Ice Archives - Hader Clinic Queensland

6 Stages of Ice Addiction Recovery

Ice addiction recovery is not a straight line. For most people, there will be different issues that arise in each stage of their recovery journey. For many, their recovery journey starts long before the decision is made to seek help.

The 6 stages of ice addiction recovery are:

  • Powerlessness
  • Accepting the problem
  • Detoxing from ice
  • Early recovery
  • A new way of life
  • Daily maintenance

Stage 1. Powerlessness­­

When someone starts to use ice, they believe that they are in control of choosing when and how often to use ice and are enjoying the effects of the drug.

However, after longer, more frequent use, the sufferer may recognise signs of ice addiction and acknowledge they might have a problem, start trying to limit their use of ice, or stop altogether.

It is now the person realises they can’t stop and that they are suffering from an ice addiction.

They will make countless vain attempts to stop until they realise they can’t and they are powerless over their addiction.

Some of the attempts to stop may include:

  • Staying away from people who use drugs
  • Moving away or in with family
  • Limiting the times and the amount of ice they use
  • Substituting one drug for another
  • Going cold turkey without any support

Most sufferers need to go through this stage of their ice addiction recovery before they acknowledge the problem and become motivated to get professional ice addiction treatment to change their life.

Stage 2. Accepting the Problem

After having tried so many ways to restrict or stop their drug use, they may now finally be at a stage where they can accept that their drug use is a concern.

This is a vital stage in the recovery process as, during it, there is a small window of opportunity before the addiction takes hold again where the sufferer shows a willingness to accept help and treatment.

In this period of the ice addiction recovery journey, there may be some serious consequences of the ice addiction and circumstances that can bring a sufferer to a point of surrender.

The sufferer may have:

It is important that the person suffering receives help from addiction professionals who understand addiction first-hand.

Stage 3. Detoxing from Ice

During this stage of ice addiction recovery, the individual needs to be in a safe place to detox from ice so they can safely navigate the withdrawal symptoms of ice and learn to manage stress without substances, and begin the journey towards an abstinence-based lifestyle.

During this stage, ice withdrawal symptoms, thoughts, and emotions can be intense.

Depending on their situation (including personal history and drug use) the ice detox process usually takes between one to two weeks.

Stage 4. Early Recovery

The early recovery stage is all about education about the disease of addiction. Most people in this stage find it easier to do this in a residential addiction treatment facility or through regular 12 step meeting attendance.

Part of the journey is to understand and accept that addiction is a disease and that the underlying reason they used drugs needs to be addressed.

Learning to live without the use of drugs can be difficult, but most addicts find hope when surrounded by the right support network.

Stage 5. A New Way of Life

During this stage, the recovering individual needs to create a new lifestyle.

Without a complete change of lifestyle, the work so far will have little long-term effect.

If the recovering addict has been in a rehab facility or away from their everyday life for a while, they may become overwhelmed and turn back to old coping mechanisms.

It is important that they analyse relationships, jobs, and other lifestyle elements.

Returning to daily life can be difficult to navigate.

There are typically job and relationship changes needed to create a balanced life free from the use of ice.

The recovering person can attend 12-step programs and become involved in the community in another way outside of their workplace and families.

It is important that they receive help to deal with the emotional issues and trauma underlying their drug use.

Stage 6. Daily Maintenance

The final phase of ice addiction recovery is maintenance. It is the stage most people think of when they think of recovery.

The new thoughts and patterns that have been created, along with the new lifestyle changes that are beginning to be made, must now be maintained on an ongoing basis.

Living in the moment and learning to use new tools and coping mechanism requires work.

During this stage the person in recovery will usually find new healthy ways to manage stress and maintain their new way of life, which may include:

  • Meditation
  • Physical exercise
  • Becoming useful to their community

The hallmarks of the daily maintenance stage are the ability to react to problems that come up without the use of ice, choosing to grow and develop as a person, and continuing to be part of a recovery program.

 

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.

 

What is Ice, and What Effect Can It Have?

Out of the three main types of methamphetamines – ice, speed and base – ice has become the most widely used in Australia; 6% of Australians admit to having used ice once or multiple times and 1 in 70 Australians will use ice once or more in any given year.

It is most commonly consumed by smoking or injection. It can also be swallowed or snorted. The immediacy of the effect depends on the method of ingestion.

Ice is a synthetic stimulant drug, meaning it is entirely man-made and often contains highly toxic household chemicals. Drain cleaner, bleach and anti-freeze are common additives to ice and responsible for many of the devastating side effects it has on the body and mind.

Ice is considered highly addictive, as even a single use can lead to debilitating cravings during the come-down period (also referred to as ‘crash’).

What are the Risks?

The immediate risks of taking ice, even if it is a once-off use, can be quite dramatic; largely because it is impossible to know what exactly each batch contains and which harmful toxins the user is ingesting. Even first-time users are at risk of heart failure, stroke or seizures, depending on the dosage and potency of the drug.

Furthermore, persons high on ice are likely to engage in impulsive and risk-taking behaviours while high, putting themselves and others in harm’s way. This can mean getting into physical fights, engaging in unsafe sexual behaviours, self-harming or sharing needles when injecting ice.

