weeks. I made a lot of money dealing weed, but I eventually gave up as it got too stressful, and I just didn’t want to do it anymore.

By then my ice addiction had started to take hold and I began using every day. Eventually, my money started running out so I had to start selling meth, and so I had access to a lot of it and I was in the throes of addiction. My life started spiralling, I became homeless, and I just was in a really dark place.

When I was living in a men’s homeless shelter, I started seeing a caseworker from the Salvation Army weekly for a couple of years. At the end of every session, she would mention Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential addiction program, and how I could access the program through DVA, so I didn’t have to pay out of pocket.

I was not in the right headspace, so I eventually told her to stop mentioning it to me as I wasn’t interested. I said I would work my stuff out by myself, I just needed to get it together, but really, I was just wanting to end my life. I even made plans to that effect, but then one night this feeling came over me that I was worth more than this. It was the smallest window into a feeling of self-worth and that I was meant for a better life than the one I was living. And then Hader popped into my head.

So I called Hader Clinic the next day, and they explained how it all worked with DVA and everything, but I didn’t book in then and there. I wanted to wait for my paycheck to come in so I could buy some stuff in preparation for the 90 days of DVA-funded addiction treatment. It took me about a month to call back, but when I did they got me into the program within days. I didn’t even have to do anything with DVA, Hader organised the whole thing so all I had to do was fill out the forms and go to rehab.

I was so reluctant when I got to Hader. I had no idea what to expect. I guess I saw it as surgery where you go in, they fix you, and then you come out better. So yeah, I was way off, but I had a great counsellor that I could talk to and be honest about what I was experiencing during my time there. That was the best part of my experience in the program, being able to talk to someone who just listened to me and didn’t try to push something on me.

After 90 days I went to the transition program and I enjoyed having the accountability and honesty of the rehab program but also the freedom to do what I wanted with my days. It was a good way to get back into the real world without losing the support. I would have my weekly chats with Olivia and just talk about how I was feeling, and my concerns, and just be truly honest about how I was going. I got to take the program at my own pace and continue to work on what was going on in my head while adapting back to society.

After the transition program, I didn’t do much but focus on my recovery. I went to a meeting every day and I just took it one day at a time. I was dedicated to staying clean and that meant just taking it day by day and not being hard on myself. I took it slow and I took it easy, and I didn’t compare myself to others, which is something I had to learn.

I always tell the newcomers at NA that it’s hard but you just take one day at a time for the first three months and it gets easier to manage. I’m much better at managing what life throws at me. I relax and avoid things that are too stressful as I know my limits better now.

I’m now 2 and a half years sober, I go to meetings at least once a week, and I meditate when I’m feeling overwhelmed. From a dark headspace in the throes of addiction, through DVA-funded ice addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland, the transition program, and now living clean for over 2 years. It’s a roller-coaster but it’s worth it.

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

Sam’s DVA-Funded Drug Addiction Recovery

Sam completed 90 days of DVA-funded residential addiction treatment and the Transitional Housing program at Hader Clinic Queensland. This is his story.

After I left the defence force, I struggled to transition back to society, struggled with ice addiction and homelessness, and eventually, with Hader Clinic Queensland’s help, completed DVA-funded residential addiction treatment.

I grew up in a pretty good family and was very sporty in high school. I even played soccer for two years in Italy, and it was my life. Then I joined the army. I still played soccer in the army, and we did pretty well but we also had to participate in these Boozer Parades where every Thursday we were paid to drink as part of ‘bonding’. This started my struggles with addiction.

I was drinking a lot, around 1.5 litres of vodka a night, but I was still functional the next day. I’d get up and run 2.4km and do my work, completely functioning. I got married and started a family, but things started to change when I was put on invasion. It really started to take its toll on me, and I became mentally unstable with horrific dreams and paranoia. I used a bit during this time, but nothing considerable until I left the army and moved interstate back to my family. That’s really when my meth addiction took hold.

I couldn’t move back in with my parents as they were struggling with health issues, so I ended up homeless for a while. I was really struggling mentally trying to deal with my PTSD, depression and anxiety that would come out in rages.

I was put into emergency housing, and at one stage had seven different veteran support companies trying to help me. Unfortunately, I got put in a really awful place of emergency housing. The whole time I was there I was afraid for my life, sleeping and showering with a knife. I got into some scuffles there, so they had to move me into another accommodation. I was sick of it, the constant moving and having to watch my back all the time.

