Patient interview 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.

Andrew’s Story of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Andrew is 49 years old and recently sought alcohol addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland. After completing the 28-day program he has stayed sober for over 2 months. This is his story of recovery.

I grew up with my Mum and Sister. I was a very introverted child. I didn’t have a lot of friends. I was very quiet and found it difficult to socialise. At the age of 5, I suffered a trauma at the hands of a loved one. Drugs and alcohol were my only coping mechanism.

The first time I drank alcohol was when I was 12. I stole it from the cupboard at home.

I remember drinking and feeling instant relief, it felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It took away the pain that I was dealing with on my own. I continued to steal alcohol from the cupboard at home regularly to self-medicate.

When I started high school, I made some older friends. They could get alcohol for me, I started going to parties every weekend and smoking pot most days. I wasn’t interested in school. I had no ambitions and no hobbies.

Everything centred around drinking and partying. Alcohol gave me the confidence I needed to make friends and feel a connection with other people.

I finished year 10 and started an apprenticeship. I would smoke pot every morning and drink every night. I didn’t see it as an issue, I believed that it helped me function. I completed my apprenticeship and started working. This cycle continued into my early 20’s.

My partying continued but progressed to much heavier drugs. I started to use amphetamines. I would drink myself unconscious every night and then use amphetamines to get through the day. Drugs and alcohol became the only way I could function.

When I was 27 I got married and started a family. We have a beautiful daughter together. I was able to stop the daily use of drugs but the alcohol addiction increased. My ex-wife was more accepting of the alcohol. I could not stop drinking, it didn’t even cross my mind to try. We were married for 16 years. In the last 5 years of our marriage, my drinking caused irreparable damage to our relationship.

As a result, my wife left me because she couldn’t live with me any longer, I was slowly killing myself and was horrible to be around. I was devastated and turned to drink even more alcohol to cope with the pain. I also started to smoke pot and use amphetamines daily again. I managed to maintain my work commitments, mostly because I needed the money to support my lifestyle.

Over the next 6 years after the break-up, I didn’t take a sober breath. My daughter stayed with me after the separation. She was basically my carer from the age of 14 to 20. She had to look after me every day. I would drink as soon as I got home from work until I passed out. She would cry and beg me to stop drinking.

Two years ago, my doctor told me I had to stop drinking or I would die. He told me my kidneys and liver were going to fail. My blood tests showed that if I didn’t stop drinking everything was going to shut down. I tried to stop but could only manage to reduce the amount I drank. I was drinking over a litre of scotch a night. I would reduce it down to a 6 pack.

This would last for a few weeks and then I would go back to drinking copious amounts of alcohol. If I didn’t drink, I would shake and dry reach. The alcohol withdrawal symptoms were unbearable and only drinking would make me feel ok again.

This went on for another 2 years. My doctor continued to tell me I was going to die. My daughter begged me to stop. One night I made a decision. I told my daughter I have got to stop or I will die. To my surprise, she had already been in contact with Hader Clinic Queensland. I work in a family business and my sister was very supportive of me getting help. I was able to take the time off work to get treatment.

I went to see my Doctor and asked him if there was any way I could do this on my own, he told me that I was completely dependent on alcohol and that I would need support. I was finally ready. I couldn’t do this on my own. I finally accepted help.

I went to an interview at Hader Clinic Queensland on a Thursday, and I was in there by the following Monday. The admission process was very easy and quick.

The staff at Hader Clinic Queensland were absolutely amazing, I learned about addiction. The stories of other recovering addicts gave me hope. I was given tools that had been proven and worked for other people. I was introduced to AA and NA. I was taught to read the literature.

They taught me how to journal, I had never done this before. This was life-changing. I was able to get my feelings out on paper and learn how to sit with these uncomfortable feelings. I still do this practice every day. I read the Daily Reflections and Just for Today reading every day. I attend regular meetings.

I couldn’t have done this without Hader Clinic Queensland, the guidance and education I received have turned my life around. The 28 days there gave me space between the last time I used or drank alcohol.

The foundation I built and the daily program I have been given have made living in the community clean and sober a possibility. I now have peers I can talk to. I finally feel a connection to the world around me.

72 days sober and I feel completely free from the compulsion to drink and use drugs. I know that I have a long journey ahead. Thanks to Hader Clinic Queensland and the continuing support I feel confident that I have the tools I need to succeed.