When ice is used over a sustained period of time, users are at risk of experiencing devastating health problems. Ice use affects the kidneys, heart and lungs; can ruin users’ teeth (a phenomenon known as ‘meth-mouth’) and lead to permanent impairment of memory and concentration.

How does Ice affect me?

Ice is an upper, which means it speeds up the messages between the brain and the body; as well as sending the body’s production of ‘happy chemicals’ into overdrive.

Ice wreaks absolute havoc with the users’ brain chemistry. It increases the production of dopamine, serotonin and noradrenalin by up to 1000 times the normal level.

  • Dopamine controls the brains pleasure centre. Increased dopamine levels cause the euphoria associated with the ice high
  • Serotonin regulates our mood, appetite and sleep patterns. Increased serotonin levels explain the mood swings, loss of appetite and insomnia frequently caused by ice consumption
  • Noradrenalin regulates arousal, meaning persons high on ice often feel hypersexual and may exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviour due to increased noradrenalin levels.

As a result of this overproduction, persons high on ice are likely to experience:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Increased energy levels to the point of hyperactivity
  • Heightened states of sexual arousal
  • Increased levels of confidence
  • Illusions of great mental clarity
  • Loss of appetite

Ice can also have a huge variety of unpleasant side effects – for both first-time and regular users. Side-effects of taking ice may include:

  • Psychotic episodes (commonly referred to as ‘Ice Psychosis’)
  • Uncontrollable trembling (the shakes)
  • Stomach cramps
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Increased heart palpitations
  • Paranoia
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Nausea to the point of vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Blurred vision
  • Hyperventilation
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings

Depending on how it is ingested, an ice high can come on instantly or take up to fifteen minutes to take effect. The high itself can last up to twelve hours; however, it takes much longer for the last traces to leave the body and even longer for the body’s natural chemistry to normalise. First-time users will need about three days before their system is back to normal; regular use over a sustained period means a recovery period of roughly nine months until the user is completely ice-free.

What Happens During Come Down and Withdrawal?

Ice does not only increase the production of the ‘happy chemicals’, it also disables the brain’s ability to reabsorb them; so, once the users’ brains are depleted, they are in for a horrendous crash.

Depending on how much ice a person has taken and how frequently the drug is used, the comedown can start within 12 or even 24 hours of using. Symptoms most commonly include:

  • Feelings of depression
  • Inability to sleep despite feeling exhausted
  • Severe headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Extreme irritability
  • Physical pain (often described as being similar to severe flu symptoms)

The comedown period lasts until the active components of the drug have left the user’s system; which is when the withdrawal sets in. The acute withdrawal period can last up to 14 days. During withdrawal ice addicts are likely to experience:

  • Intense cravings for ice
  • Severe lack of energy
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Anxiety
  • Increased appetite
  • Nightmares
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Inability to focus or think clearly
  • Vomiting
  • Physical pain
  • Restlessness
  • Broken sleep

It is important to understand that the withdrawal symptoms – the cravings for the drug and the mood swings – can continue for up to 18 months in cases of extreme habitual use. This is known as chronic withdrawal and can make the recovery process extremely challenging, which is why professional help is crucial if a user wants to kick the habit for good.

Read more about ice addiction here.

 

Cassandra’s Ice Addiction Recovery

Cassandra recently completed the 90-day residential addiction treatment at the Hader Clinic Queensland for her ice addiction. She will be six months clean in a few weeks. This is her journey so far.

My name is Cassandra. I am 25 years old.  Six months ago, I was trapped in a horrific cycle of ice addiction. I had resigned myself to the fact that this would be my life.

My childhood wasn’t awful, my parents were together, and I did well at the private school I attended. I was the eldest of 2 and had a younger brother who I was close with. My parents were drinkers, but things were mostly happy at home.

I remember being very depressed, and I had a general sense of discomfort growing up. I never felt comfortable in my skin and found it difficult to make friends. I was a loner and spent a lot of my time reading books.

At 13, I had an eating disorder and started to self-harm. I saw psychologists and psychiatrists, who prescribed medicine, but I didn’t want to take it. I couldn’t understand why I felt like this. I tried to exercise, eat well, and socialise, but nothing helped to take away the depression I was experiencing.

The first day I drank alcohol was the day I turned 18. I drank an entire bottle of vodka at my friends and blacked out. I knew there was something different about the way I drank that night.

After this experience, I decided that alcohol wasn’t for me and didn’t drink for a few years.

I started University, studying social work. I was still plagued with waves of depression. To combat my depression, I turned to physical fitness and healthy eating again. Nothing ever seemed to work or give me any relief.

I had made some friends at uni, and they were going out and partying on the weekends. Since the healthy lifestyle did not seem to help me, I decided I would start socialising more and going out with them on the weekends.

I found the nightlife in the Valley fun and drinking helped me to socialise and connect with people more. I applied for a job as a waitress at a strip club. During my interview, they asked if I wanted to strip instead. I took them up on this offer. It was a fun and exhilarating experience. I found a sense of belonging with the people I worked with at the club and my regular customers.

