Family Support Archives - Hader Clinic Queensland

A Family Recovery Story

This family navigated their 25 years old daughter’s drug addiction and have just celebrated her being 11 months clean. This is their story.

We moved to Australia from the UK when our daughter was 2 years old and then moved interstate when she was 7.

Our daughter was a very quiet and sensitive child. She seemed to always struggle to fit in. She was an only child, so it was always just the three of us. She was very active and participated in various sports. She struggled with personal relationships and found it hard to make friends. She was very vulnerable to the people around her and seemed to be easily influenced.

“I feel I didn’t listen to her enough as a child,” Dad says. She told me she felt like she didn’t belong in the family home. As an only child, she often felt lonely. We gave her everything she needed except what she wanted, which was unconditional love, our attention and time. I can see we weren’t present.

We both had very high expectations of our daughter. We always wanted our daughter to have more options than we felt we had growing up. It was important to us ‌she was successful, and she often felt a lot of pressure from us. We can see that our love had conditions and as much as it is hard to admit, it is important to acknowledge it so our family can heal and recover.

In hindsight, we had a lot of denial. We really didn’t see her addiction as more than a phase until last year when we were at an information session at Hader Clinic Queensland with the Family Coordinator. It was explained to us that this is a disease, and she isn’t just going to grow out of this phase. Our daughter was in the grips of a serious and progressive illness. This revelation helped us so much, but the feeling of guilt intensified. How could we have not known this earlier? All the signs were there.

Around the age of 15, we saw a change in our daughter. She started a relationship with a boy around the corner. We were really open to it and met his family and he often came over. At the time, our daughter was struggling a lot with social media and bullying. Her social life was always difficult for her. This boy went to another school, and she found it hard to fit in with his friends. They were together for a while, but when the relationship ended, things went downhill for her. She had a lot of feelings of abandonment and rejection.

Our daughter got a job in hospitality. She was working with people that were older than her. The first time we are aware of her smoking marijuana was after a party she went to with her work friends. Before this, we had caught her smoking cigarettes, but we had done this as teens too. We rationalised it as just a phase.

She was sneaking around and being dishonest with us. We felt something was going on but just rationalised and justified everything. We didn’t have as open communication with Our daughter as we would have liked to. When she was 17, we took her to the doctor and psychologist. She would mostly talk about her relationships with other people.

We thought as she got older, she would make friends easier. We didn’t even consider that she may be taking drugs to cope and fit in.

I feel that our love was very conditional, and I have a lot of guilt and shame. Through our sessions at Hader Clinic Queensland and Nar-Anon meetings, we have learned that we are in recovery as a family. We no longer stand behind our daughter. We stand beside her.

Halfway through year 12, our daughter wanted to quit. We had to drag her through year 12. We gave her everything except what she needed, which was love and affection. The thing she needed the most we couldn’t buy off the shelf. We had spoilt her when what she really needed was for us to be present.

When she finished school, our daughter went to the UK to live with her Mum’s parents. The intention was that she would go over there to work and travel. However, we would have preferred for her to stay in Australia and study.

Our daughter had a lot of trouble in the UK, this is when she transitioned into heavier drugs like ecstasy and party drugs. Her behaviour was erratic, and it didn’t work out with her grandparents. She rented her own place as she wanted to stay in the UK. Some time passed and she started to contact us and saying it was too hard and she just wanted to come home. She had started working in aged care and had started college over there, so we told her to stay.

We did not know that drugs were involved. We were aware she was in a toxic relationship. She was having so many issues and she was crying out for help. We have a lot of guilt. Instead of listening, we just tried to send more money and kept believing she will grow out of this and find her way in life.

The year our daughter was 19 she came home from the UK, and we moved out of our family home to live closer to the city so she could get work. Our daughter just didn’t settle into life, it seemed she just couldn’t get work or life. Her life was so unmanageable.

We both had completely different ways of coping. One would distance themself from her, and the other would try to remain calm and be the mediator, but they would butt heads with each other.

At one stage, she hung around a girl she used to go to school with. This is when everything was so chaotic, she would go out on a Friday and disappear for a week, and she would message occasionally. She would turn up and stay home for a short while and then disappear again. We found out she was working at a strip club. But she told us ‌she was just working behind the bar.

One night she had disappeared which wasn’t unusual, but she called us to pick her up. We got there and she appeared unwell, she told us that she had tried ice, she seemed terrified.

So, we took her to the Hospital. She didn’t want to go to the hospital and felt really embarrassed. We were terrified. We didn’t know what to do; we wanted to find someone to help her because we didn’t know how to help her. It was so frightening, and we felt so inadequate as parents.

She spoke to a drug counsellor, and he came out and talked to us. He told us she said it is just a phase and she would get over it and she didn’t want to be there.

I felt angry, disappointed, hopeless, & frustrated. I felt she was ungrateful. She was difficult to be around, I just didn’t understand or want to understand. I now have learnt it isn’t a simple fact of switching this addiction off, it’s a matter of willpower. I felt she had a choice, and that was using.

For the next four years, our daughter was coming in and out of our lives, there was even a period when she went missing for close to a week. We couldn’t find her or get hold of her. Some people contacted us on Facebook, saying they didn’t know where she was. We reported her missing to the police. We were desperate and so afraid, just waiting for the knock on the door to tell us our little girl was dead.

Her friends told us she was last seen with an older man in a pub, we feared the worst. The police eventually found her. They brought her home, and she was so angry at us for involving the police. Even though we knew she had taken heavy drugs, we still had not acknowledged the seriousness of our daughter’s illness. It made no sense to us why she continued to live this way.

