Mental Health Archives - Hader Clinic Queensland

Veteran Tom’s Alcohol Addiction Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

Lyndon’s Meth Relapse Recovery Story

After seven suicide attempts and ten stints in rehab, Lyndon undertook residential addiction treatment for his meth addiction.

This is his story.

My substance was meth. Has been since forever.

I’ve been in transition since October last year. I’m a serial relapser. But this time will be different. I’m trying to give myself the best chance at recovery this time. I don’t have another “recovery” left in me.

Growing up, my family moved around a lot, and I felt that I didn’t belong anywhere. All my friends lived further away from me, and my family didn’t have a lot of money, so I always felt two steps behind everyone else. I just felt like the odd one out.

When I was 12, something happened to me while I was at a friend’s house, and that’s when this stuff started. It sort of changed stuff inside me, and I never told anyone about what happened to me. That’s when I looked for something else to make me feel good.

I met this older guy at a party who introduced me to smoking weed. I thought that was pretty cool – I didn’t see it as a problem. I got into acid when I was 16 or 17. It was every weekend. While the others would do it Friday and Saturday, I’d want to do it Sunday too.

I’d always drink to get drunk; I never really did it to have fun. I would just be in a corner, smashing it down to get hammered. I was going nowhere.

Then I joined the army.

Dad pushed me into doing it – wanted me to make something of myself. In the army, I found that sense of belonging I was looking for.

But I was angry. I had a lot of anger in me at that point. I was always on edge. The army feeds on that. And aggression too.

I became violent. A lot of that violence was fueled by the booze, and I hurt people, I think, because of what happened to me as a kid. I’m not proud of the things I did or the person I was then.

In the army, there is a real drinking culture. I was drinking 20 of these $1 cans every day. The weekends were a blur. I ended up getting busted for smoking pot and was kicked out.

Coming back home, I didn’t know how to live on my own. I had only known living with my parents and the army. I did know how make myself feel “normal” and that was sticking a needle in my arm.

I reconnected with a mate in Brisbane, who was one of the largest supplies at the time. I truly went off the rails. Went from 120kg to 42kgs in 6 weeks. I freaked my parents out, and I ended up doing a detox program in HADS, and then rehab at Logan House. It didn’t last. I had so much anger in me, and I didn’t understand addiction as a disease, I thought it was a lifestyle choice.

For a few years I partied hard, got on the gear, weed, and booze. I had no personal relationships, just associates. I did a stint in jail, getting arrested for warrants.

I started associating with bike gangs and the shadier side of it all. I had this certain skillset I’d been trained in (in the army) and all this anger. I would use to feed the anger, to get angry and stay angry, and did things to people I’m not proud of.

My lifestyle was taking a toll on me not only physically, but mentally as well. So, I went to rehab again. This time, I did a CBT based program, which was 3 months.

I met a woman in rehab.

We ended up moving in together and I was working 100 hours a week, driving a truck. She was still dabbling in pills at that point. I think the hours took a toll on me, and I got back on the gear again to try and keep up.

Unbeknownst to me, she was blowing all our money, sending it to her kids or something. We lost our place and split up. We ended up reconnecting in Mackay and got a place together. She got sacked from her job and said to me one day that she had work in Brisbane. She left and never came back.

She bloody broke my heart. She also left me with a lot of debt.

I had nothing. I was in a town I couldn’t afford to live in; my habit was starting to build up again.

I bailed and went back to Bundaberg, where I met my soon-to-be wife. She was my nephew’s daycare mum.

She knew that I was a user previously, but she thought I was just a pot-smoker now, and she was okay with that.

We ended up getting married and it was great. She kind of showed me what it was like to feel loved again; to be able to love. I’d never felt that before, and it was all I wanted.

Everything was good.

By then though, I was using more. I was hanging around my cousin who was doing it. I put myself back in it all.

Now I’m juggling two lives, trying to hide this from her. We were married and our relationship was actually pretty good. We grew the business together; I went back to driving trucks. I was doing overnight work, using and smoking, then doing the day care with her. We had family stuff on the weekend – it was really cool.

She ended up getting diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The tumor was sitting on top of her lungs.

I just thought, the one thing in my life I’ve found that is pure, is going to be taken away from me.

How I dealt with all of that, is how I usually deal with things. Stick a needle in my arm.

I’m using hard at this point.

We moved to Burpengary to be closer to her treatment. She started intense chemo.

I don’t want to say I wasn’t present for my wife; I was there, taking her to the hospital and stuff, doing all of my duties. However, I wasn’t there.

I was just waiting to get on it again. The using stepped up when we moved to Burpengary. Having to watch your wife get pumped full of chemicals… there’s no counselling for people who have to watch their loved ones go through that.

The whole time I’m lying about the using.

We beat cancer in the end. Thank God.

Then the lies were getting too much. I was hiding stuff that I was hocking off. She confronted me. I just couldn’t handle lying to her anymore, this beautiful woman who’d been through so much. I thought she’d stick by me if I just told her what was going on.

I told her what was happening. I guess that really made her hurt; made her look like a fool. I get it. I understand that. She said you need to go get help and you can’t come back home. That’s it.