I loved the confidence I got from stripping. I had been dancing for a few months when one of the girls offered me a line of cocaine. I took it without too much thought. I remember feeling that If I said no, they wouldn’t offer it to me again, and I really wanted to be part of their world.

My use of cocaine progressed quickly. After a few months, I found I was doing it regularly. This concerned me and I found myself depressed and isolated again, wishing to be anywhere else. I decided to take a trip overseas and visit my family in Scotland. This was my first attempt to stop. I was there for 3 weeks and remained alcohol and drug-free the entire time. This gave me a sense of control over my drug use.

When I returned, I started stripping again but was not using drugs. I felt like I had control of my life again. However, tragically a few weeks after I returned from Scotland, my dad died suddenly.

It was hard for me as we had only just started to become close after many years of what I felt was a strained relationship.

This loss was devastating to me, but I felt like I should be handling it better… like I wasn’t entitled to the pain of losing my father like the rest of my family. I was angry at the world and particularly at my mum, I thought it was her fault.

I immediately went back to using cocaine. I felt I had no choice, and that it was the only way I could handle this situation. Things got messy fast. I would come to work after being up for days. This continued for 4 months and lead to my being fired.

I got a job at a different strip club. It didn’t feel the same working there, nothing felt the same as before. The horrible feeling of isolation and not fitting in was more present than ever.

One night they invited me to “kick-ons” after work and they were smoking ice. It was different this time than the first time I used cocaine. It wasn’t about fitting in anymore. I simply didn’t care about anything.

When they passed me the ice pipe, I told them I didn’t know what to do. They showed me how to smoke it. I didn’t have an overly great experience. Looking back, I feel like I went into psychosis right away. I was hearing voices and felt paranoid. I left and went home.

The next day, I immediately returned. I rationalised and justified this to myself. I thought if I was not buying it or using it at home, it was ok, and the cocaine wasn’t really working anymore.

I was terrified to slow down, sleep, or face anything I felt. The only time I felt ok was when I was on drugs. 21 years old and I had a full-blown ice addiction.

I met a guy who was dealing coke, and he was a meth user. I started a year-long relationship with him.

He was physically and mentally abusive. We were on drugs most days. He made me quit stripping and isolated me from everyone I knew.

I was so afraid of him and was deep in a foreign, violent world. I was completely out of my depth. This man was an abusive and violent criminal, and I relied on him for everything.

I had never been around this stuff, being in crack houses and around serious criminals. I felt like this wasn’t who I was meant to be. It went against everything I had ever known. I thought I was going to die so many times, I didn’t know how to leave. I always felt it was safer to go back.

I tried to leave a few times, I would sleep in my car or go to friends’ houses. He would always find me. Even though I was in this situation. I still didn’t want to stop using ice. I tried to hide it from everyone. I was isolated and alone.

This continued for a year. The night I left, he had returned from a night out in psychosis, saying a lot of stuff happened that didn’t. I was afraid he was going to kill me.

He went to sleep, and I left and took all of my stuff. He tracked me down in the Valley a few days later, but I ran away from him.

My daily ice addiction continued, and I knew I was an addict, but I kind of just thought that this was going to be my life now. I didn’t see a solution.

I got my old job back at the first strip club I worked at. I didn’t feel so alone there, and as drugs were a massive part of the culture, I could go to work high and nobody really knew I was on ice. I was in this vicious cycle of addiction, needing to work to get money for drugs and using drugs to be able to work 7 days a week to support my habit.

This went on for about 6 months. I started dating a guy who said he was 18 months clean from serving time in jail. Pretty quickly, he was shooting up ice and heroin. He overdosed in my room multiple times. One time he went out, and I decided I was going to try shooting up by myself because I knew people wouldn’t want to do it for me the first time.

It really hurt. I hit a nerve and injured my arm, but I just kept trying until it felt the way I thought it should.

In 2020 when covid hit, I lost my job, and I had no money or way to support my habit. As a daily ice user, I had never experienced ice withdrawal symptoms for very long before.

I had to move back in with my Mum, and I tried to improve my relationship with my family.

I was still using ice heavily but would justify it to myself by limiting the number of times I used or smoked ice instead of injecting it. These were all ways I tried to show myself I had control.

I could go through ice detox for 4 days but could not bear it any longer than that. I would always find a way to get more. I just made using work for me however I could.

I continued this for another year. At the start of 2021, I decided I was going to reduce the amount I was using. I started to go to the gym and eating healthy again. I made a point of not hanging around the old scene. I preferred to use ice alone, anyway.

It was just me and the drugs. I was always using alone, even though I started using to feel connected at the start. It had really taken everything else away from me.

I tried to be normal, but I knew I was an ice addict and it made me feel so ashamed. I felt so disgusting. In June 2021 I was trying to detox from ice on my own again. This time I could only last a few weeks.

I knew about NA. I went to some meetings in Brisbane but would sit outside and be unable to make myself go in. I would get my life together for a few months, but I would always return to it, and it would always be worse. Without drugs, I couldn’t handle life or my feelings.

Finally, I went to mum and told her I needed help. She helped me get a bed at Hader Clinic Queensland and I was in there 2 days later.