I had some charges against me from associating with the wrong people but luckily, I never went to jail. Funnily enough, the meth kept me going during this time. I probably wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the drugs when I was going through all that.

I wanted to get my life back on track, so they put me in a soldier rehabilitation program where they pay for your study and gym memberships, but I didn’t come forward about my addiction because I was scared, so I kept it under wraps.

Unfortunately, my use really spiralled out of control, almost overdosing, and just struggling to maintain some stability. So, I just admitted that I couldn’t do it anymore. I was talking with my dealer who I’d talked about getting clean with, telling them that I just didn’t want to live like this anymore, and they recommended Hader Clinic Queensland to me. I called Hader, spoke to Jo who is just amazing, and she helped me organise everything. I didn’t even have to deal with DVA, Jo and JJ at Hader Clinic Queensland organised it all and I went to residential addiction treatment.

The first day of my 90 days at Hader I just collapsed and cried out to God. I was raised in a very Christian household, and I’d really lost touch with my faith and spirituality when I was struggling with meth. I don’t know what you believe, but for me, I found God again.

I surrendered and did everything I had to do during my time in the program to build myself back up again. The program was great, and I just have so much to thank Hader for. DVA has even been really easy to deal with, especially with Jo from Hader making that connection. I’ve been honest with them and with myself and it’s really opened doors for me.

It’s still early days but I know that I have my higher power looking out for me, and I just do all the work to keep myself going forward in recovery. The program works and I’ve heard some really good results from other people as well. I’m rebuilding my relationships with my family, including my son and ex-wife. My mum is really happy that she’s got her son back and I’m grateful that I can spend however much time she’s got with her.

I’ve been six months sober now and I’m loving life. I’m going back to finish my study and just catch up on the six years I’ve lost to my meth addiction. I can’t tell the future, but I’ve got my health back, I’ve got my family back, I’ve got God back, and I’m just looking forward to maintaining my sobriety.

 

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

Jaxon’s DVA-Funded Journey to Ice Addiction Recovery

Jaxon is over 7 months clean after completing 90 days of DVA-funded residential addiction treatment and the transitional housing program at Hader Clinic Queensland. This is his story.

I enrolled in the Navy when I was 17 years old, and did a couple of tours in Afghanistan, before leaving the defence force after 8 years. After my time in the Navy, I struggled to get back into society and assimilate. I met some people from the wrong crowd who introduced me to meth use. What started as recreational use began spiralling into addiction and moving into intravenous use of meth. Money became an issue as I struggled to fund my ice addiction.

I couldn’t go without drugs, which led me to a life of crime to fund my addiction. My health was deteriorating from the use, and I knew I needed to get away from the drugs. I had been sent to rehabs on court orders about 5 times, but I just wasn’t committed or in the right headspace and would end up using as soon as I got out.

I moved from New South Wales to Queensland to try and get a fresh start, but the drugs and the crime followed me. I got arrested a couple of times and things were really out of control. It was at that point that I was thrown a wake-up call. My home was broken into, and I was stabbed in the throat, almost losing my life. That was rock bottom for me. So, I reached out to Veterans Affairs, asking for help, and they told me about Hader Clinic Queensland’s support for ex-services people with the DVA-funded addiction treatment program. I called Hader Clinic Queensland and they helped me set an admission date. I then got permission from the parole board to recover with family in New South Wales while I waited to get into the program.

When I arrived at Hader Clinic Queensland I was sick, I was severely underweight and just a broken person. All my confidence had gone, and I found it hard to get up in the mornings. I just didn’t want to do anything anymore, but the therapeutic community in Hader Clinic Queensland loved me back to life. It sounds cheesy but they showed me that I was worthy of life, friends, and connection.

The program and staff were excellent and for once, I truly began to understand what addiction actually is. I never got that understanding in the other rehabs. The main difference for me was the introduction to Narcotics Anonymous (NA) which gave me something to follow when I left rehab. Every additional time I left rehab I would use straight away, whereas this time I had the NA program and three months at Hader Clinic Queensland’s Transitional Housing Program. It helped me continue implementing the program with accountability. I’ve now transferred over to the Hader Clinic Queensland’s Intensive Outpatient Program which has counselling and two classes a week to help me adjust to more freedom whilst still being accountable.