A week later, I was trying to hang myself in a tree. I went into the “nuthouse”, got off it, got on again, got into rehab at Logan again.

She saw me about 5 weeks in. She was glad I was getting help, but that was it. She was seeing a lawyer and getting a divorce.

I thought, what am I doing this for then?

I bailed. I was back a couple months later, same rehab.

I didn’t know how to live really, but I was slowly beginning to understand that this isn’t a lifestyle choice. There’s something deeper going on.

One day, I was driving through Burpengary and saw the ex-wife driving the other way. Something broke inside me, and I ended up trying to neck myself in a park near Bribie. Thank God someone called the ambos.

I was back in the “nuthouse” again and lived in a park for a couple weeks after that. I was on the gear and experiencing bad psychosis. I started seeing these faceless shapes and walked 2 hours to the overpass at Caloundra where I tried to jump off it.

I don’t know how it happened, but a mate turned up out of the blue and saved me.

I tried these different rehabs after that but ended up bailing. At this point, all I had was a bag of clothes.

I went back to Logan House. I did 9 months there and experienced a bit of a mental decline. That’s when I found out I have PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Finally, I had a label for what I was experiencing. It wasn’t just the gear sending me nuts.

I was 18 months clean before I relapsed. I was overwhelmed with life, and I didn’t know how to live without using.

I was going back in and out of different rehabs again; did two more stints in the “nuthouse”.

I was back on the gear, suicidal, and living in squalor.

A friend ended up taking me to her place, and that’s when I got in contact with the RSL.

I found out about a homeless vet program and was moved into a motel.

It was at Unity Day for NA, that I met up with JJ, and he mentioned Hader Clinic Queensland took DVA clients. That planted a seed in my head.

Trish called me, we booked in an assessment, and I was in.

I was to arrive on Monday. It was Friday, and I got on it.

I didn’t have any clean needles. I had this really old one and was trying to go in the spot I always go in. I was crying and I just couldn’t stop. I can still feel it. It was like punching a nail through a wall. I only got half of it in, and I couldn’t see properly because I was crying and kept missing, so I pulled out. There was blood all over the place. For the first time in 30 years, I flushed it down the toilet.

I kind of knew then that I was done. I’m done. I’m really messed up.

I had a tense weekend within myself, knowing what was coming up. But I made it clear to myself, just do whatever they tell you.

I got up there on the Monday. I don’t remember the first few days, I just kind of knew I was done. I still have using left it in me, I know that. But the recovery stuff, I can’t do again. I don’t think I’d make it back.

I’ve had 7 suicide attempts. 10 stints in rehabs. I needed to be broken to a point where I got that gift of desperation.

The understanding they had speaks volumes. It comes out in how they treat you – especially Mark and Wade; all of them really, but especially Mark and Wade. They’re amazing at what they do. They get it. They’ve felt what I was feeling.

I gained an understanding of what this disease is to me, and how it affects me. When Mark said that it’s a disease of my thinking, I had to get a real grasp on what that means to me. That’s been the biggest shift for me, this time around.

I’m 7 months clean today.

I’ve had a rough time this week, but I’ve worked the program for myself today. I’ve learned that I can sit with my shit, and still be okay; I don’t have to seek solace at the end of a needle. I really don’t.

I’ve got a good sponsor, I do a daily check-in. I love the accountability of this transition program.

Mum and Dad are still with me. Dad calls me mate. That means the world to me, him calling me mate. They came to Hader to visit me, and I think they got a better understanding of what this stuff means to me, and that it’s not just a case of just giving up drugs.

I like Dad calling me mate.

It’s really nice. It’s not something I had with him before. He instigates hugs today, and he’s not a hugger. But he does. He gives me a hug anyway.

My ultimate goal one day… is to have a Hader Clinic Queensland staff shirt. I don’t want to work anywhere else.

There is something about that place, and what goes on there, that is really special.

2022, The Year of You

Prioritising your mental and physical health are so important in the age of COVID.

How is 2022 looking for you?

Way back in 2020, when we first discussed the effects of COVID-19 and lockdowns on addiction, mental health and illicit drug supply issues, we could not have imagined that we would still be dealing with COVID-19 front and centre in 2022.

As the pandemic has progressed, we have begun to witness the long-term effects on society, including witnessing an uptick in the incidence of mental health and addiction disorders.

“Addiction and mental health issues are intricately tied to each other in a number of ways,” explains Mel Symon, Director of Hader Clinic Queensland. “The interplay between both is unique for every individual, but underpinning most addictive behaviours is a lack of coping skills.”

Rather than manage the ongoing lockdowns, fears of getting COVID-19, job losses and the generalised heightened anxiety that has come our way in a healthy manner, many of us indulge in addictive substances. This is, at its very core, based on a desire to change your mood and relieve yourself of uncomfortable emotions.

Drinking or drug-using appears like a simple solution initially – after all, we’ve been played by many in mainstream media that having a drink with friends is social, relaxing and will take all your cares away in that moment.

However, for someone that is caught down the rabbit hole of addiction, this momentary emotional relief that a substance initially provides becomes a millstone around their neck – not only does one typically need to ingest more of the offending substance to have an effect, but the knock-on feelings of guilt, shame and desperation eventually make life unmanageable.