My journey so far hasn’t always been easy, but I have learned so many tools and coping mechanisms to face life on its own terms. The support workers at Hader Clinic Queensland educated me about the disease of addiction and that I wasn’t just a horrible person.

Being with people I could identify with was amazing. Being around the staff and other recovering addicts made me feel a part of something wonderful. I was finally not alone. I had seen a lot of professionals, but I had never been with people who knew about addiction and had a way out.

I learned so much in rehab and got so much hope that there was a way out. Before coming to Hader Clinic Queensland, I had never known anyone that had recovered.

The structure in the detox made detoxing a lot easier than when I tried to do it alone. I felt like I could accept help, as I wasn’t being judged. I originally was going to do 28 days, but I decided to do 90 days. I am so glad I decided to do a longer program. It gave me more time to get a clear mind and let things sink in. The tools I learned there are invaluable and help me every day. The Hader Clinic gave me the foundation I needed to heal.

I don’t know what the future holds for me. The Transitional Housing Program is helping me integrate back into the community. I am kept accountable. I am so grateful for everything I have learned and the people I have met along the way.

I am finally free from the cycle of ice addiction and I know if I use the tools I have learned in rehab, the support of Hader Clinic Queensland’s outpatient program, and my friends in recovery, my future is much brighter.

 

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.

The Physical Effects of Ice

Crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice, is a highly addictive drug that stimulates the brain and nervous system. This causes intense pleasure and clarity and many users have described the effect as possessing increased energy and feeling that they have a better ability to make good decisions.

These symptoms are the result of ice significantly increasing levels of the hormone dopamine in the body, often up to 1,000 times higher than a standard level. This is higher than any other pleasure-inducing drug or activity.

The effect ice has on the body depends on the strength of the drug, the method of administration and the quantity used. Individuals may wish to smoke the drug, which has an immediate high. Others may choose to swallow it, which may take almost half an hour for symptoms to take effect.

Ice can also cause an increased heart and breathing rate, an increased sex drive, a reduction in appetite and an increase in pupil dilation.

The effects of ice commonly last anywhere between four and 12 hours, sometimes even up to 24 hours after taking the drug. However, traces can remain in urine and blood for up to three days.

Once the effects of ice wear off, you will experience the come down, which often induces opposite feelings to your high. This may mean feeling depressed, irritable, anxious or nervous, as well as having difficulty making good decisions and concentrating. You may also get headaches, have a sudden appetite or blurred vision.

It is also common to feel tired after coming down from a high, however many users have noted they have trouble sleeping despite feelings of exhaustion. Users also often experience paranoia and hallucinations.

Ice targets the dopamine system, so regular use of ice can wear out the brain’s natural dopamine system. This means the brain will no longer be able to produce enough dopamine on its own, commonly causing feelings of depression. In order for individuals to feel more normal, they will turn to ice to raise those dopamine levels. This is one reason why ice relapse rates are significantly high.

For regular ice users, or those who use ice in higher doses, the positive effects of the high become less and less pleasurable over time. Users may only experience an increased heart and breathing rate, however other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, anxiousness, hostility, aggression or psychotic episodes may also occur during the high, as ice causes the release of noradrenaline, a brain chemical that provokes a fight or flight response.

If you take too much ice, you are at risk of overdosing and experiencing a stroke, heart failure or even seizures.

It takes up to two weeks to physically detox from ice, which is twice as long as other drugs. After this initial withdrawal period, you may experience a chronic withdrawal period that can last over a year.

You are likely dependant on a drug if you constantly need more of the drug to experience the same effect, you are having withdrawal symptoms, it is impacting your work, home or school life, or if you are spending significant amounts of time seeking, using or recovering from the drug.

If you are struggling with an addiction and looking for an approved addiction treatment provider, The Hader Clinic Queensland can help. Reach out today and create a better path for your future.

Gabrielle’s Ice Addiction Recovery Story

Gabrielle’s ice addiction led to a rollercoaster of drugs, dealing and legal issues. Following residential addiction treatment she shares her incredible story.

Hi I’m Gabrielle, I’m 29 years old, and my substance of addiction was ice. I cannot tell you how happy I am to be off the addiction rollercoaster.

You could say that I had a really good upbringing. I have one brother and had what I’d considered to be a traditional upbringing with two loving, happily married parents. I was brought up with good values and morals and was never exposed to any drugs or alcohol as a child.

I grew up in Roma, which is a small country town. There wasn’t a lot to do there and I fell into the wrong crowd. I started dating an older guy at sixteen. He was into drugs and dealing them. That’s how it all started.

Our relationship would end up lasting eight years – and it was really awful. There was a lot of violence, and he was very controlling. I didn’t have any coping strategies to deal with this behaviour.

It didn’t help that my best friend was dating his best friend – if anything it normalised our situation – didn’t everyone do this in their teens?

Because of his controlling ways, I didn’t have much of a social life. Instead, I was very focused on work. I worked for a mining company as a project coordinator.

We moved to the Sunshine Coast for a few years, and it was during this time that things got bad. My using increased, and I realised that I needed to leave to regain control of my life.

One day, outside of his knowledge, I did just that. I left in the middle of the night, changed jobs, and my phone number, and moved into a share house in Brisbane. I never saw him again.