When she would come home, there would be periods where things would be fine, then she would disappear again. She started making regular trips interstate for a weekend or a week and when she came home, we would find bundles of cash and she would tell us that she was working as a model.

One night she was leaving, and we begged her not to go to. She went anyway, at this point we felt like she was lost and that we no longer had any control over her. We were in so much denial and I didn’t ask too many questions because we didn’t want to know the truth.

One night we came home, and she was passed out in her room. There were drugs all over the floor. We wanted to call the police, but we couldn’t stand the thought of her getting arrested. I just bundled all the drugs and paraphernalia up and put them in her room. I didn’t say a word to her the next day, it was too hard to face.

We were the biggest enablers, and we would always give her a safe place to land.

Eventually, a psychologist referred her to a psychiatrist, and our daughter was put on anti-psychotic drugs. Not even this medication could help her.

She again moved interstate, and she told us she was in a relationship and was living with them. The following year, we went to visit her. It was very confronting, she looked awful, very gaunt, and sick.

She would travel between states regularly and was living a ‌haphazard life. She was clearly heavily involved in the drug scene and living with someone who was extremely controlling.

She eventually decided to move back home. No matter what, she always had a place to call home. So, we drove interstate to collect all her belongings. She had attempted to get clean. We completely enabled her drug lifestyle. We were always cleaning up after her and robbing her of her rock bottom.

In August 2020, we came home from work. There was music blaring, and she was home with a guy. She was clearly on drugs. We took the house keys off her and told her to leave. After this incident, she was staying in contact but was not coming home. She had left a bag at our house. When we looked through it there were drugs, credit cards, and paraphernalia. One day there were three detectives standing out our front door and they had a search warrant. They searched her room; we couldn’t believe that we were now in this situation.

We called our daughter and told her ‌we had enough. We can’t help anymore, we cancelled her phone and told her we would plan for her to collect her stuff, but she was no longer welcome in the family home.

All of her belongings were put in storage when we moved, and we didn’t let her know where we lived. Our daughter was homeless and moved interstate again in December 2020, we would hear from her occasionally.

In January 2021 we were contacted and told our daughter had stolen a car and was driving back home. But as we had made it very clear that if drugs were involved, we did not want to be part of her life. She could not return home. We know now she was hotel hopping and living with different men for a while.

A counsellor reached out to us and said if our daughter went into recovery would we have her back in our lives? Of course, we wanted to have our daughter in our lives, but she had made so many failed attempts in the past. We would meet with her in public places. Our daughter looked so sick. We acknowledged she was very unwell, but our denial kept us from the reality that she was unable to change this herself. We met up with her weekly for a while.

Our daughter was facing serious charges because of the people she was hanging around and the decisions she kept making.

In July 2021 our daughter contacted us once more and told us she was going into a 28-day detox at the Hader Clinic Queensland. We immediately said we will come and get her to take her there. She didn’t come home straight away and stayed with her boyfriend, as she was still using, and he was very controlling of what she could and couldn’t do.

Eventually, we went and picked her up, and bought her back to our house, she got her stuff ready and then her boyfriend demanded to come with us to the detox and see where it was. Our daughter had updated us to be the primary contact, and this angered him.

He hassled us continuously and hassled the Hader Clinic during her first 28 days. He was extremely controlling. Every day, he would call us.

We met up with the Family Coordinator before we got to have a family visit, which was the start of our own recovery journey. This is when we learned that this was a disease and that our daughter was very sick. The Family Coordinator said to us “if your daughter had cancer how would you treat her?” It felt like a huge awakening moment. Everything started to make sense. It made us understand ‌we had been in denial for a long time and that she could not stop even with the greatest desire to do so. The entire process was explained to us and it was a relief, finally, our daughter was with people that could help her.

During our first weekend visit, our daughter asked if we would help her financially and support her to stay and complete the full 90-day program.

It then became very clear that we needed to embark on our own journey. We were encouraged to attend family education sessions and we now attend weekly family Nar-Anon meetings.

Hader Clinic Queensland taught us the tools to connect and listen to our daughter. We are now learning how to communicate with our daughter. With all the anger and frustration melting away, we could finally be honest and put the whip down.

We have learned how to live in the present moment. Our daughter has been clean now for over 11 months after successfully completing the 90-day residential rehabilitation program and moving out of the Transitional Housing Program after 6 months. There is a long way to go, but now we as a family are finally on the same path and heading for the same destination.

The Hader program has given our daughter the knowledge and tools she needs to live a healthy and clean lifestyle and if she continues to use these, she can become the beautiful girl we once knew and loved.

We would just like to thank Hader Clinic Queensland and all its beautiful caring and wonderful staff; we have our daughter back in our lives and all three of us have so many tools now to work with living with an addict.

“Remember we are Powerless over our addict, but work the program and keep coming back”.

 

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

 

A Mother’s Journey with Her Son’s Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their stories were really emotional and humbling.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

How to Tell Someone You Suffer From Addiction

Admitting to anyone, including yourself, that you are suffering from addiction and need help is likely to release complex emotions including feelings of helplessness, fear, disappointment, and shame.

The prospect of sharing your illness with friends and family can be daunting but if you can work up the courage to reach out for help it will prove to be an essential step to your recovery.

Why should I tell?

Long-term addiction recovery from substance dependency is not easy. You are going to need all the help you can get, including your friends and family who will form part of your support network.

By admitting to your loved ones that you are having difficulty managing or stopping alcohol or taking drugs, you are allowing them to step up and support you as best they can.

It’s a good idea to brace yourself for their initial reaction as they may express anger and disappointment; but once the shock has subsided you will be surprised by their support and willingness to help.