I’ve been stepping slowly back into life as I made the mistake previously of just jumping straight back into full-time work after rehab. I’ve just started working again, I’ve got the outpatient program, and I go to NA meetings every day. I’m feeling good, I feel well physically, and I’ve even managed to put on weight. I’m working on all the steps, trying to do all of the suggested things from NA, and I’ve got a sponsor. My gradual recovery through Hader Clinic Queensland’s DVA-funded treatment, I’m now coming up to 7 months clean and I’m doing well.

Jon’s Journey to Recovery through DVA-Funded Addiction Treatment

Jon is over six months sober and clean after completing 90 days of residential addiction treatment and engaged in the transitional housing program. This is his story.

My ice addiction really began during my time in the military and grew worse after I left. Then after completing the 90-day residential addiction treatment at Hader twice, I’m now over six months sober and clean.

I was deployed to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, and upon return, I started having issues with discipline and alcohol offences. My drinking led to marijuana use and then methamphetamines, so I chose to leave the army. I got a job in security, but I was having trouble interacting with the general public and started having severe nightmares, so I increased my methamphetamine use until I ended up hospitalised. I went into military rehab where I was diagnosed with severe PTSD and then it was a never-ending cycle of prescription medication.

I moved to a community with my partner which had a strong drug culture, and we were both alcoholics and substance abusers. As we were both pretty high-functioning, she had a job, and I managed the property. We were together for about 20 years before going our separate ways. After that, there were a few drug incidences and I had a breakdown, before ending up in military rehab again. There I found out about the Hader Clinic Queensland program, which supports ex-service people through DVA-funded addiction treatment.

At the time I was not ready to make the commitment to recovery. I had criminal charges pending and was hoping that rehab would keep me out of jail. I did the 90-day drug addiction treatment program and when I came out of it, I was sent to nine months in jail.

I didn’t use meth during my time in jail and managed to continue staying clean after I was released. Unfortunately, my property had been sold out from under me while I was in jail, so I ended up staying in rentals, first with an aggressive alcoholic and then a passive alcoholic.

During this time, I believed that I was only addicted to ice and so could drink casually. A few times when I was drinking with people someone might offer cocaine, so we would use that and then eventually someone ended up coming around and offering methamphetamines. I relapsed, injecting meth every day for about 2 weeks. At the end of the two weeks, when I was intoxicated and drugged, I got an email from Hader Clinic Queensland. I opened it, read it, and broke down. There was a number at the bottom, so I called them and was booked in for the 90-day DVA-funded addiction treatment, arriving in less than 10 days’ time. Hader Clinic Queensland then mentioned to me that I should do the 12-month program, which includes the 90-day residential addiction treatment, followed by aftercare, including the transitional housing program, so I did.

This time around I was motivated to do everything I needed to recover, following the program exactly and getting the best support I could. When I got there, I couldn’t walk 200 metres up the track, and three months later I could run it six times and do laps around the oval.

When I got to the transition house, I gave up smoking and I would do 5kms on the elliptical and then 5kms on the bike at the gym. I’ve been going to AFL games and concerts and just enjoying life. I’m feeling really good, and just thankful for all the staff at Hader Clinic Queensland.

The best part about doing the program for me was having the time to understand that relapse wasn’t the end of the world. It actually opened my eyes to the fact that I could come back and make another attempt to get clean. And just learning everything and getting that discipline back that I lost after leaving the army.

I still do the program; I’ve really changed my life around and am over six months sober and clean. I’m really grateful for the support for Veterans like me in Australia from the DVA and Hader Clinic Queensland, as without that I wouldn’t have been able to access the drug addiction treatment I needed once, let alone twice.

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

A Veteran’s Story of Alcohol Addiction and Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veteran Tom’s Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Tom is a 47-year-old Veteran, who has been sober for 66 days. He completed a 28-day program at Hader Clinic Queensland after receiving DVA funding to attend.

My parents were both heavy drinkers. They went to parties regularly but there was no abuse or domestic violence in my childhood. I was an anxious child, I found it very difficult to fit into the world around me. Back then we rarely talked about anxiety let alone get treatment for it. I remember my brother was similar.

Growing up personal relationships were hard to maintain. I have never been able to sit still and had a very nervous energy about me. I have always been very methodical, everything had to be how I wanted it to be. I remember my dad telling me that I was self-centred. Looking back, I can see that I was just full of fear.