When I did that, I thought that would be my “clean start”. However, I was beginning to realise that there was a bigger issue, which was my drug problem.

In Brisbane, the previous connections I’d established made it easy for me to move into dealing drugs. That way, I could basically use for free.

Although my drug use hadn’t escalated, my life did as a drug dealer. My priorities changed. The people around me were, shall we say, a little more serious than petty users. I started to get involved in bad things, and crime.

In 2019, my apartment got raided twice. I racked up 24 indited charges which were commercial possession, commercial supply, and everything that goes along with it.

After that, I felt like I began to fall apart. I started using a lot more to try and cope with the stress of the legal issues.

On the surface, I looked calm and controlled. I always thought that I had everything under control and that I was smart enough to be one step ahead, unlike others.

A big part of my story is that I managed to hide my addiction, and my legal problems, from my family, for the entire time.

I didn’t talk to anyone about my problems.

Instead, I dug myself deeper into a hole.

When all the legal stuff came along, I was concerned about what my lawyer and barrister were telling me – that I’d get a four year jail sentence. I was worried that if I was sent to jail, that my family would find out about my whole past.

I was carrying around my life as a one big lie. It was a massive burden.

Throughout my time in Brisbane, I struck up a relationship with another guy who became my boyfriend. We used, dealt and lived together.

My lawyer suggested that I go to rehab, stating that if I didn’t, I’d be looking at a longer jail sentence.

I went to the Hader Clinic Queensland in June 2020. My boyfriend, who was in the same legal situation, came with me.

We pretended not to be a couple.

We stayed for a week, then we left.

We started using the day we left.

However, things got way worse after that.

My partner had a psychotic episode, and tried to commit suicide by burning a house down in Brisbane.

He was admitted into the Royal Brisbane Hospital Burns Unit for several weeks. That’s the point where he realised that he needed to get help – and arranged to go back to a different rehab.

While he was in hospital, he was broken and vulnerable – and wanted my support, which I couldn’t give him – as I was still using.

Two weeks after he committed to rehab, he had changed a lot. He had surrendered to the fact that he needed help, and was now begging me to commit to stop using and to go to rehab myself.

I arranged to go back into The Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential rehab on the 2nd of August. However, as soon as I got there, I got on the ice and didn’t actually rock up there until the 6th.

I was scared and I was ashamed, I guess because I’d already been there once before, and I had left, basically saying, “thanks anyway, but I’ve got this”.

It was a case of swallowing my pride, returning, and saying, “I need help”. It was also very confronting giving up what was familiar. Using was my life.

Anyway, I went in for thirty days. It was much easier than the first time around, but difficult in that I couldn’t talk to my partner. I think there was a concern that as we left together, that if he wasn’t doing well, that I might get up and leave again.

About two weeks after I had been in there, my brother reported me missing to the police. My family had no idea that I was in rehab, my using, my convictions, anything. I’d simply dropped off the face of the Earth.

The police got in touch with the clinic – my bail had been changed so that I could attend – that’s how my family ended up finding out about my addiction.

It was pretty traumatic, but I’m grateful that they found out while I was at the rehab seeking help, rather than watching me destroy my life.

Sally, one of the counsellors at the rehab, helped me through that whole process. This was probably one of the biggest things that has happened in my life – coming clean and having to be honest.

Once I got the courage to come clean, everything became easier after that.

I ended up extending my stay at rehab for an extra thirty days. I did well with my rehab.

My partner also did really well with his rehab too.

When I came home, I did everything that I was told to do. I worked through my exit plan, I went to NA.

When it came around to my court sentencing, I was able to produce many clean drug test results, and since I got out, I have been supported by the Hader Clinic Queensland’s staff who offered to write letters of recommendation for me.

The prosecutor in the Supreme Court asked for four years and I ended up with three years suspended on immediate parole. This was due to rehab and also due to my brother writing a letter outlining the support I had from my family. That would have never happened unless I had gone to rehab.

The relationship I have with my family is great and improving as we make up for lost time. My partner and I got engaged three weeks ago. He gets along really well with my parents. It’s really nice – and I think they are grateful to have their daughter back, as I was essentially M.I.A for ten years.

I was always the child that was missing in action their whole lives. It was really sad, because there was nothing they could do except let me go.

Every time they would try and reach out to me, I’d disappear or change my phone number. I was ashamed and I couldn’t accept the fact that I was stuffing up my life either.

My partner and I go to meetings every day, sometimes together, sometimes separately. We both hold service positions for our home groups. We’ve both got great sponsors.

Every person we see congratulates us on how good we look – and how rare it is for a couple to be in addiction together to be sober together – however, it’s working well for us. We are stronger together, and happy to be the exception to the work.

I haven’t returned to work yet, however, I’m just taking it one day at a time. I know that I will have to be careful at work as my addiction can really play out there – I can literally be addicted to my job.

Therefore, I am being gentle with myself and my expectations as I’m in early recovery.

I’m very grateful to the staff, especially Jay – I felt he had my back during the whole program. I knew that I wasn’t ready to leave after thirty days. I am glad that I could extend my program. Once I accepted that I needed help, my recovery journey became easier.