Active addicts

If you are currently struggling with an active addiction – meaning you are using drugs and/or alcohol frequently and are unable to stop – there are many benefits to letting your friends and family know.

They are probably already wondering what is going on with you, no matter how hard you try to conceal your struggle. They might even be somewhat relieved to finally have an explanation for your out-of-character behaviours.

Once you have told your friends and family, you are finally free to ask them for help. Friends and family will often help you find the best addiction treatment program for you.

Recovering addicts

If you are already in recovery and have been to rehab  there might seem little point in letting anyone know you are a former substance abuser. However, disclosure is key to sustained long-term recovery.

Considering the Australian drinking culture, it is statistically impossible that you will be able to stay away from all locations where alcohol is available. At some point, you will find yourself at a social occasion and someone will offer you a drink – unless they know you are a recovering alcoholic. Once you have told people, they can support you by helping you abstain.

The same is true for all other substances. You have to be open about your struggles and your desire to remain clean in order for your friends and family to rally around you and help you minimise the risk of triggers and relapse.

When should I tell them?

Ideally, you will have this conversation shortly after you admit to yourself that you are suffering from addiction. Don’t put it off; you may lose your nerve if you do.

It is up to you how you tell them. You can call a family meeting and tell everyone who needs to know at once or you might prefer telling only one or two of your nearest and dearest at first.

That said, no matter how many of your friends and family are present when you first admit to your struggle with addiction, make sure the timing is at least moderately convenient. Late at night or just as people have to leave the house to go to work is not ideal – this is unlikely to be a ten-minute conversation.

Where should I tell them?

You will need a calm and private space for this conversation.

Ideally, you will be at someone’s home where everyone feels safe and comfortable to express their feelings – because there are likely to be a lot of feelings.

Once you have made your announcement, it is important for you to stay and listen; your friends and family are entitled to say their piece as well. Yes, this will be hard; but you will be surprised how helpful their take on the situation can be as you begin your recovery journey.

How should I tell them?

There is no one right way when it comes to telling friends and family.

It’s not a bad idea to plan ahead and rehearse what you want to say. It might even be helpful to write down the best version you can come up with so that you can refer back to it in case you get emotional or lose track.

No matter the words you choose, the most important thing is to be completely honest.

There is no point in minimising your substance abuse issues, you are doing no one any favours by sugar-coating is or leaving out the parts you are most ashamed of.

This is your chance to change your life. Admitting your struggles with alcohol and/or drugs can be terrifying; however, it is also the first step to freeing yourself from the cycle of addiction.

From Conflict to Connection at Christmas Time

Although holidays and Christmas are usually associated with family togetherness and joy, it’s also very common to experience heightened stress and anxiety at this time for various reasons.

The holidays can be particularly challenging for those in active addiction, especially if they have not yet started the journey towards recovery. Being caught in the grip of addiction is not only stressful for the individual, but for the family too, as there is usually a knock-on effect in family relationships. This is one reason that addiction is often labelled a “disease of the family”, rather than just the individual in addiction.

Addictive behaviours can trigger family conflicts as the greater family struggles with how to appropriately set boundaries with their loved ones and their using. For individuals in addiction, going home for the holidays can be especially triggering, especially if their substance use started or occurred in the family home. Often, reliving past memories can trigger addictive behaviours or relapse. Unintentional family enabling can also push someone further into addiction.

Statistics from the Centre for Alcohol and Drug Research in the USA suggest that alcohol and drug consumption in the holidays is markedly increased, as are deaths related to alcohol and drug use.

If someone is struggling with active addiction, they may have difficulty connecting with their family, despite their internal desire to want to belong. They may be hard to reason with and their behaviours, hard to manage functionally.

Given that the holidays can heighten the stress of a substance using lifestyle, it’s a time that may propel your loved one into seeking treatment for their condition. Attending rehab at this time of year can reap great benefits for both the affected person and their family.

Rehab at Hader Clinic Queensland encompasses elements of medical, psychosocial, and educational treatment that allows an individual space to understand that their addiction is a disease, and that, with the right tools and support, recovery is possible.

The gift of recovery for both families and individuals promises the opposite of addiction, connection. When an individual in recovery is supported by, and connected to, others, the urge to use as a means of coping is usually diminished.

When an individual and their family goes to rehab, the tools that they both learn to manage during recovery promotes confidence in relationships and reduces conflict as both learn how to work through their issues in a constructive way.

Rehab is the Christmas gift that keeps giving, because there is no expiry date on the tools and strategies provided to support recovery. Rehab during the Christmas period can give a vulnerable individual the tools, support and friendship that is needed to take those first wobbly steps towards healing.

If you are experiencing issues with substance addiction and your family situation has been particularly inflammatory, rehab can give you a safe space to decompress, recalibrate and take the steps forward that you need to heal.

If you have a loved one in addiction and are not sure what to say, you can reaffirm that you love them, but cannot support their addictive behaviour, thereby separating the disease from the individual.

Hader Clinic Queensland offers private hospital detox and a comprehensive rehab program to help individuals with addiction and associated mental health issues recover safely and effectively based on latest research.

 

My Husband Went to Rehab

Rosie and Steve were caught selling drugs, and both wound up in prison. On release, Steve completed residential rehabilitation for ice addiction treatment with the Hader Clinic Queensland. Here is Rosie’s story. 

I’m Rosie – Steve’s wife. I’ve been with Steve for more of my life, than not. We met when I was 16 and we’ve been together for the better part of thirty-one years. We’ve just celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary this past weekend.

When Steve went to rehab, it was really the first time in our relationship that we hadn’t been together. It was tough, but ultimately, Steve going to rehab was the best thing for him, and for us.