At the beginning of a new year, many of us, including those who suffer from addiction, make resolutions to change.

We might think to ourselves in regards to the substance of addiction, “I’m done and I’m disgusted with myself. I need to be a better person – I’m never touching X again”. And invariably, when a relapse occurs, the person may think, “I’m a bad person and I deserve to be unhappy”.

This can lead to the person punishing themselves by isolating from friends and family, self-harming, and taking a “devil may care approach” to their addiction – because they’re too worn out to try and care anymore.

However, you can choose a different path in 2022 and it all comes down to behaviour change. In order to change, there must be a part of ourselves that begins to believe that we are worthy of self-love, compassion and kindness – and that self-punishment for our mishaps isn’t an effective strategy for long term change.

As a start, challenging our overly critical selves can help us see better long-term results in recovery and in life.

Hader Clinic Queensland embraces the 12 Step philosophy which states that we are to take one day at a time. In other words, we aren’t committing to being abstinent forever – just for today – because, after all, nobody is perfect.

We focus on the here and now – just today. When we make a mistake, we take accountability for it and take the next step forward.

Changing your behaviours in the long-term means accepting that there is a problem with how you’re behaving currently – and being open to change with a sense of curiosity, compassion and perspective.

Ask yourself honestly, what is going to be different this year? It is impossible to know unless you change your perspective. Most New Year’s resolutions fail because the parameters we define for them are too large for most human brains to wrap their heads around. A year is a long time!

However, scaling our changes downwards to create meaningful change in a smaller time window is key.

Start first with, “what is going to be different today?”

If that is too overwhelming, try “what is going to be different in the next hour?”

The old adage, “yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift,” rings true for every person, whether they suffer from addiction or not.

We are given the gift of hope with every new day that arises. Yes, we as a society, are in it for the long haul with COVID-19, yes, it has been a test! The best part is that, yes, we can change our behaviours around addiction within the next hour, day, week, month and so forth. Small steps lead to big journeys. Having support to lighten the load when the going gets tough is also key. That’s why we teach you how to make these changes in a way that works for you at Hader Clinic Queensland.

There is ALWAYS hope! Happy New Year!

Living with an Addict During COVID-19 Lockdown

Living with someone suffering from addiction can be challenging at the best of times but the current COVID-19 lockdown is likely to be compounding the difficulties you are experiencing.

It is important to realise that there is still help available to you and your loved one suffering from addiction and, if needed, you should not hesitate to seek it.

We have put together some useful information below including how to look after yourself and your loved one.

Be prepared

During lock down active addicts might:

  • Become agitated as their supply dwindles and going out to replenish it becomes more complicated
  • Experience social withdrawal as they are no longer able to see their usual circle of fellow users
  • Experience “cabin fever” as they are no longer able to maintain their usual routine
  • Use more frequently than usual to alleviate the boredom and ward of anxieties related to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Experience feelings of paranoia as conspiracy theories related to the COVID-19 pandemic are rife all over social media

Recovering addicts might:

  • Experience stronger cravings than usual, as the added stress of lockdown gets to them
  • Become anxious about losing their support system as they are no longer able to attend support groups
  • Feel overwhelmed by the disruption of their hard-won routines – especially if they are no longer able to go out to work/have temporarily lost employment due to pandemic related closures

Dealing with an addict during lockdown

Here are some useful guidelines to keep yourself safe when dealing with an addict during lockdown:

Dos

  • Make sure you have emotional support – this can come from friends, family or professional support persons
  • Remember that you cannot control your loved one’s behaviour
  • Learn about addiction as an illness
  • Set healthy boundaries (i.e. stand firm on the restrictions of lockdown, now is not the time to have gatherings at your home, even if you might have previously preferred your loved one to use their substance of choice in the safety of your premises)
  • Listen to your loved one when they are willing to talk
  • Look after yourself – eat well, get sleep, exercise, leave the house for a breather
  • Find out about addiction treatment options in your area, so you will be ready when your loved one wants to start their recovery

Don’ts

  • Don’t try to shield your loved one from the consequences of their addiction (i.e. pay their rent, buy their groceries)
  • Don’t make excuses for your loved one when they neglect their responsibilities at work, school or home
  • Don’t search the house for alcohol, drugs and paraphernalia
  • Don’t berate, lecture or nag your loved one about their substance abuse
  • Stay away from ultimatums and emotional blackmail (i.e. If you loved me, you wouldn’t do this!)
  • Don’t let your loved one draw you into endless rounds of passing the blame or justifying their behaviour
  • Don’t get into arguments when your loved one is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Don’t take your loved one’s outbursts personally and do not take on the responsibility for their condition
  • Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you could solve your loved one’s substance abuse problems, if only you tried hard enough

Starting addiction treatment during lockdown

Being in lockdown your loved may be more willing to undertake a residential addiction treatment program. Not only would this be beneficial to your loved one, but it will remove any immediate issues that you are facing.

If your loved one enters into addiction treatment during lockdown, it will allow you to focus on your own needs for a while, without feeling as though you are neglecting your loved one.