I’m grateful for recovery and cannot thank The Hader Clinic Queensland enough for their support and help.

From Carnage to Recovery

Drugs initially gave Daniel peace, but his addiction soon led him down a road of carnage. Following residential addiction treatment he reflects on his ongoing recovery.

Many people believe that music and drugs go hand in hand. I’m pretty sure someone has told me along the way that Mozart was addicted to heroin. That doesn’t surprise me as both drugs and music have the power to change the way you feel, only one (music) is good for you. And the other just leads you down a road of carnage.

I’m a musician who has been producing rap music since 2011. The whole time I created music, I used.

I’m still newly recovering – as of today I’m fifty seven days’ clean. As there are many associations with drugs in doing my music, I haven’t gone back there yet. I don’t want to be triggered into a situation where I may relapse. Recovery is the most important part of my life right now.

My using started when I was eleven or twelve. I’m now thirty six. I had a great upbringing, two parents who loved both my brother and myself. My Mum worked for the XXXX brewery and I started my using lifestyle by pinching beers from the fridge at home. At thirteen I started smoking weed and would spend most weekends with my mates partying hard, getting drunk, getting stoned, or both.

Despite the drug use, I managed to graduate year twelve.

After school, the dabbling in drugs continued – as well as pot and alcohol, there were eccies (ecstasy) and speed added into the mix. At nineteen I smoked meth. I was doing a carpentry apprenticeship. I did the whole thing high on drugs.

Drugs initially gave me peace, silencing the committee in my head that saw me continually comparing myself with my brother. We had the same parents, same upbringing, yet my brother was so different from me – he ended up becoming an accountant. He can have one drink and put the cap on the bottle, whereas I’ll continue until I’m paralytic.

So… I did meth from 19 to 36 and had a son in the meantime, at 23. Things really started ramping up when I was around 28, in 2012. I was doing heaps of music and spending most of the time high.

I dropped the ball at work.

I did not pay rent.

I lost my home.

I slept on mates’ couches.

It was awful.

I decided to give up drugs cold turkey.

It didn’t work.

I moved in with a mate who was selling gear. Weirdly, at the time, I felt peace being there, even though the place was hectic with people coming and going at all hours.

I remember sitting on the couch with three pregnant girls, smoking pot.

This was all very normal to me.

I recorded my first demo mixtape in that house.

Eventually I moved out.

Lived on a couch.

Met a friend who said I could stay at her place for three weeks.

I stayed for three years.

Life was not manageable, so I went to rehab in 2015. It wasn’t a twelve-step program. I remember that a mate hung himself while I was in there. I thought, “this is it, time to be clean”.

After eight weeks of rehab, I got a job as a chippie and things seemed to be going well, until I caught a contractor smoking meth in a downstairs basement. He asked me if I wanted some.

Naturally, I relapsed.

I managed to hang on to my job and the union got me into rehab in Sydney where I learned about Narcotics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps. Recovery was going well, and I felt connected to the NA community there. Plus, Sydney was a new town to me, so it created another barrier to using.

However, I had to come back to Brisbane, and without the right support around me, I relapsed again.

Thirteen months ago, I met my partner. We were both in active addiction. One of my wiser mates told me, “it’s going to get to the point where you choose each other, or you choose the drugs”.

I decided to withdraw my super on compassionate medical grounds and do rehab at The Hader Clinic Queensland. I did the thirty day program, and during that time, I surrendered to recovery. My initial impressions were that I could see where the value was, given I had paid privately. It was good to get away from the environment where I used and become involved with NA again. I have a sponsor, and I attend two meetings a day.

All of the staff had a big impact on me, especially Mark, Fran and JJ. In fact JJ and I have the same sponsor. It was great to be able to go to a meeting and see the staff there – not because they were taking us to a meeting, but rather, they were there for themselves and still focused on their recovery. It makes me realise that you don’t go to rehab and become “cured”, you’re always working on various aspects of your recovery.

I want to get back into making my music, but slowly, slowly. I want to do it in a way that doesn’t trigger wanting to use.

I’ve now been a chippie for the past fifteen years or so. I don’t want to go back to the drinking and drug culture that underlies construction either. However, I do want to give back to the area where I came from.

I have joined Mates in Construction and have put my name down to get involved in the Connector program – meaning you’re the port of call for someone in your industry that may be doing it tough. Then I’m going to do the week long “Assist” course.

It’s about me learning to do things a different way. I’m still pretty new to being clean. However, one thing I do know is that I want recovery more than anything else. And that I have support. I’m looking forward to visiting the Hader Clinic Queensland tomorrow for a check in.

If you’re serious about getting clean, get support. The Hader Clinic Queensland were brilliant and I’m looking forward to notching more time up in recovery.

There’s Always Hope If You Want Recovery

Jeff hit rock bottom before undertaking the residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment program and transitional housing program. He’s now two years clean.

Hi there – my name’s Jeff (changed name) – I’m a bit over two years’ clean. I went to rehab in November 2018 and also completed the transition housing program at the Hader Clinic Queensland. Like many addicts, I was addicted to more than one substance – in my case it was methamphetamines and alcohol being the two “majors”.