 

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

Nick’s Alcohol Recovery Story

Nick has been sober for 12 months today, after receiving residential addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland. This is his story of recovery from alcohol addiction.

I grew up in a small country town in Victoria. I had a happy childhood. My family has always been close, and an amazing support system for me. Their unconditional love saved me in a lot of ways.

I always felt different. I was really energetic and unable to concentrate on anything. This caused a lot of trouble for me at school and at home. I was disruptive in class and my mum struggled to control me at home. When I was 10 years old, they diagnosed me with ADHD, and put me on medication. It helped me to calm down and focus.

When I started high school, I was one of the popular kids and found it very easy to make friends. I put on a mask by being funny and the class clown. I was also a bit of a bully which is not something I’m proud of at all. Underneath all of this was a crippling feeling of not being comfortable with myself and never feeling good enough.

I didn’t want people to see how afraid I was on the inside. The doctor advised me to take my medication in the morning and at lunchtime. I didn’t know of anyone else at my school on medication and I felt embarrassed about being different, so I wouldn’t take the medication at lunchtime. This resulted in my ADHD symptoms returning. I was impulsive, restless, and discontent.

All of my friends started drinking well before me. They drank beer, and I didn’t like the taste of it. I had my first drink around the age of 15. It gave me the confidence that I felt I was lacking. Alcohol wasn’t a problem for me straight away. I could take it or leave it.

When I finished school, I moved to Melbourne, and was living with a couple of mates who were also big drinkers, but not as heavy as me, they could control it though.

I secured a good job on the oil rigs, 2 weeks on 2 weeks off and finally 1 week on 1 week off, because I couldn’t drink when I was away on the oil rigs. I felt like I had a handle on it.

I wasn’t drinking daily or homeless. These were the things I associated with being an alcoholic. I didn’t feel like it was a problem and drinking made my ADHD symptoms better, so I could justify it. I can see now that I was self-medicating.

I had a high tolerance for alcohol. For most of my 20s, I was a binge drinker. The cycle of addiction started to cause problems in my life in my late 20s. I could see how it was negatively affecting my relationships.

Alcohol took priority, and I always lost interest in the relationship I was in. Things would be good for a while, but there was always this feeling of self-doubt, self-hate, and fear bubbling under the surface. Ultimately, my relationships would end, which led to more drinking. I was plagued with waves of depression.

One night I was so heavily intoxicated that I called my mum while I was vandalising cars by smashing their windows with my fist, my mum drove to Melbourne at 3am and stayed at my brother’s house. They lured me over there in the morning, without sleeping and I continued to drink.

My mum had been trying to help me for a while as I had already had a couple of suicide attempts (which were cries for help). She was worried about me and was trying to confront me about my drinking problem. I became abusive towards my mum and my brothers. They had organised for the police to come and when they arrived, I had an altercation with them. The police arrested me and took me to hospital.

They put me on an involuntary hold for over a week and then released me back into my family’s care. I stayed at my family’s home in the country. I stopped drinking for a few weeks, but I was unable to remain sober. It troubled me that I couldn’t stop drinking even though my family desperately wanted me to.

It made me feel like such an awful person. I couldn’t understand in the face of all the harm I had caused my family; why couldn’t I just stop drinking? I felt like a complete failure and the shame, guilt, and self-loathing were worse than ever before.

In the next few years, I had multiple near-death experiences driving cars and was charged with drink driving multiple times. The cycle of addiction was affecting every area of my life.

Drinking led me to use party drugs like ecstasy, speed, and cocaine but I was never addicted. Every time I thought it couldn’t get worse, it would. Even with the serious consequences I was facing, I still couldn’t accept the fact that drinking could be the cause of all of this. I felt my mental health was more to blame.

I was part of a football club and drinking and partying were a huge part of the culture. I felt like everyone else was doing it, so why couldn’t I? I was completely unaware that alcohol affected me differently.

I met the mother of my children when I was 32 years old. Within 5 months we were pregnant with our first child. I was the happiest I had been in a long time; we owned a couple houses and things were great. My drinking continued but didn’t disturb me as much.

So not too long after our first child we were pregnant again, I was over the moon, I had a beautiful family of 4. We were very happy, I had two adorable boys and a very caring and loving partner. Life was good.