Enabling

The temptation to enable your loved one’s addiction, just to keep the peace during an unprecedented situation like a lockdown, can be strong.

However, once you begin to learn about the cycle of addiction, you will realise that any crisis in an addict’s life has the potential to become a turning point.

By enabling your loved one’s addiction and protecting them from the consequences of their actions, you are doing them a disservice. Yes, watching your loved one suffer is heart-breaking; but you never know which disaster may be the catalyst for permanent change.

We recommend taking the time to learn more about enabling.

Online Support

Actively seeking out online support groups ( i.e. https://thefirststop.org.au/family-support-services/) for friends and family of addicts can feel a little odd at first; after all, you’re not the one struggling with substance abuse, so you may not think that you are in need – or even deserving – of help. It’s only normal to feel a little weird about taking such a big step, but you will be surprised how much it can improve your situation.

Let’s face it: Loving an addict is hard, especially if you live together.

It’s a constant emotional strain, it often goes hand in hand with financial struggles, and the unrelenting feeling of uncertainty is incredibly draining.

Families and friends of addicts commonly experience strong feelings of helplessness, inadequacy and anxiety; they can become depressed and socially isolated under normal circumstances – but in exceptional situations like this it is absolutely essential to take steps to ensure you don’t become completely disconnected from the outside world.

Support groups, if nothing else, will prove conclusively that you are not alone.

Thousands of families and couples are impacted by addiction to drugs and/or alcohol; and even though their struggles may not be identical to yours, there are enough similarities to create common ground for discussion and mutual support.

Simply being in an environment where you don’t need to feel ashamed in some way of your situation can provide incredible relief.

Being able to openly talk about the hurdles you face every day when trying to deal with an addict’s erratic outbursts, unreliability and emotional blackmail, is a very cathartic experience.

Every time you attend a support meeting or even just talk to a support worker on the phone, you will come away stronger, saner and better able to deal with the next curve ball that comes your way.

Stay connected

Another important thing to keep in mind is that your loved one’s addiction should not bring your own life to a stop.

This is of course easier said than done in a national lockdown situation, however, social distancing does not equal a total cessation of socialising.

Even though the Queensland government has asked us to observe self-isolation, quarantine and social distancing rules, you still can

  • Go for a walk with a friend
  • Visit a friend or family member at home/have them come to your house. Two visitors are allowed on any private premises, although keeping a safe distance while you are hanging out is encouraged
  • Go and exercise on your own to clear your mind. Going for a walk/run/bike ride is not a restricted activity.
  • Call and/or video call a friend. Just because you can’t hang out at your favourite coffeeshop anymore, doesn’t mean you can’t get a take away brew, make yourself comfortable at home and have a virtual date with a friend or family member.

Where To Get Further Help And Support

  • Lifeline – 13 11 14
  • Family Drug Support – National service supporting families affected by alcohol and drugs, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – 1300 368 186
  • CounsellingOnline – Free alcohol and drug counselling online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • ADIN – Australian Drug Information Network
  • Al-Anon Support for parents and children of alcoholics – 24-hour Help Line 1300 252 666

Domestic Violence in Lockdown

Stressful situations, like the current COVID-19 crisis, often see an increase in domestic violence and when living with an addict, you fall into a higher risk category to experience this. If your loved one is showing signs of becoming violent towards you or others in your home – or if you fear they might turn to violence – it is important to know where to turn.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Queensland government has approved substantial monetary support for Domestic Violence Support Services, so do not hesitate to contact any of the following services for help and advice:

NOTE: If your loved one is having a violent outburst and you and/or members of your household are in immediate danger, you must call 000. Queensland police takes domestic violence calls very seriously and will come to your assistance immediately.

COVID-19 & Addiction Treatment

In recent weeks and days, the world has been thrown into health and economic turmoil with the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19.

With businesses closing down due to either Government restrictions or lack of trade, many individuals have subsequently lost their jobs and are in precarious financial positions. Additionally, strict border control measures, both internationally and interstate, have slowed the movement of people and trade.

Health and medical services are being mobilised to prepare for the onslaught of coronavirus cases in hospitals, including intensive care units in coming weeks and months.

Access Economics estimates that current annual turnover for illicit drugs in Australia sits at $7 billion dollars. Unlike the wider economy, we have limited knowledge on how it operates, but understand that it is not immune to the disruption being wreaked by the coronavirus.

For an individual suffering from the disease of addiction, the effects of world events are amplified as both health and economic stress are compounded. These effects also mean that specialised treatment for addiction in the current climate is of escalating importance.

Here’s why you should consider treatment for you or your loved one’s addiction issues immediately.

The Effect Of A Worldwide Illicit Drug Shortage Upon Addiction Sufferers

An effect of a shortage of any commodity drives up prices and in the drug trafficking, it is no different. For addiction sufferers, it means sourcing drugs is more difficult, prices are higher and some sufferers may turn to crime and acts of violence to procure illicit substances.

Additionally, an addiction sufferer is likely to indulge in riskier behaviours to get their ‘fix’, for example, using unknown dealers and substituting other substances where the dosage window is precarious. For example, heroin users will often switch to fentanyl, however, it is difficult to titrate the correct doses and overdoses and death frequently occur as a result.