My parents and extended family were always drinking around us. I even have memories of my parent’s drink driving with us. I was bought up thinking that people who didn’t drink were strange and it was just a part of life. The very first time I drank alcohol, my family and I went to stay with relatives. My cousin gave me a few cans of VB and I couldn’t stand it. I was very young; 12 or 13. I remember thinking how disgusting it tasted and I couldn’t believe people drank alcohol. My mum smelt it on me and I said, “don’t need to worry about me I will never drink, it’s horrible”. They all laughed.

At 15 I started going out to clubs and pubs, things weren’t as strict back then and I was quite tall for my age so it was easy to get in. This is when my drinking really ramped up. It gave me the confidence to go and talk to people and girls. My nervous disposition was nowhere to be seen. I could dance and I felt free. It was routine. School, work, and drinking on the weekend. That’s all I saw other people doing, this was life. I don’t recall ever thinking that it could be a problem. I thought an alcoholic was a homeless drunk on the street.

I went to university straight after year 12. I was very disciplined and determined. In 1996 applied for the air force, and I was not accepted due to an inner ear imbalance. This was the career path I wanted, and I was crushed not to get in. I was focused on getting this job for 6 or 7 years. I had put all of my eggs in one basket. A few years later I joined the Police Force. This was a really structured 6 months in the academy. I was very focused and determined again. Within this structured environment, I was able to not have a drink the whole time.

As soon as I finished at the academy I went back to drinking heavily, after every shift we would drink. We drank every opportunity we could that didn’t impact our work. There is a heavy drinking culture in the police force. I found myself only drinking at the station or with other police. Between the unusual hours and the stress of the job my alcohol use really ramped up and it didn’t affect my work performance. We had our own club at the back of the police station. We even had a vending machine that was filled with alcohol for a while.

I left the police after 8 and a half years and went into the Australian Federal Police. I still had no idea my drinking might be a problem. I went to NSW and just stopped drinking altogether for a while. I would look back at this time to assure myself I had complete control over my alcohol use. I thought I could so easily stop or start. I see now it was just the situation and my perfectionism made sure I didn’t jeopardise anything in my new role.

We got deployed to East Timor on a UN peacekeeping mission. It was extremely dangerous and high anxiety. We were living in a compound with the Military. The danger and anxiety of day-to-day life there were exhilarating. Any free time we had, the whole compound would drink. There was nothing to do except exercise and drink. I loved the danger and the adrenaline and the comradery, I felt part of something. But when I look back now it was a situation in which I could have died many times a day. East Timor had fallen apart, and the government and police had disbanded. People were fighting in the streets with machetes. We would be attacked in the street daily. Our job was to take over and set up functioning police stations and restore some order.

There was so much trauma during this time. I had seen death before, but this was truly horrible. It all seemed so senseless. I was there for a year. The second time I was deployed to East Timor it was much more fulfilling. The country was a lot safer, I was able to work in a command role, and it was more productive. I could see a glimmer of hope for the country. There was a lot of downtimes to drink, and the culture supported it.

I was 34 when I got back in 2009. My anxiety got worse, I noticed I couldn’t even go to a shopping centre. I had a short fuse and no tolerance for stupidity. I would get angry quickly and was frequently in arguments. When we arrived home from the mission, a psychologist gave me a survey that asked some questions about drinking amounts and my general mental health. I was so concerned about not getting deployed again that I answered dishonestly. There was no education or follow-up in any way. I really didn’t connect my anxiety, depression, and bad temperament to the trauma I had suffered.

All I wanted to do was get back overseas. When I was there I had a sense of purpose. I was deployed two more times in my career to Cypress and South Sudan. While I was deployed I felt great, but whenever I would return I would be filled with fear and anxiety again. Every time I returned it was worse. I was afraid to seek any help as I thought it would hinder me in the future. I always wanted to go back overseas. I was completely unable to be vulnerable with anyone and I could not show any weakness.

When we returned from South Sudan, there was a lot of negativity in the AFP. A lot of people who had served alongside me had so much fear about their future; me included. For my whole life, all I thought about was policing. It was my whole world, and I was terrified of change.

Other than exercise the only coping mechanism I knew was drinking alcohol. My drinking became daily, but I was still going to work and getting the job done. I was hungover every day and full of resentment towards the organisation. My wife started to worry about me. I would drink until I fell asleep on the couch. The alcohol addiction had started to take over. I was very isolated.