Steve’s eight years older than me. We met through friends. I had a nine-month-old son at the time. We were together for three months when we moved in together. Then after three years, we got married.

We both were into marijuana – and smoked it on and off for a few years. He was dabbling in other things, but not constantly.

Things really escalated when a few years ago when his mother passed away. I believe that’s what triggered his descent into using ice. He also started having health issues and got the sack from his employer which did little to help him. He’s still waiting on surgery to fix the brain aneurysm that the weed and ice likely caused.

Steve being freshly unemployed at the beginning of the COVID pandemic wasn’t great, then I was also made redundant from my job. Panicked, we turned to selling drugs to keep our heads above water, plus this was a way of feeding Steve’s addiction. Unfortunately, this led us into some trouble with the law.

The police were tracking Steve’s phone. When we got raided, we both got thrown into jail I was in there for a month. I had to get my kids to get me bailed. Steve was in there for three months and a condition of his bail was that he had to go to rehab for six months.

When I got out, I was relieved. It was horrifying, however, not quite as bad as they make out about it in the movies. It’s not somewhere you really want to be. There’s no rehabilitation. The jail staff treat you horribly, actually. You grow up having a lot of respect for the law, but when they put you in there, they just treat you like shit. So, you lose that respect. There should be more help, more rehabilitation for prisoners. Basically, they just sit there and let you rot.

When Steve attended residential addiction treatment, it was hard. We weren’t allowed to see, or communicate with each other for two weeks. We had never been apart. Then when I could go to the rehab to see him, it was only once a week, which was also tough. But we got there in the end.

In rehab, I could see Steve changing, becoming the Steve that I knew, loved and had married. I was still smoking weed at night to help me sleep, and to cope with all the stress of him being away.

Now he’s home, I worked out quickly that I didn’t need it, so that was it.

Steve started changing the moment he left jail. He was home two nights before he had to go off to rehab.

These days, we’re doing better, but life isn’t without its challenges. Our stuff is still going through the courts, Steve is still suffering with major headaches from his condition so there are some days where he feels quite depressed. He doesn’t want to use painkillers, due to all the shit that has come before. He can’t wait to have surgery to sort things out. He gets a bit worried because he currently cannot work at the moment, but we are taking things one day at a time. I am back working full time though and have been for the last couple of months.

Steve goes to meetings a few times each week and reads his books daily, which is really helpful when he’s feeling down about being home and unemployed. He has been given all the tools to succeed, so I guess it is good practice. I do know how he feels, because when I was unemployed, I’d sit at home and feel so lost sometimes.

The best advice that we can give to others is to use the tools that are provided in rehab. They keep you on the straight and narrow. The other bit of advice I have is to close the door on all those old contacts. New friends are really the best.

Thanks to the Hader Clinic Queensland for giving me back the husband I know and love.

 

How to Help a Friend Suffering From Addiction

Before your friend or family member enters residential addiction treatment, you need to know how to recognise the signs of addiction and know how to help.

Having a loved one struggling with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol can be a harrowing experience. It’s easy to feel hopeless, helpless and isolated; but it’s important to remember that you are not alone and help is available – for your loved one as well as yourself.

How Can You Tell?

It can be difficult to see the signs of substance dependency. Addicts are often very good at concealing their substance abuse and this can lead to you questioning your instincts and suspicions. That said, there are some fairly reliable indicators that something is not right.

Changes in Behaviour

Addiction is a brain disorder and can have dramatic effects on your loved one’s behaviour. Persons addicted to drugs and/or alcohol may:

  • Become usually withdrawn
  • Isolate themselves from friends and family
  • Lose interest in their usual social and recreational activities
  • Struggle to meet the demands of work and/or school
  • Exhibit dramatic mood swings
  • Become overly defensive when the subject of substance abuse is raised
  • Experience financial difficulties
  • Experience relationship difficulties
  • Seem agitated and restless for no reason
  • Exhibit bizarre sleeping patterns

Physical Symptoms

It’s not easy to distinguish the physical symptoms of substance abuse from symptoms of regular ill-health. However, your loved one may be struggling with addiction if they:

  • Exhibit sudden weight loss or gain
  • Get unexplained shakes
  • Have a constantly running nose or the sniffles
  • Have red or bloodshot eyes
  • Have frequent nose bleeds
  • Appear to be experiencing withdrawal systems
  • Need to consume increasingly large amounts of drugs and/or alcohol to feel the effect
  • Present with small or dilated pupils
  • Slur their speech

Evidence

Apart from physical and psychological warning signs, drug and/or alcohol abuse also comes with physical evidence (i.e. paraphernalia). Some things to look out for are:

  • Blackened spoons
  • Discarded syringes
  • Hand-rolled cigarettes with a rolled-up cardboard filter
  • Singed bits of foil
  • Discarded wrapping (i.e. small pieces of clingwrap, cardboard or foil)
  • Pipes or home-made smoking paraphernalia (i.e. plastic bottles, light bulbs or drink cans)

How Can You Help?

Before you attempt to help a loved one struggling with addiction, it is important to understand that it is not within your power to force them to make a change. While you can absolutely be supportive and caring, the decision to stop has to be made by the addict. That said, there are a number of things you can to in preparation to help them when they are ready to accept they have a problem.

Be Realistic

Breaking the vicious cycle of addiction isn’t easy. Even once an addict has sought help and gotten clean, the recovery period extends far beyond the first step of detox and rehab. Set-backs and relapses are to be expected – so, you need to be realistic in your expectations to avoid unnecessary disappointment and distress.

Healing from addiction takes time and no matter how supportive you are, there will be times when your loved one will seem ungrateful or just straight-up cruel in their responses to your efforts. Try not to take it to personally and disengage from confrontational exchanges as soon as you can. There is little point in getting into an argument; it is much better for everyone involved to drop the subject and try again once tempers have settled.