Soon after I fell back into a deep depression and it all started to unwind and things turned bad, my drinking had taken over. I couldn’t be the loving partner or father.

The same feelings as other relationships had crept in, I hadn’t lost interest, I still loved my ex-partner, but I couldn’t show it or be a father because of my drinking.

It was the worst feeling of my life as I had everything, but I just couldn’t see it or do the right thing.

At this stage, I stopped trying to fight my drinking. I had come to terms with it. No matter what, drinking came first. I felt if people didn’t accept this about me; I was better off without them in my life.

We had moved into our other property due to me losing my job and having to sell one of the houses. My disease had progressed, and I was drinking daily at this stage. I had no patience with my kids, and I had no energy unless I had a few drinks under my belt.

I just couldn’t handle the partner and father I was. It filled me with shame, and I truly wanted to just end it all. There were more suicide attempts. I ended up in a private mental hospital multiple times because of the attempts to take my own life. I decided it would be better for everyone if I just left. My eldest was only 3 years old when I left.

During my stay at the private mental hospital, they gave me ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) where they put you to sleep and put an electric current through your brain, this affects the brain’s activity and aims to relieve severe depressive and psychotic symptoms. My family was against it, but I wanted to try anything to stop the emotional pain. Looking back, all I had to do was stop drinking.

Denial is a big part of addiction. I still couldn’t admit that the drinking was the problem. The alcohol addiction had really isolated me from everyone I loved; I put my children and ex-partner through so much pain I couldn’t imagine them wanting anything to do with me.

This all continued to progress until I found myself completely alone. I had no one to talk to and nothing but the alcohol. I made another attempt to end my life. This time I woke up 3 days later, after being on life support. My family surrounded me. The way they looked at me was unforgettable. The nurse told me after they left that the doctors didn’t know if I was going to make it for a couple of days.

When my family left, I cried because I really didn’t want to be alive. I couldn’t bear the thought of living this way any longer. I was in the hospital for 5 or 6 nights. While I was there, my family had researched alcohol addiction treatment options for me and gave me contact information for rehab at Hader Clinic in Queensland.  We called them and signed up for the 90-day program. Before my stay at Hader Clinic Queensland, I had gone through alcohol detox at home. My family had me under round-the-clock supervision.

When I arrived at Hader Clinic Queensland, the alcohol addiction and depression had beaten me into submission, and I was finally willing to give anything a go. My brother had travelled to Queensland with me, and when he left, the reality of it all sunk in. I was terrified and felt so alone.

The first month was extremely difficult because as the fog slowly lifted, the destruction drinking had caused in my life became the only thing I could think about. The cycle of addiction had isolated me from everyone that loved me. I had lost my children, my job, and my house. There was nothing left, it was very sad, lonely, and scary.

About halfway through the 90-day program, it was like a recovery switch had been turned on. The other recovering addicts and the support workers helped me so much. I could talk about what I had been through without fear of judgment. I felt the support workers and my peers truly wanted the best for me and to see me get well.

It has been nearly 12 months since I completed the alcohol addiction treatment in May 2021. I have moved in with my family in Victoria. Happiness is having my family and close friend’s love and support. Seeing them all the time helps me to stay the positive and happy person I am today. It’s a long process but it’s worth it.

Being involved in the football club again has helped me a lot, yes they drink but they drink responsibly, something I couldn’t do in the past. The atmosphere and culture around the club is amazing for not only football but also life skills, responsibilities, and caring nature.

AA meetings both online and face to face are a big part of my life now and will continue to be.

I am so grateful to be alive and to have my children back in my life. To be the father I always wanted to be. Today I am proud to be myself and I know that by living sober, I am an excellent role model for my boys.  Recovery will be my primary focus for the rest of my life because everything good in my life starts from that. From being a good son, a good brother, a good father, and a good mate. I am finally comfortable in who I am.

I hope my story can help people suffering from alcohol addiction. Recovery is amazing and there is so much happiness in life.

Hader Clinic Queensland saved my life. The tools they taught me there still work in my life today. I am finally happy and free.

 

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

John’s Alcohol & Ice Addiction Recovery

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

This is his story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The army supported this lifestyle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had become very dependent on alcohol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I immediately started to drink again on my return.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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