In 2015 I left the AFP and started working in the private sector. For a short time, it was perfect. I thought that I had found the solution I was looking for. This only lasted a short while. I became indignant and angry at my employers and the people around me. Thinking they didn’t acknowledge the experience I had. I found excuses to hate the job and the boss. I realise now that I was trying to find a justification to drink.

I still refused to seek help, I needed to control everything, I needed to be perfect. I was paranoid and afraid. I was doing geographicals and changing jobs thinking this would fix the situation. I was trying to escape but I always brought myself along with me.

A few years later in 2017, I could see that I could not control my life. I was always involved in arguments. My behaviour had started to impact my relationship. My wife asked me to seek help. I went to see a GP, got referred to a psychologist, and attended an AA meeting. None of this helped me. I would go to the psychologist and try to convince them that I was doing well. I wasn’t ready yet.

Everything spiralled out of control again. I got a deed of separation from work, which is a polite way to be asked to leave with pay. I still couldn’t see I had lost my job as a result of my drinking and being abusive on the job. My mental and physical health were deteriorating. I was lethargic all of the time. I lost interest in everything that I loved. Work, travel, relationships nothing interested me.

My wife and I moved to Malaysia, to start fresh. I thought moving would fix it again, that I wasn’t to blame. It was everyone around me. We stayed there for about a year. It was the same problem again. Me! It got to the point where I was in complete obsession and compulsion with alcohol. I couldn’t get through a day without drinking. I thought about it all day every day. Everything went downhill really quickly and when COVID hit we decided to go home.

I got back to Australia in January 2021. I wasn’t working, I drank all day every day. I tried to limit what and how much I drank. But I could not stop completely. I would have huge arguments with my wife. This went on for over a year. In May, my wife left me after 14 years of marriage. I was completely alone, I was constantly angry at everyone around me. I was unable to take any personal responsibility. My wife asked me to look at going to rehab before she would even consider reconciling.

I searched online for help. I found Hader Clinic Queensland’s website. I saw that DVA funding was available for residential addiction treatment. It shocked me that I didn’t know about this before. It hit me that there were others just like me and that there must be a real problem if a funding program has been created for Veterans. I read stories about people suffering from PTSD. It was the first time I realised that I was suffering from alcohol addiction. There I was completely powerless over the situation. No job or relationship or move overseas was going to fix me.

It was a very quick and easy process. Even though we were separated my wife helped me through it. We got in contact with Hader Clinic Queensland. In only a week I was approved and going in to receive alcohol addiction treatment. I felt it was a great location on the Sunshine Coast. It was peaceful.

The staff and nurses were wonderful. In the early stages, I thought I would just get some information and go through the motions. Once my head cleared, I started attending the classes, I was educated on the disease of addiction. I heard so many stories from other recovering addicts. This gave me hope and really opened my mind to the possibility of recovery. I realised I wasn’t unique and couldn’t do it on my own.

We were introduced to 12-step meetings and recovery literature. This was a turning point for me. We attended meetings daily and I started to see that I was going to need to change everything. Everything I was taught there gave me a foundation for success and still helps me today.

My life has improved tremendously, my wife can see the change in me already in just over 60 days. She has come home and we are working through this together. Not drinking anymore has cleared my head. I have job opportunities. Every single aspect of my life is already different and improving.

Thanks to all the staff at Hader Clinic Queensland I finally have a chance at an alcohol-free life. They taught me to open my mind and be vulnerable so I can finally receive the help I need.

 

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

John’s Alcohol & Ice Addiction Recovery

John, a 34-year-old Afghanistan war veteran turned to drugs to self-medicate his crippling PTSD. After completing the DVA funded addiction treatment program he is now two years clean.

This is his story.

My parents separated shortly after I was born, and I was raised by a single mum. I had a good relationship with both of my parents and they communicated with each other amicably.

When I was five, I suffered sexual abuse at the hands of my uncle. I was told to keep it a secret. I believe this is the moment I was taught to ignore and avoid my feelings, to just push it all deep down and try not to think about it.

I started to drink alcohol when I was only eight, after being sent to live with my grandmother while my mother went to university.

While I was living with my Nan things were pretty stable. I played a lot of sports and was a very competitive person. I started playing football with people that were a few years older than me. I would sneak out with them and smash beers.