Entering into rehabilitation will reduce these risks.

The Effect Of A Coronavirus Infection Upon Addiction Sufferers

Addiction is classified by the DSM-V as a mental health disorder, however physical side effects that affect a sufferer’s long term health are commonplace. For example, clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune related health effects such as susceptibility to infection, particularly pneumonia.

Compromised immunity or other health conditions place addiction sufferers in the high risk category of patients that may become infected with coronavirus, with the known impact of the virus being particularly severe upon this population. Again, entering into rehabilitation with the goal of restoring physical and mental health substantially reduces risk.

The Effect Of Economic Impact Of Coronavirus On Addiction Sufferers

Many people are losing their jobs and other sources of income as affected businesses shut their doors due to impact of necessary measures such as social distancing and personal hygiene measures. This can put enormous strain on sufferers of addiction and their families. However, in active addiction, the substance of abuse is prioritised over the needs of the family. This has a knock on effect of creating severe family disadvantage – whereas if an addiction sufferer is in treatment, this is lessened.

The Effect Of An Overworked Hospital System Upon Addiction Sufferers

With an increased demand for hospital and medical services as a result of the spread of COVID-19, other medical emergencies, such as a drug overdose may not be able to be given their usual priority. This could prove deadly for an addiction sufferer. Attending rehabilitation or placing a loved one into rehabilitation reduces such risk.

Rehabilitation Insulates Sufferers From Stress And Teaches Appropriate Coping Mechanisms

Residential rehabilitation programs place the addiction sufferer in a safe environment where they can restore their physical and mental health. Rehabilitation teaches sufferers alternative behaviours that allow them to cope with crises and look after themselves and their families.

Rehabilitation also gives the sufferer the ability to source employment after treatment.

For families, knowing that your loved one is safe from the potentially deadly effects of this global pandemic and knowing that they’re learning tools to manage their recovery and life, can be a great source of comfort.

The Hader Clinic Queensland have put in place strict health and management procedures to ensure that client and staff safety is of the highest priority.

References: 

“Alcohol and the Immune System”. Sarkar, D. et al. “Alcohol Research Reviews”. 2015

“Modernizing Australia’s Illicit Drug Policy”. Wodak, A. Submission to House of Representatives Australia, from Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation.

25 Years of Recovery

Wendy, a Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential addiction treatment program support worker has been 25 years in recovery. She shares her story.

Hi, let me start by saying my addiction recovery journey hasn’t been straightforward and I have relapsed on my way. I want you to know that relapse does not mean failure, rather, that it’s just another important step in the journey and that there’s always hope.

I have been working in the field of mental health and addiction for several years and also have ‘lived experience’ with addiction as well.

My story has been one of getting years of “clean time” up and then I’ll relapse. It’s a matter of getting back up and going again. My last relapse occurred after a knee surgery where opioids were prescribed for pain relief… then alcohol became involved… and next minute… relapse.

It’s just that underlying nature of addiction, that tendency I have towards it. Even though opioids were never my primary drug of addiction, taking an addictive drug as a pain killer was never going to work for me, it precipitated me going back into relapse.

I reckon I would have become addicted from the very first tablet I took.

It’s about learning as you go.

I should have disclosed prior to my surgery that I had a history of addiction and that I shouldn’t take opioid medication, however, my sneaky addict brain convinced me, “nah, you’ll be fine, you’ve had an operation”.

I don’t know what I told myself about the alcohol I used with it. That’s how quickly it snowballed.

I was managing four mental health programs at the time, yet addiction still hit me. The trouble was that I was able to maintain a good front professionally, and given my role, I found it very hard to ask for help. I’ve gotten out of control again.

You need to learn your safeguards and how to put them into place, share the warning signs and have a “safety plan’ in place.

Addiction doesn’t discriminate even towards professionals.

I believe there’s a strong genetic component underlying my addictive tendencies.

Once you know this, then learning to manage it, never letting your guard down and being vigilant is the key. You don’t have to relapse on something going wrong, you can also relapse on everything going perfectly right.

I’ve been in and out of recovery for the past 25 years, within the NA fellowship. I did my timeline with my sponsor when I did the Twelve Step program.

I can see where it all started.

I was eleven and I had some friends over. When my parents went out, we all got into the liquor cabinet. We all got intoxicated and very sick. When I came to, I thought, “I have to do that again” whereas all of my friends were completely turned off the idea of drinking as a result.

By 13 or 14 I was smoking weed, sniffing glue, doing anything I could do to ‘just escape’.

I had also been diagnosed with adolescent depression, so using was definitely an escape. However, it really started affecting my mental health. I felt like I could never get on top of it because I kept putting more (drugs) in.

This pattern followed me through high school and my early employment.

At 21, I got work with the airlines and worked with them for nearly fifteen years. I was an international flight attendant so that lifestyle pretty much propped up my addictions.

I identified as a poly-user – I would use anything and everything, just as long as I could feel that high, so I never had any specific drug of choice.

Throughout my addiction, I got repeated arrests for drug possession.

I also got some very heavy charges due to being in psychosis – I even assaulted a police officer.