Timing & Tact

Starting a conversation with a loved one about their substance abuse requires some planning and finesse. Some strategies that can be helpful include

  • Never try to have this conversation when your loved one is drunk or under the influence of drugs
  • Meet in a neutral space to talk – however, stay away from places that serve alcohol or facilitate drug use
  • Be prepared to listen without judgement
  • Describe the effect your loved one’s addiction has on people close to them. For instance, an addict may not be concerned with the damage they are doing to themselves; but they will be horrified to realise that their substance abuse and associated behaviours are hurting their children/colleagues/partner
  • Do your research on drug and/or alcohol recovery services in your area before you have this talk. If your loved one is receptive, you can direct them to these services for the next step in getting help.

For more information on helping a friend or family member struggling with addiction, download our free Family Guide to Addiction.

JJ’s Addiction Recovery

JJ is a support worker at our addiction treatment centre and has lived experience of addiction. Sometimes it takes an addict to understand how best to support another addict.

Hi, my name is JJ. I’m a support worker at the Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential facility. I love my job which entails supporting addicts in the early stages of recovery.

At the height of my addiction, I was a poly user – that is, I used anything and everything I could lay my hands on. I was in foster care at eight years old, and moved from institution to institution until 2002. I was stuck in the cycle of addiction, I didn’t know any different.

Fortunately, my first stint at rehab taught me about the Fellowship and how to create order, structure and routine in my life.

I got married, ran a successful business, owned a few houses. Life was sweet until 2014, when I began to have some marital issues. I fell back into drugs trying to cope.

My ice addiction cost me my home, my businesses, my marriage – basically everything I’d worked hard for in my life.

However, my love of the fellowship, and again, attending rehab, got me back into the swing of working my daily program and staying clean. In fact, I’m a month off knocking over five years today.

I think residential rehab is possibly the best tool to allow recovery to happen. The benefits of stepping out of everyday life to focus on healing yourself and recovering from addiction are priceless.

Residential rehab removes all outside worries away and removes the distractions that can distract someone from their recovery.

Additionally, a good rehab program has all types of programs to help you get back into life as a recovering addict, rather than someone in active addiction. Working on fitness, cooking classes, cleaning, doing your washing – it all helps create a positive routine.

Plus, there’s the mind work and programs that help undo all the negative self talk and blaming, for example, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m a lost cause where using is concerned,” and “it’s my family’s fault that I turned out this way”.

Rehab makes you stop and look at yourself critically without the pressure of what the world thinks of you, or what the world has done to you to make you sink this low.

Of course, we have some people that have been using for a long time. Sometimes it takes a while to adapt to a new routine. Half of it is helping people realise that they need to “surrender” and then embrace the concept of living, and working, a daily program to stay clean.

What I love about the fellowship and our rehab program is that it’s evidence based.

Everyone slots into a spot within the fellowship and rehab program seamlessly.

At any one time at rehab and within our therapeutic community, we have support workers, people who are learning to work the program, and people who come and visit on what we call “give back”.

This whole cycle is what makes the fellowship and our rehab work so well.

Five years ago, as I finished my rehab, I wrote down my goals and dreams. Suffering addiction propelled me to wants to lead a different life. I left the construction industry and started doing support work. And I haven’t looked back. Today I really am living the life I dreamed about five years ago.

I believe that being in the grip of addiction can give you the gift of desperation that makes you want to change.

If an addict can continuously remember how bad their addiction had them feeling, along with the feelings of guilt, shame, isolation etc, often it’s a good way of staying clean. It’s far more appealing than having to deal with the fallout from addiction.

People walk down our stairs broken, they start to feel better in addiction. However, some people believe they an just go home and go back to “normal”. We know that in recovery, you’ll never go back to the old “normal”. You need to be prepared to take responsibility for creating that “new normal”.

Once the veil of addiction is removed, often we find that several “home truths” are revealed. If someone can see those truths and understand that they need to behave differently, then we are ahead already.

Many of us try to make ourselves feel better with a narrative that isn’t always truthful – “I’m not that bad,”, “Why should it matter, I’m not hurting anyone,” are a few good ones.

Rehab identifies and challenges these ideas and teaches people the tools they need to manage their behaviours – I reckon drug use a learned behaviour – we weren’t born using – we started and it became a habit.

The other thing to remember is, that in the scheme of things, rehab is a relatively short period of time, when you consider the concept of lifelong abstinence.

That’s where the Fellowship comes in, having a sponsor, and then being able to sponsor others yourself. This is why lived experience of addiction is valuable – it helps people to connect without fear of judgment or shame.

And that is the main thing – connection is the opposite of addiction and the isolation that goes with it.

When clients stay connected to the rehab by participating in programs like our “give back”, they tend to be the most successful at long term recovery.

Recovery and fellowship provide relief from the chaos and pain of addiction and provide us with purpose.

I believe that our Fellowship carries a message of hope to those suffering from addiction and if you’re in this position and reading this, I look forward to sharing that hope with you in person at The Hader Clinic Queensland.

Thanks for sharing my story, recovery rocks!

Bringing Our Son “Home” For Christmas

Sophie’s son Darren recently undertook the ninety day residential addiction treatment program at The Hader Clinic Queensland to treat his addiction to ice.

Hi, my name is Sophie. I live in Victoria, and my son, Darren, lives in Queensland. Darren.

He is now completing the extensive out patient program at The Hader Clinic’s main office in Brisbane after completing their residential addiction treatment program.