In terms of my upbringing, I had a pretty normal childhood, my family stayed together for it – I had both parents, so nothing too abstract there. I started using pot and alcohol in early high school with my schoolmates. It was more of a party thing, and what the group did to fit in. It was just what we did every now and again on weekends. It never really became any problem for my until I turned eighteen. I could now legally purchase alcohol and I started doing this quite often.

When I used at that age, I always drugged or drank to the point of passing out, there was no middle ground. I guess that was the difference between myself and the people I was hanging out with. That continued all throughout my late teens and early 20s. I got into a relationship that fell apart after a couple of years. We bought a house together and during that time my drinking and drugging just took over like wildfire. My partner could not handle this, which is fair enough too, and decided to leave.

After those events, I just started to use heavily, all day and every day. It was both heavy alcohol and drug use. By that stage I had started using meth – once every couple of weeks. Then it turned into once a week, then Thursday to Sunday, then eventually every day. I was just 22. Life at that stage was pretty sad. The first thing I’d do when I woke up was to have a drink and use. I isolated in my house all day, I had little contact with others. I drove whatever friends I still had away, and started hanging out with other users and dealers.

My family were aware that I was drinking heavily, but it wasn’t until things started getting really bad, including losing half my body weight, that they realised that I was using more than just alcohol. Along with losing weight over six to eight months of heavy meth use, I also started getting into trouble with the law. I had stopped going to work long before that. I worked in real estate and one day I simply didn’t show up. I turned to crime to support my habit – I accrued some drug related and violence related charges in that time.

I guess when I was about 23 or so, I was given the choice by the court to either go to jail, or go to rehab. I chose to go to The Hader Clinic Queensland.

I’ve actually been there twice. The first time, I got kicked out after sixty days for using. At that stage, I didn’t want to get clean. I just didn’t want to go to jail.

I got opted out for thirty days and did not return to The Hader Clinic Queensland for a year. When I got out, I started using again – just as heavy as before, for an entire year. It was almost as if I was rebelling.

After doing another year of heavy using, every aspect of my life got worse. The isolation became more pronounced, plus my habit was expensive. At my worst, I was using $1500 worth of drugs per day. It was unhealthy and unsustainable – and yes, I started getting into trouble with the wrong types of people and the law.

I think I got to the stage where I had an epiphany one evening and thought, “I can’t do this anymore”.

The funny thing with the first stint at rehab was that I believed that I used more afterwards because deep down, I now knew that there was a better way. I just wasn’t ready. Sure, using was fun for those first few days after rehab, but then it quickly turned into that hideous addictive cycle. It was no fun, in fact it felt soul destroying.

That’s when I decided that I had enough. I contacted my mother, who travelled up to my place at Airlie Beach. She helped me pack up my house and got me off to rehab. I had been planning to stay with Mum to try and get clean, but she insisted that I go to rehab.

However, before I entered rehab again, I got picked up by the police. I had an outstanding warrant for my arrest, so I got locked up on the Sunshine Coast for a week or so and then sent to rehab. Second time around was a completely different experience. When I arrived, I had no clothes and no shoes. It literally was the rock bottom for me.

I wanted recovery. I wanted to be there – which made all the difference in my experience.

I also did the Transition Housing program. I wanted the opportunity to do everything I could to promote my sobriety, any extras. It was a good opportunity and time for me to work on myself.

And here I am, two years’ clean!

The first three months in the transition house, was about learning to get back to doing things on my own. For example, waking up every day with a routine – go for a run, have breakfast, put a load of washing on. That sort of thing. I hadn’t done this for years.

The biggest key message I have to share is that you have to be real with yourself. You have to want recovery. That’s why rehab “didn’t work” first time around for me – I was continually lying to myself. I wasn’t being honest with myself about where I was at.

I think that’s what has kept me clean, continually evaluating where I’m at and what I’m feeling.

I still have a sponsor who attends NA frequently, but I don’t participate as much these days. I did a meeting once a day in rehab and twice a day in the transition house and I really didn’t do any more after that. However, I do stay in touch with my sponsor a couple of times a week, and that has worked well for me. I’ve been working with him for the last two years.

Now, I’m at university and studying computer science and mathematics, which I am loving.

One thing that I did do differently after I left rehab was that I deleted all my social media accounts and my old contacts, except for my family. Anyone that I had an association with in using drugs… well, I don’t speak to them anymore. I also got a new phone number.

I moved towns. I moved nearly 1000km south. I’m from Airlie Beach originally and it wasn’t until I had done a year clean that I went back for a visit. I enjoy fishing and boating – however, I don’t think I could have done it any earlier. It’s a small town and you run into people. I just didn’t want to have exposure to anyone from my past.

Although I don’t have cravings for drugs anymore, the hardest part of staying clean was when my mother passed away – I had been eight months’ clean at that stage, and I was devastated. That has probably been the only time that I have been intensely triggered to use. After I got through that, nothing has really come close to those feelings. I am grateful that she had been there to see me get clean and to help me – I will always have these wonderful memories.

There’s always hope if you want recovery.