I was deported from America.

I got married, thinking “that will save me”.

I had a child, thinking, “that will save me”.

I ended up stepping down from the airlines and with too much time on my hands and an unlimited bank account… well, it was a recipe for disaster.

I was fortunate that my ex-husband was clean and sober and could look after our son.

We would do drugs socially on occasion, but I was an everyday user, whether it be alcohol, GHB, cocaine, you name it.

I was incapable of parenting my son.

My ex-husband looked after my son exclusively from the age of two until he was nine, when I got clean for the first time. I can’t really remember anything during this time, birthdays, milestones or special occasions.

My ex-husband and I separated and then when I got my final arrest, and deportation back to Australia, he took full custody of my son.

I had Department of Children’s Services (DOCS) involved.

My son wasn’t allowed to be in my care unless I could produce hair follicles, urine and blood tests proving that I was clean. This went on for about three years.

My son is now 19 and my addiction has impacted him.

He’s been in therapy for a couple of years now. He finds it very hard to attach to people.

That important phase of me nurturing him, I just wasn’t there for it. I’d always push him away because I was high.

We’ve come full circle though, we’ve both been in therapy and he understands that addiction is a disease.

He’s doing well and he encourages me to stay in recovery.

He’s had a few issues with dabbling in marijuana use.

It all came to a head twelve months ago, when he attempted to take his own life.

He’s much better now, however, he has definitely inherited the family tendency towards addiction and depression.

With poly-use I do believe there are underlying genetic factors and your environment pulls the trigger.

As a little boy, my son would come in to check that I was still breathing. There’s been a lot of trauma there, which will take a lot of work to heal.

When I came into recovery two years ago, I had to start educating him because he was a lot older.

We really had to look honestly at the whole situation – how it had affected both of us and what we had to do to work through things.

My last relapse lasted eighteen months.

As I said, I was working in the industry and I held so much shame and remorse around my situation.

Relapse had come through a side door and I didn’t know how to ask for help.

It finally came to a head, with one of my best friends (who is a detox nurse at another rehab) recognising that something was amiss.

She came to me and said, “I can see what’s going on and we need to get you help”.

It was a relief, to be honest. I felt really cornered.

A message I want to give to people is that we addicts get very good at manipulation and putting up all these masks to cover up.

Since I’ve been working at Hader Clinic Queensland, I’ve seen more and more professionals struggling with addiction.

I just gave a talk to some of them about the cycle of addiction and it’s been good for them to hear each other speak and agree that we get very good at putting up these masks.

We still work, we still keep up this front, but sooner or later it all comes crashing down.

The myth of being a “functioning addict” is alive and well.

The reality of it was that when most people met me for the first time, I was high on drugs and turns out they didn’t really know me at all.

To them, my behaviours were the norm, so I could carry my disease and nobody would be the wiser.

You do need to be honest with yourself and with others and identify what’s going on.

What we think is manageable in the height of addiction… once you get clean, you begin to see that it was very un-manageable. We think we’re managing because we’re not as bad as others.

Drugs have cost me self-respect and my spirituality.

For a good portion of my life I’ve been a walking shell of a person.

It cost me my marriage, my son’s health and well-being, and of course there are the legal ramifications. I’ve spent many admissions to mental health units in psychosis and each time I’ve relapsed the psychosis has come back faster, and worse than ever before.

Clean, I’m the calmest and most loving person you could met. But once I put that substance in my body, I become aggressive, can’t stand to feel cornered and I act out that way.

Someone I don’t even recognise.

The best thing about the Hader Clinic Queensland’s addiction treatment program is the holistic approach that is taken to recovery.

While I live a really strong 12 step program and am getting better at working it all the time, The Hader Clinic Queensland also offers additional clinical support.

Some people believe that all you need is the 12 Step program to become well again, and for many of us, that is not realistic. And this is where having access to the clinical team, the psychologist and the psychiatrist are so important.

The therapeutic community aspect is fantastic.

I love that our clients share their stories and come and “give back”. We have a mixture of both lived and non lived experience on the team and both sides are equally valuable. Everyone brings something to the table.

I do love working with our Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA) clients.

They go through so much serving our country, and it’s wonderful to see that they have access to such a fantastic program here. I love doing the Psych Ed work here too – in terms of treatment, The Hader Clinic Queensland has its finger on the pulse with up to date methodologies and treatment models.

Knowledge is important for us in recovery. The education aspect is intense but it’s worth it.

Sometimes relapse is part of the story. But each time it happens and you go to rehab, you’re continuing to be educated. It’s OK. It’s a good way of saying, “what happened, and what can I do differently?”

It’s great that The Hader Clinic Queensland has seven and thirty day “option outs” in their program as it means that if somebody relapses, they can come back and start again. Because relapse is a part of many people’s cycles.

We encourage our clients to get involved with, and really take ownership of our therapeutic community.

When they do, I can see their self-esteem begin to skyrocket, especially when they get their first buddy and they have to show them through the program.

It’s those little things that so many people take for granted. When your self-esteem and confidence is that low, they are the things that start to breed a little bit of hope.