I would drink until I was unconscious. It was a way that I could handle life and the pain from the abuse I experienced when I was five. This continued for a few years; I would play football and drink afterward. It was what everyone was doing, so I didn’t see any issue with it.

I moved back in with my Mum when I was 12. My drinking continued to progress. I was heavily binge drinking, one was never enough. It had become a part of my lifestyle to play footy and drink heavily. I started to play state-level sports and felt that I had put the past behind me without ever really addressing any of the trauma I had experienced.

Looking back, I can see that I lived in a lot of denial and was surrounded by people who considered playing sports and binge drinking a normal part of life.

I joined the army when I was 18, I wanted to represent and fight for my country, and I felt that I could benefit from the discipline and structure the army provided. I loved the training, it was great. I met lots of great friends.

I joined the army with a friend from Tasmania. He was also a heavy drinker.

I was a good soldier and very physically fit, but there were numerous occasions where I was in fights, late or insubordinate due to my drinking. I was never called out on any of it.

The army supported this lifestyle.

It was a part of the culture to work hard and drink to let off steam.

Other people seemed to be able to have one or two but not me. When I drank alcohol it was to the extreme. I would always end up locked up or late to work. In hindsight, I felt like I had control, but my life was already very unmanageable.

We would go out into the bush for a few weeks to train. I would not be able to drink out bush and I felt like I managed life better and had a much clearer head, but as soon as I got back I would be straight back to my heavy drinking.

I was in so much denial, especially watching other people drinking without the same issues I was experiencing. I had no idea what addiction was. I didn’t really think of alcohol as a drug, but something about how it affected me just didn’t feel right.

The heavy alcohol use started to impact my training. I would fall asleep on the picket line and feel really exhausted during training. I felt my health was starting to deteriorate.

My first deployment was to Tonga on a peacekeeping mission for two weeks. Then we were deployed to East Timor for a few months.

I had become very dependent on alcohol.

Overseas, I started doing things to get alcohol that I didn’t think I would ever do. We would buy it from locals and one time even broke into someone’s house to take their alcohol.

My final posting was to Afghanistan. I was there for eight months.

It wasn’t peacekeeping like my other deployments. There was firefighting and a few very close calls.

I had no idea at the time, but I would return from Afghanistan a completely different person; I was never the same again after witnessing the horrors of war.

I didn’t drink the whole time I was there. I think mateship got me through. I felt part of something bigger than me and I had a primary purpose to get my mates and myself home alive.

We didn’t talk about the horrible things we saw and had to do. We didn’t talk about being scared and, as most veterans do, I buried it deep down and didn’t talk to anyone about it; just as I had learned to do all those years ago as a helpless child.

I couldn’t really identify my feelings at all, so I didn’t try.

When I got back, I felt on edge. I felt like I was still in a war zone: scanning everything, looking for danger. When you are in a war, there are real dangers and at home in Australia. It was like my brain couldn’t see that I was safe again.

I immediately started to drink again on my return.

The first night back in Australia, I was heavily intoxicated at the barracks, I was walking through the living lines with some friends, I saw some men smashing glasses and behaving badly, I felt extremely threatened, I instantly thought these guys were a threat to our safety, I got into a fight with them and was charged with grievous bodily harm.

I didn’t know anything about PTSD. No one sat me down on my return to talk to me about what I may experience, and there was no genuine support or communication about the impact of war on my mental health.

After being locked up for the night and charged, I was let out and I decided to not drink, I hadn’t realised I had a problem with alcohol yet, I decided to stop because I was constantly on edge, and looking for danger and I felt I needed to have my wits about me and drinking wasn’t the best way to do this. Even with this great resolve, I found myself drinking again not long after.

A few months passed, and I still hadn’t made the mental transition back to Australia. I felt like I was stuck in Afghanistan, perpetually on edge. This feeling just wasn’t spoken about amongst other soldiers.

The paranoia continued. Even my closest friends felt that I was unpredictable and would distance themselves from me, especially when I was drinking. I believed I could handle these feelings by ignoring them and they would eventually just go away.

The disturbing thoughts and feelings of being constantly on guard were relentless. Eventually, I had no choice but to start reaching out to others. They said it was happening to them as well and that it will pass.

My life and thoughts were completely unmanageable. I was so stressed. I could not stop believing people around me were a threat to my and others’ safety.