At the moment, though, he’s here with me visiting for Christmas, which is exciting for both of us, as the coronavirus outbreak in Melbourne prevented us from seeing each other.

Darren’s story starts twenty years ago – he started using marijuana at school and along the way graduated to other drugs, which then culminated in an addiction to ice.

We didn’t really know the extent of his drug use. We would have patches where we were aware he was dabbling in drugs, then periods where we were none the wiser.

In fact, we only discovered the gravity of his addiction when he got into serious trouble with his addiction in March. He was suffering from psychotic episodes as a result of his ice use.

Darren married Ingrid four years ago. Twice he’s left her and separated. Now I believe a large part of this is drug related. However, now that he’s undergone treatment for his addiction, he’s started to reconnect with her and his sixteen year old step daughter.

Until Darren came along, Ingrid had never had any experience of drug use in her life. She comes from a conservative family and has found the whole addiction experience challenging and confronting.

She’s dealt with him leaving her and also with him telling her that his behaviour was normal, when, of course, it was far from that!

However, despite these challenges, she has been a great support to him.

Darren moved to Queensland in 2012 for a fresh start after he lost his license for drink and drug driving. He lost his license at one stage for four years.

When he attended The Hader Clinic Queensland, he started off by thinking that he only had a drug problem. The extensive education he received during his time at rehab helped him to understand that alcohol was also addictive for him.

He’s taken this on board, that he must remain abstinent from both drugs and alcohol to have any chance of being successful in long term recovery.

He’s attending NA meetings and has even booked into some in Victoria, while he is visiting us. He is putting himself and his recovery first.

Even in the short amount of time we have spent with him since his treatment has been reaffirming. When we picked Darren up from the airport, we spent such a lovely afternoon together catching up.

The old Darren would have wanted to go straight to the bottle shop.

We had hoped that Darren would change his drug taking ways when he had a car accident 18 months ago.

He had stopped using for a few days but was still experiencing psychosis. The car was written off – he hit a power pole at speed, completely smashing the front driver’s side of the car in.

He was lucky to survive it. He’s also very lucky that he didn’t injure anybody else.

We thought that this scare would have been enough to stop him from using.

However, it was a temporary fix as six months’ later he was back using and worse than ever.

When he started experiencing regular psychotic episodes, which really peaked in March, he begged for help.

With Covid-19 lockdowns in place, it was very difficult to help him from Victoria. One rehab centre that I phoned even turned him away.

Thank goodness I discovered The Hader Clinic Queensland. It was the best decision we could have made.

I found The Hader Clinic Queensland via an internet search. The website is extensive and packed with information about addiction, not to mention there are several stories that relate to people’s experiences of addiction, both from the addict’s and family’s points of view.

We were also very impressed by the full program that the clinic offered – with Darren saying that he wanted to be kept busy during his treatment.

We cannot get over the changes in Darren – in the past, you never really got the full story about anything from him. Since he’s been staying with us, he’s been honest and open about everything. It’s really helping us to rebuild our relationship.

One other thing I wanted to mention was that many of the staff who work for The Hader Clinic Queensland have lived experience of addiction. To see how well they live their life now and how they help others is inspiring, and gives families that all important hope that recovery is possible.

It has been a long roller coaster for my husband and me over the last twenty years, but at last we actually believe that Darren is now able to make the changes to his life that he needs to – and that support is always just around the corner.

We can’t thank The Hader Clinic Queensland enough for bringing our son “home” for Christmas.

Addiction Treatment – A Mother’s Perspective

Greg recently celebrated being clean for 100 days following his addiction treatment for cocaine and ice addiction. This is his mother’s story.

When we realised how much trouble our son was in with drugs, we were looking for hope, we were looking for stories from parents and addicts who had been through what we had and had lived to tell the tale.

It was really great to be able to read these on the Hader Clinic Queensland website. If any family can learn, or be comforted by what we’ve experienced, we’re very happy to share what we’ve learned.

It’s been wonderful to see our son clean for the last three or so months – however, we’re not naïve – we know he’s got to work at preventing a relapse. You have to be hopeful, yet remain realistic. There’s no end point to this journey, if we fall, we can get up, dust off and go again.

We’ve made several attempts over the years to get Greg into recovery. We eventually got him to the Hader Clinic Queensland.

However, he relapsed a few days after he entered the transition housing program.

This time around, with the support of the Hader Clinic Queensland staff, we made some hard decisions about how we handled Greg’s addictive behaviours.

Unbeknownst to us, our previous efforts to help him were supporting his addiction. We had to engage some tough love. By doing so, it precipitated Greg’s voluntary decision to return to recovery.

During that last relapse, we could see where he was – most likely doing ice, and we were beside ourselves.

I recall calling the Hader Clinic Queensland four times in an hour, I was that distraught. I remember Hayden, telling me very calmly, “Penny, you need to exercise tough love. If he’s not prepared to enter recovery, please make it very clear to him that your home supports recovery, and that he has twenty minutes to collect his gear and leave the house.”

I will never forget the trauma I felt at that moment of hearing this – that I, as his mother, had to make my child homeless.

It just goes against the grain, and every instinct. Yet the irony of it is, that without that experience for him (as you’ve heard him say), I don’t think we’d be sitting here today three and half months later with Greg having completed a 12 hour cycling challenge with me on the weekend and volunteering for Meals on Wheels.

We’ve got a completely different person here now.

Of course, exercising tough love did not come naturally to us. It was about learning that we could still love him, yet not support his addiction – that love and addiction were two completely separate entities.

When I was at the peak of my trauma around dispensing tough love, Hayden asked me a series of questions, which helped answer my own questions about how to deal with Greg best. He asked, “do you want to support him in this lifestyle?” and “do you wish to continue to support him in his current lifestyle?”, which meant for me, being up all night consumed with fear, worry and panic.