Now that I’ve been clean for so long, I’ve been able to get back to doing activities that I love. For example, I love music, concerts and going to gigs and stuff. People are always drunk at these types of events. However, I can handle myself in these situations now with no problem. One reason I stopped going to meetings was that people used to tell me that it was impossible to attend these types of events in recovery. While I appreciate that it may be the case for some people, I just didn’t agree with it. Again, you have to be honest with yourself about your why. I go because I’m motivated by my love, and enjoyment of the music. I have come to realise that by not drinking that I can immerse myself fully in the music and the moment.

I own my past. I disclose it when I think it’s important.

Since I became clean, I have made two new friends. I’m dating a lovely young lady – my first foray into a relationship post rehab. I think I told her upfront on one of our first dates why I don’t drink and the reasons why. I have also made another friend at uni – I wasn’t completely honest with him straightaway. However, after a couple of weeks, we went out for a game of pool, he asked me if I’d like a drink. Again, I told him that I didn’t drink and the reasons why. I made it quite clear to them that they didn’t have to feel anxious having a drink around me – that I wasn’t going to be triggered into using. I’ve come to a deep sense of peace that drinking is something I can’t do anymore – and have no desire for either. I’m at the point where I can go out with friends, they can have a drink, and I’ll quite happily sip on a Coke.

Life is good. I am appreciative of my time at the Hader Clinic Queensland and the tools I learned to help me stay clean.

Peter’s Ice Addiction Recovery

Nearly three years ago Peter, a former army officer and ice addict, completed our residential addiction treatment program. He now shares his progress.

I am a former army officer who served three tours of Afghanistan, Rwanda and Somalia at the time of the Kibeho massacre.

Two years have passed since I shared my addiction recovery story and I wanted to give an update and further insight into my recovery journey.

Anyone can change. I believe the trick is that we must want to change.

Veterans 360 found me at a time when my life was at rock bottom. I had left my wife and kids two years’ earlier and for most of that time I had no fixed address.

I was existing, couch surfing where I could with anyone that would let me.

Finally, I became desperate enough to accept an offer of a bed from my brother. Previously, I had felt too embarrassed to accept.

Following my time in residential rehab spending a further six months in the Hader Clinic Queensland Transition Housing Program also helped me greatly. I believe the extra time helped me in my recovery.

By the time I left rehab, I was feeling strong.

My thinking around addiction changed.  The way I thought about myself changed.  After not being present for the longest time I was beginning to look forward to the future.

I mentioned previously that my wife and I rekindled our marriage after she came to visit me in the transition house.

After a few visits, she asked me if I’d like to come home.

I would be lying if I said that this was an easy transition.

A lot of things change over two years.

I was very conscious about coming home and trying not to ‘change everything’ to suit me. Plus, unbeknownst to me, my daughter’s boyfriend had also moved into our home.

I didn’t get on well with him and at all and we clashed.

There were a few awful nights where I thought I might use again, but luckily with the support of NA here in Darwin, they were able to talk me off the ledge.

Initially, I felt like I had a lot to prove but slowly, with time, my family relationships have improved and become stronger.”

Another challenge I faced was switching careers after being medically discharged from the military. It was a challenge forging a new career path while maintaining my commitment to recovery.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do. It was really hard as a lot of our identity is tied up in our careers.

After all, I had spent most of my adult life in the military and knew nothing else.

I am luckier than most in that I receive an army pension, so I was able to take my time in deciding what I wanted to do.

Initially, I had a photography business that I started when I was medically discharged from the army, which was doing alright, however I was still using.

A fresh start was in order.

Now, I’m working with Mission Australia as a therapeutic support worker.

At first, I was hesitant about this role as I didn’t think I was strong enough. However, as I’ve recovered, I have gained the urge to help others, to “give back”, if you like.

I also enrolled into a Diploma of Alcohol and Other Drugs through Charles Darwin University to support my role. I feel rewarded by the job, it is giving back and I believe that I am helping.

Life these days is about juggling work, study, CrossFit, golf and time with my family. Keeping fit is important to me. I’ve even participated in some CrossFit Masters competitions.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days where my head will take me to the place of using.

Ups and downs are part of life.

They don’t disappear because you’re clean, you just have to manage life in a different (and better!) way than using drugs.

Recovery and abstinence are possible. As time goes by you get stronger and stronger.

It’s important to understand your triggers and understand that you cannot do it alone.

It’s important to ask for help, especially if you’re a man because often we try and tough it out alone. Don’t.

This is where rehab and organisations like Narcotics Anonymous help immensely.  When something goes wrong, as I mentioned, my head can still take me there and I think that I could use.

This is why it’s important to remember where you’ve come from.

If I use, I will not be able to control it and I know exactly where I will end up.

You need to have a holistic approach to recovery. My time in the army meant that fitness had to be a part of my recovery and it has helped me greatly.

Remaining abstinent from drugs and alcohol means everything to me.

I still have some issues from my time in the army that I’m dealing with through the help of the DVA and counselling.  Although I have some bad days with these issues, they’d be considerably worse if I was still using.

Rehab and recovery have been hard work but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m glad I have the opportunity in my role to help others who are suffering too.

I’m grateful for every day and look forward to the future.

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