I was still living in the Army barracks, but I felt like a loner. I was lonely all the time, even in a room full of people. I started to have suicidal thoughts, which really frightened me. I had never experienced these disturbing thoughts before.

I went to the Regimental Aid Post (RAP). At the Barracks, I told them I needed to see someone, that I had concerns for my mental health, and felt suicidal. They gave me a medical CHIT and sent me home. There was no real support. I felt abandoned and even more alone than before. I didn’t know what to do. I had no purpose without the Army. It was my whole life.

I had recently moved in with a friend outside of the barracks. I went home after being given the medical CHIT and started drinking straight away. I had begun drinking alone every day. I felt it was the only way I could handle what was going on.

I had to check in every week and they would give me a chip “not fit for duty” every single week. This went on for a year. Eventually, I was referred to a psychiatrist, and he started trying me on different medications. He told me not to drink and to take the medication. I could only stop drinking for a couple of days and was unable to stop for any considerable amount of time.

This mix of sedatives and alcohol made me feel tranquilised and sedated constantly. I hated this feeling. I stopped taking the medication. I couldn’t be alert, and I needed to feel safe.

I was 24 when I was finally discharged. Shortly after being discharged from the army, I went to visit a couple of my army mates. There were a few of them in the bathroom. I was trying to force my way in to see what they were doing.

When I went into the bathroom, there were needles and paraphernalia that they were trying to hide from me.

They finally came clean and said they were injecting “ice”. I was drunk at the time and told them I wanted some.

They asked me if I had ever done it before. I told them I hadn’t but wanted to do it. There was resistance from them, but they eventually agreed to give me my first shot of “ice”.

I desperately wanted to feel different, I had tried the medication, weed, and drinking myself to oblivion, nothing helped the way I felt inside and they all slowed me down and made me less alert, I wanted to know what was going on around me, I thought this might be the answer to my problems.

As soon as I had it, I felt relief for a short while. The compulsion to use again and to never run out of this drug was immediate. It gave me relief that none of the other drugs ever had. I felt invincible.

This whole time I hadn’t dealt with any of my underlying trauma. At first, I would use a couple of days a week. The disease of addiction progressed to the point of daily use over a few months. I was using alone and hiding it from everyone around me. I had a girlfriend, and we had two children together. I felt dishonest and ashamed. My behaviour went against everything I believed in.

I started to get involved in crime and break away from the people I knew from the army. I was stealing, manufacturing drugs, dealing, debt collecting, bashing people, and having regular altercations with the police. I was full of anger and resentment towards the army and its duty of care. I felt like I wasn’t a part of anything anymore, just me against the world.

When I was doing something I was ashamed of, I would justify and rationalise it, by saying the people I was assaulting were bad people that deserved it or that using “ice” made me more alert and able to protect myself. I now know that underneath all of this was the fact that I was an addict who always needed more and would do anything to get it.

That I was in the grips of a progressive and fatal illness… addiction.

Eventually, in 2014, I was diagnosed with PTSD and accepted onto the DVA, I had separated from my partner and she had taken the children away from me.

I was devastated but felt I wasn’t good enough for them and that they would be probably better without me in their life. My addict mind took this as an opportunity to isolate me and I went deeper into the drug world than ever before.

I got a pay out through DVA and bought a house.

I met another girl who used with me at first but, after she got pregnant with my third child, she stopped.

I could not stop and continued to use daily throughout the whole pregnancy.

When my son was born, I once again tried to stop using. I could stop for a few months but couldn’t stay stopped. This was my first realisation that I couldn’t stop, that addiction had got a hold of me.

I started to get some counselling through DVA. Up to this point, I thought I was enjoying using drugs, now I was using against my own will. This horrible powerlessness continued for years. I was constantly in and out of hospitals, psych wards, and prisons.

We had a second child. I couldn’t stop using for my family and one day I came home and they were gone. It devastated me. I felt so helpless. I felt really alone. I realised at that point that addiction was taking everything from me and I had lost the power to do anything about it.

I stopped paying the payments on the house, and it was taken from me. I was homeless and alone. I had spent the whole DVA pay out and was destitute. I was in a drug psychosis, where I actually believed I was still in Afghanistan.