I replied with, “our family cannot sustain this”. To which he stated, “well, you’re just going to have to let him go, then.”

Greg lasted on the streets for eight days.

He came back, went back to the Hader Clinic Queensland. He said to me that once he had accepted that he was back in rehab for four weeks, which took two to three days, he reported getting so much more out of his rehabilitation experience.

He shared with me what he was discovering. He stated, “as I got sober and more detoxed, I began to see the person I really was.”

Whatever they do up in rehab with their counsellors and clinicians, it certainly got through to Greg, and for that, we are so deeply grateful. They have helped him and us, get to this next level of recovery.

When you’re in recovery, it’s like you’re building something.

We all think we’d clearly love to go to rehab and that you’d come home, and you’d be successful forever. It’s not like that at all. It’s about continually building upon something. All of the additional support work that was recommended to us by the clinic that they do is important.

Not to mention the work WE do as parents. Whoever is travelling with the addict also needs to be in recovery as well. I mean, in active recovery, which means educating yourself about how best to support them and love them, without enabling them. Which is the hardest thing.

If we’d tried to go it alone, we would have never understood, nor appreciated these things –Greg’s addiction has a very powerful pull but so too did our collective love and desire to pull through this and recover together as a family – Hader Clinic Queensland lead the way.

Together we continue to work through it with time, education and counselling.

It took five years for us to get to this point.

We sent Greg to a private clinic on the Gold Coast initially.

Greg was very masterful initially at hiding his addiction. I’d ask other parents whose kids did some binge drinking at parties how they ended up graduating and becoming “normal”. He’d sleep in until midday, he’s doing all these things.. I’d think, “Ruth’s son is doing that… they’re all out doing that and they are fine”.

When I think about it, I think I kept second guessing myself. Plus being a bit of a worrier, I wanted to keep myself in check and not be over the top.

These behaviours kept creeping in and kept getting bigger, and bigger and bigger. Looking back, it was quite insidious. We could see him changing, but thought that we’d back off. Then the lying started. He’s changed Uni courses three times. There was a lot of this stop/start behaviour which can be typical for kids his age too.

Then my husband would say to him, “you’ve got to get your teeth stuck into something otherwise we’re not going to support you any more”.

He seemed to have a couple of relationships, but when a breakup or disappointment in the love life happened you’d see a spike in this behaviour, but it wasn’t full on until the last twelve months when he’d started using ice.

Up to that point, it had been party drugs, MDMA, speed etc. Plus, my daughter was saying to be, “don’t be silly Mum, EVERYONE uses that on a weekend. It’s not a big deal, you just stop before Monday.”

Except Greg didn’t.

That was another thing. There are a lot of drugs out there and people use them socially.

Greg’s social group gravitated towards that scene. There’s also a subculture within the gay scene.

A doctor who works in emergency where Greg was admitted told me about it.

When she read the toxicology report telling me what was in his system, I nearly had a heart attack. There was GHB, pot, cocaine, ice.. you name it, it was in there.

He’d overdosed that time and I was told this sort of thing was really common. She said that users “layer” the drugs, to keep them up all night, and that it was a sexual thing as well. It sounds terrible, but I want to tell the truth. I didn’t know this was a side effect of ice use.

I think Greg may have been feeling ‘lost’ about his sexuality, but for us it’s never been an issue.

He’s longed for an enduring relationship and he’s not been able to find one.

It’s not uncommon for heterosexual relationships either, but I think it’s particularly tough for a young gay man, when many of those around him are just into hook ups. Plus, some of the dating apps encourage not only hooking up, but drug use with it.

He did this for a bit because at the end of the day, he just wants to find love and a partner. But he also knows now that these apps probably won’t work for what he really wants.

Another big turning point, which happened after the second Hader Clinic Queensland admission, was for us to share with a select group of friends and family what we were experiencing.

We wanted to be honest, because it was traumatic for us and we got tired of not telling the truth. I’m not saying that in a wild way of being indiscriminate about who we told, but we were tired of covering up.

There were a couple of key things for us in dealing with Greg’s addiction.

Firstly, we needed to accept how serious this problem was.

Secondly, I needed to be made aware of how enabling I was. I’ll be honest with you, I was only made to recognise how I was an enabler through the education given to me by the Hader Clinic Queensland during their family nights. I don’t want to say it was just me, I think we were both enabling Greg in our own way.

You know, admitting that you’re an enabler is hard. Facing up to this fact is also one of the reasons that we’re sitting here today. It was more about education here than being inadequate or uncaring. We had to acknowledge that in our own way, we were part of the problem.

We were very willing to address what needed to be changed and the parent evenings that The Hader Clinic Queensland run were pivotal in our education.

Again, we went along not knowing what to expect. Plus, you’re in a room with many parents of addicts. The other thing that struck me on the first few nights, is that we imagined that the parents of drug addicts would be struggling with their own set of issues.

We were sitting in a room of parents that were just like us. Hardworking, normal, loving parents who are beside themselves with the pain that their loved one is in the grip of addiction. Parents who would do ANYTHING to get their kids through. Honestly, it gives me goose bumps just saying it. We are so grateful that we both “got it”.

The first time I went to the parents’ evening, I was broken. It was difficult to talk without crying.

We’d chat to other parents after the group sessions and realise that they were hard working professional business people, who were just like us.

Plus having the lying, cheating and stealing behaviour that was now a regular occurrence. Money was stolen and our credit cards were used. All of that. The graduation to ice was terrible. We saw frenetic behaviour; we saw dangerous behaviour. His risk-taking behaviour went up 200%. We’ve had three attempts at taking his own life.