I envy those who come into treatment and remain clean from the start, but statistics show that this often isn’t the case, so the experience, strength and hope in that message if you relapse is, “get up, shake off and go again, because you will get stronger each time”.

For me, as part of working my 12 Step program, it’s important for me to share this experience, strength and hope.

It doesn’t have to be fluffy, i.e. you’re going to live a life beyond your wildest dreams. I like to keep it real. The residents say after a few weeks, “Wendy, we know …vigilance, vigilance, vigilance!”

That’s my message.

If relapse happens to you, this is what you have to remember.

Relapse isn’t failure in the long term. If anything, it’s just experience.

The sad part is, when we do relapse, there’s a percentage of us that don’t make it back to chalk it up and try again. So recovery is a gift.

All we can do is move on and learn from it and remember, there’s often no trigger for a relapse.

In my case, I let my guard down, I became disengaged and stopped working the program – and before I knew it, the addictive behaviours came sneaking back.

Within our fellowship, we call it an ‘action’ program.

I can watch people come in and work the program like steel, yet the rest of their life is chaotic.

Our program is about putting the 12 Step principles into all aspects of our life, rather than just the meeting room. It all comes down to moral conduct, holding yourself accountable and taking action.

We addicts are all good talkers. That’s what we do best. The excuses we make to get our hands on a drug!

We had a discussion about it in group education recently – once clients realised the level they sunk to in order to procure drugs they don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

It’s all about taking action which really counts.

With knowledge, we have the power to do something about it.

I’m glad that I can make that difference at The Hader Clinic Queensland.

The Challenges and Rewards of Working at an Addiction Treatment Rehab

Jay, the Program Manager at the Hader Clinic Queensland, shares a personal insight into the challenges and rewards of working with clients who undertake the residential addiction treatment program.

The Hader Clinic Queensland’s “whole person” approach changes lives for the better and while my role is often challenging, it is highly rewarding.

Seeing clients change is what gets me out of bed every single day. It can be very demanding, but when you see the positive shifts that happen in peoples’ lives, it makes it one hundred percent worth it.

It doesn’t really take much, especially in a supportive environment. To see that positive change in people, really makes it worthwhile and makes the hard days easier to deal with.

A particular challenge is when a client leaves rehab before they give the program time to start working.

Their addiction, their alcoholism, their disease is so powerful, it’s talked them out of the door before they’ve even tried to give the program an opportunity.

You just know that they’re heading back to a poor-quality life. That’s the hardest part – seeing them leave before those positive shifts happen.

Many of our clients describe their behaviour when first admitted into rehab as “intolerable”, “impossible” and “wayward” – and they came into rehab kicking and screaming and fighting the program.

For me, I don’t find this aspect of rehab hard at all.

Let’s face it, we are dealing with people who are really broken, whose perspective of life is really skewed, and this just comes with the territory.

That’s addiction. It’s never a surprise. It’s the norm if anything.

Because we’ve got such a great multidisciplinary team, we have staff with lived experience right through to the psychologist and psychiatrist, and we can always find that language that we can communicate with a person.

We can give them an understanding of why they’re doing what they’re doing, why they’re thinking the way they are thinking and how we can get them over the line and engaged in their next phase of recovery.

That “early recovery madness” is really normal, it’s part of the whole recovery process.

It’s all about being compassionate and understanding, and helping them understand why they are the way they are. Every behaviour serves a purpose.

We look past that behaviour and we really begin to focus on what that person really, really wants.

That’s the other rewarding part of my job, where you see people come closer to what they actually value in life, once they’ve gone through that initial phase of detoxing and beginning to engage with the addiction treatment program.

They are usually completely different people to the way they present on admission.

That’s what we see with 99% of our clients.

They come in presenting one way – they’ve had to do this to survive their addiction, whether it’s denial, fear, resentment, isolation, blame, whatever…. When you remove all of that over time, you begin to see who that person really is.

And more importantly, they begin to see it too.

They often tell me, “I haven’t felt like this in twenty years! I’ve forgotten who I am. And now all these years later, I have to get to know myself”.

Often an addiction sufferer simply hasn’t had that space to allow change to happen, plus they haven’t had a group of professionals around them to give them that guidance, to provide insight to help them come to those conclusions themselves.

When they’re out there on the street addicted to the drama of it all their drug dealer isn’t pulling them aside and saying, “hey you, let’s work on those core values of yours”.

The changes that an addiction sufferer can make in three, six and twelve months is profound.

You see people at three months, six months, twelve months, two years, ten years and they’re forever evolving and growing, changing. It’s a continuous journey of recovery.

Definitely what they’ve thought to be true in the first ninety days of their program is completely different eighteen months down the track. They’ve grown up.

They gain more insight, try new things and challenge themselves. They become more connected with what they really value. Their whole world changes because their perspective on everything starts to change.

Basically, they grow into different people.

What they thought they liked a year ago changes. They find new hobbies, new partners, new careers, all that sort of stuff. And it’s all as a result of them learning to make better decisions for themselves, which involves the removal of all drugs and alcohol from their life.

We’re very focused on long term connection and support.

Everyone who’s in the Transition Program participates in a “give back” program where they return to the retreat and communicate with the newer residents in the program, giving them support and feedback through their journey.