One night, the delusion was so intense that I was kicking down people’s doors and running through strangers’ houses, believing I was in a war zone. At the last house, I cut two of my major arteries by breaking through a window. I asked the people inside to help me and told them I didn’t know if I was in Afghanistan or not. They called an ambulance for me as a sat bleeding on the ground, terrified and dying from my injuries.

I was rushed to hospital, where I was stabilised and was told that they needed to operate. I was terrified and believed that the surgeon was part of the Taliban, and I refused to let him treat me. An Australian nurse came in; I trusted her and asked her to promise that the surgeon wouldn’t hurt me.

I woke up the next day, still in psychosis, and escaped from the hospital. I went running through the bush in my gown, stealing clothes that were too small for me from people’s clotheslines. I was searching for a fix and quickly found more drugs and used them. I was completely insane.

I went to my local RSL, and they helped me by letting me sleep in the office. I felt safe at the RSL. A lovely woman who worked there told me I needed help and organised for me to go to The Hader Clinic Queensland.

A few days later, they came to pick me up and take me to rehab. I had a heap of drugs and refused to go with them that time. I wasn’t ready.

This continued for another few months and I ended up in jail again. I contacted the mother of my third and fourth children and asked for help on my release from jail. She let me stay with her for a few nights and then contacted the RSL I had stayed with before; they put me up in a hotel, bought me clothes, and contacted the Hader Clinic once more. This time I went.

When I arrived at the Hader Clinic Queensland, I felt that no one there understood me or had been through what I had, the disease of addiction told me I was different, I was pleading with everyone to leave, I was blaming the PTSD for my troubles instead of my drug use. Addiction is such a cunning enemy of life that my mind was searching for a way to escape and to find a way to use. I called the mother of my children, she pleaded with me to just stay.

I had no way to leave, nowhere to go, and it finally hit me that if I wanted any chance to get well that I needed to accept their help.

For the first few weeks, I felt so isolated and alone that I wanted to leave every day.

Slowly, the fog lifted and something shifted. I started to hear other people’s stories and I could finally relate to the other addicts.

The staff were also really encouraging. I could see that they knew about the disease of addiction and wanted to help me.

For the first month, I couldn’t participate in anything, I couldn’t even speak, and all I could do was listen and take things a minute at a time.

It occurred to me that I had accepted that I was a drug addict a long time ago, that I truly believed being a veteran with PTSD and trauma separated me from others and that I had resigned myself to the fact that there was no hope for me. I felt unique because of what I had been through.

Hearing the stories of hope and recovery sparked something powerful inside me: I had a glimmer of hope that maybe this could work for me too. I accepted the fact that I needed to stop using drugs to deal with the PTSD and trauma, and that if I had any hope of ever dealing with these issues I needed to be free from using drugs as a coping mechanism.

During my treatment, I became committed to my recovery. I completed the 90-day drug addiction treatment at the Hader Clinic and then moved into the Hader Clinic’s Transitional Housing Program.

The transition housing was extremely beneficial to me. I was there for 9 months, this helped me to transition back into the community with the right support and to have people to be accountable to.

The things we learned were amazing. The program helped me to learn how to manage my thoughts and behaviours in the outside world. I was no longer a slave to my thoughts and fears. I learned that this was not only about learning to live without drugs. I needed to address everything that was underneath and to stop letting my thoughts and addiction run the show.

Before going to the Hader Clinic, I was unable to function in normal society. This program showed me a bridge to a community of like-minded people and taught me to use new tools to manage my addiction and PTSD.

I was able to learn who I truly am and what I like to do within the safety of the transition house.

Today I have tools, a program, a community, and a new way of life. I have people in my life who I love, and I am a respectable, productive member of society. More importantly, I have integrity and the ability to trust.

I am slowly building trust with my family and making amends to the people I have hurt along the way.

It has taken 2 long years of recovery and a program of action to gain the trust back of the mother of my children; but with hard work and a dedication to being a better man, I am currently able to have my children for visitations on weekends.

Working through the steps, I have been able to go through all my resentments and I have learned that forgiveness sets me free.

Now I understand that I just needed to stay. If you relate to my story, let me suggest that you should just stay.

Don’t leave one minute before the miracle happens. Take it one day at a time, because I couldn’t face anything until I accepted help.

By living one day at a time with the tools I was given. I am free and able to be the man I was always meant to be.

Thanks to the Hader Clinic Queensland, I have a new lease on life and anything is possible.

 

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

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