Thinking about it all, we were run ragged, and emotionally sucked dry. It’s been a tough five years.

However, realising how we were feeding Greg’s addiction and keeping it alive was a game changer.

So too, was realising that the addict needs an army of support around them if you‘re in recovery for the long game. Our whole family is in recovery as a result, day by day. Unconditionally accepting Greg’s recovery meant being truthful with those who are closest to us. We felt like we needed support as well.

We felt that we failed to get through to him. I was questioning everything that wasn’t family based, whether I should have my own interests etc

Part of that process is learning acceptance. We did what we thought was best at the time for our family and ourselves. I was also cognisant of the struggles John was facing and I thought, “I don’t want our family to fracture”. I was trying to keep the lines of communication open and keep our family together.

Addiction really takes you to the brink.

Of course, the turning point was not allowing Greg home until he was genuinely ready to recover.

We didn’t want a yo-yo situation.

We’ve had the “I’m ready to recover!” line where the reality was, he’d be home for a bite to eat, steal some money and nick off again. This was the toughest love we’ve ever experienced. Yes, the term is thrown around but it’s a completely different thing when you have to dispense it yourself.

Thankfully, it drove the message home and got him back to the Hader Clinic Queensland.

Without Hader Clinic Queensland, we wouldn’t be here. We went through the public hospital system, through private hospitals and clinics. We were at our wit’s end. We researched, and found The Hader Clinic Queensland.

“Thank God for Hader Clinic Queensland!” is all we can say.

In recovery, our family has enjoyed a renewed relationship with Greg. We’ve been hitting the gym and recently participated in a 12 hour cycling challenge together – I was immensely proud to ride with him. There’s been a real shift in him and in the whole communication dynamic within our family, we are all so grateful for this.

As for the two of us, our relationship has reached a new depth, though during the last five years there have been times where it’s been very hard for both of us and we’ve both found it immensely challenging on many occasions.

Being united means that you are stronger.

I don’t how that happened in the chaos, but it did. The well-known line from Leonard Cohen’s song ‘Anthem’, pretty well sums this up, “There’s a crack in everything, that’s where the light gets in.”

As for advice we would give other parents who are experiencing similar issues is firstly, if you are noticing odd behaviour and your gut feeling is telling you something is wrong, don’t second guess yourself – talk to someone like The Hader Clinic Queensland and seek advice.

Secondly, addiction thrives in the dark. It’s worth bringing it out into the open, even though it will be uncomfortable and confronting.

We hope our story gives hope, especially as we’re not a glossy “success story”. We’re not perfect, but very real in our imperfection.

We are deeply grateful to all at the Hader Clinic Queensland for their unflinching support.

Mac’s Addiction – His Mother’s Story

Discovering that her son was an alcoholic came a complete shock to Mac’s mother, who had no knowledge of his excessive drinking.

Hi, I’m Mac’s mum, and this is my story about my son’s alcohol addiction.

Mac had a good childhood.

His father was a police officer and we were happily married for forty-two years.

We had a stable home, and a loving family environment, so sometimes it’s puzzling how this illness of addiction happened to Mac.

I first became aware that Mac was drinking when he went into the army.

However, because he wasn’t at home, we weren’t witness to any alcoholic behaviours.

Because he travelled so much for work, we really only saw him periodically, even staying with him at his home.

During these times we weren’t really privy to any odd behaviour – Mac always seemed like he was OK.

I remember visiting four or five years ago, I’m not certain of the exact timeline and he was living with a girl, she had a drinking problem.

The family situation there was a bit volatile – he didn’t have children and she did.

There were often times where he said that for various reasons that he didn’t want to go home.

Was that when he started drinking more? I really don’t know, can’t answer that question.

When I stayed with him for a few days during that time, he was working.

He’d get up in the morning and head to work and come home as normal people do in the evenings. I’d see him consume three or four beers, nothing I considered unusual.

Three years ago, I recall him being with a partner who was drinking heavily and started becoming aware over the last twelve months that things weren’t “quite right” with Mac. He would say things to me like, “I can’t take it anymore! But don’t worry, I won’t do anything silly!”

This did ring a few alarm bells, but not wanting to be interfering and controlling, I just let it go.

I wanted Mac to feel he called always talk to me.

Towards the end of last year, I was aware that he’d gone to court and lost his driver’s license.

It was at that point my awareness grew into a knowing that something was very wrong.

Shortly after, he told me that he was going to rehab and I helped him with his “life admin”, looking after things while he was in rehab like his phone bill and car registration etc.

Since joining the Hader Clinic Queensland addiction treatment program Mac has opened up and told me a lot of other stories about his drinking habits – which go back way further than this.

When he tells me some of the things that happened to him with his drinking in the past, I realise that he was lying to me back then – but I always believed him (he was always a very honest kid).

Last year he’d say that he’d “had one beer” and I thought nothing of it. I didn’t realise that “one beer” was actually “one carton”.

Not knowing a great deal about addiction, I didn’t know that people lied to cover up their addiction, that when he said after losing a job, that he “couldn’t come home”, that he was ashamed and didn’t want me to see him like that.

The way Mac speaks to me now indicates to me that he has no intention of going back to his previous life.

I keep reminding him and encouraging him that he’s been given this wonderful opportunity to turn his life around by the RSL and the Hader Clinic Queensland. I think he was in a pretty bad way before he was admitted.

I know that Mac wants to help others who are in a similar situation to what he was.

No more truck driving.

I’m really happy to see that he has some opportunities with the RSL.

But most of all, I’m happy and very thankful that he’s in recovery – Thanks to Hader Clinic Queensland- and that each clean day is a win.

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