It offers the opportunity to open up, get vulnerable and just connect with each other, because when they come back to visit after finishing their ninety days, they really have established a connection and bond with those who have just started because they can share and understand what it’s like to be in their position because they’ve lived it.

They can encourage those who are struggling with tips on how to get through the early phase, to give them hope that if they can just hang on long enough, they will be successful., for example, sharing “this is what I learned to get me through this phase..hang in there, things will get better.”

There’s a ton of reassurance.

What this also does for those who participate in the “Give Back” program is an opportunity to be of service to other people. One of the principles we really try and teach our clients is “get out of yourself, and think of, and support others who are doing it tough as well”.

We often get people returning on a regular basis to our Sunday NA meeting which is held on site. They’ll come and share their milestones when they get twelve months clean, eighteen months clean, multiple years clean etc.

They share a message of hope. These clients came into treatment broken with no sense of direction and their lives are now completely different.

We encourage everyone to stay connected. It’s all too common to see someone toward the addiction being so completely isolated and disconnected from not only themselves, but those around them.

There’s a saying we have;”the opposite of addiction is connection”. Connection goes a long way.

One of the biggest factors I believe in for successful recovery is having support. Once you remove that support, it’s hard to go it alone.

In rehab you have that support 24/7. Once you leave it’s important to maintain that support through fellowship and the like.

One of the other great components of our program comes from our family coordinator.

We support the family through their loved one’s recovery. It gives them the opportunity to learn some skills in how to support their loved one, but also how to put good boundaries in place. Plus, how to recognise warning signs.

As a result, both parties get a much better understanding of each other. They’re able to start to have a more productive relationship, just by changing the dynamics. There’s often a shift within families that happens as well.

That is a fundamental part of our program.

Not many treatment centres offer that – they focus on the individual and forget that they’re part of a bigger ecosystem. However, we see it as an essential part of the bigger picture. It’s definitely an advantage.

Overall, I think we try and break down each individual component of the program.

We try and work on many different levels with our clients. For example, if someone is doing “check-in”, it’s not only them being able to check in and identify their feelings, it gives some of them who may be suffering from anxiety, for example, a platform to manage those feelings and to learn to voice their feelings rather than retreat to a place of avoidance and non-communication.

Over ninety days, it becomes much easier for them.

What that translates into when they’re back in the community is an ability to communicate their needs better, rather than falling away and feeling like they haven’t got a voice to be heard.

You don’t go to rehab, undergo the program and get kicked out. Everything that’s done in the program is transferable to real life, no matter who our clients are, where they come from and what they do for a living, or whatever their financial or social status is – that doesn’t come into it.

All the skills taught in treatment positively affect all aspects of life.

That’s one of the most beautiful things.

Initially they come into rehab and really lack emotional intelligence. Over time you start to see them develop emotionally, where they can interpret not only their reactions to situations that come up but that of others as well.

It builds connection.

I can’t see any scenario whether it be family, employment or sporting club where this isn’t of benefit. They get lots of teaching, support and development of these skills to understand themselves and others.

It’s a most rewarding job, and please remember, there is always hope!

Breaking Stigmas of Mental Health and Addiction

What a loser, a no hoper, a junkie, a bludger. They’re a stain on society. They brought it upon themselves, why should I have sympathy for them?

Unfortunately when it comes to depicting the nature of an addict, it’s common to hear phrases such as the ones above bandied around to describe them. 

Such phrases are cruel and divisive and rarely prompt someone suffering with the disease of addiction to seek treatment. 

Most people don’t know that substance use and dependency disorders are officially classified as mental health disorders (1).

In recent years, initiatives such as World Mental Health Day have sought to raise awareness around mental health issues and reduce the stigma associated with suffering from mental illness. 

Stigma around mental illness delays or prevents people from wanting to seek help.

While great strides have been made around some forms of mental illness, the disease of addiction appears especially impacted by misconception and misrepresentation – negative references such as the ones above as well as blaming and shaming do little to prompt an addict to seek help they need.

Here are a few facts about addiction and mental health and how you can help someone who is the grip of substance use disorder.

  • It’s not clear cut what comes first – substance use disorder or other underlying mental health issues. What’s important is seeking out expert addiction treatment that addresses all aspects of mental health.
  • Labelling addicts with cruel, divisive labels does nothing to help them seek treatment. Neither does blaming them for “bringing it upon themselves”. Instead acknowledge that they suffering from a mental health disorder and that help is available.
  • Support an addict with honest language that supports the person, yet acknowledges the dysfunctional aspect of addictive “talk” and behaviour. Use language that separates the person from their addiction. Avoid enabling behaviours. Tell them that you love them but will not support them in addictive addiction and the behaviours that accompany it.  
  • Let an addict know that help is available, there is always hope and recovery is possible, provided they are prepared to put in some hard work. Encourage them to make that hard work count by seeking expert help to assist in the recovery process.

Focus on what recovery entails and the benefits of freedom from addiction – strength, resilience, courage, bravery, perseverance, colour, life, service and connection are but a few!

Sources

(1) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 5” (DSM-V)

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