Recovery Story 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.

A Family Recovery Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

A Mother’s Journey with Her Son’s Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their stories were really emotional and humbling.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

Even the Love for my Child Couldn’t Stop Me from Drinking

Anne is a registered nurse that recently completed a 90-day alcohol addiction treatment program at Hader Clinic Queensland. She is now just over 5 months sober after picking up her first drink at the age of 10. This is her story.

I was a happy child and was part of a loving family. My parents were heavily involved in the church. I felt my parents were very busy with their work, but I was loved and supported. When I was 10 years old, a friend’s father sexually assaulted me during a visit. It was a singular event. However, the trauma I experienced changed the course of my life forever. I felt so afraid and alone. I felt I couldn’t tell anyone about what had happened. Even if I wanted to tell someone, I couldn’t find the words. I loved it at my friend’s house. She had horses, and I wanted to be allowed to go back. I wanted everything to stay as it was before.

Shortly after this event, I had my first drink. I remember thinking this is a wonderful feeling, this is a real escape. Looking back, I can see that I threw myself into anything I could to escape from the reality of the pain & confusion I was experiencing.

I got into ballet. It became my world, and I did it obsessively. The music and movement took me somewhere else. I was a complete perfectionist about it. Dancing was an escape and gave me a place I could feel peace in my mind.

I didn’t have another drink until I was 14. It was with some girls at church. I noticed they didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. My behaviour was erratic and not acceptable. They took me home to my mum and told her I had been drinking alcohol. She said I would have a headache in the morning and that would be punishment enough. It shocked me she didn’t get angry. I wanted her to. I see now I was trying to get her attention. It was a cry for help. She didn’t tell my dad, so I felt like I got away with it.

In my mind, it was a pretty normal teenage experience to binge drink. Even though I often drank so much that I got sick. When I was 14, I met my future husband; he was 18. He was a very caring and loving person. I felt happy when I was with him. It had been 4 years since I was assaulted and I had told no one about what happened to me. During my teenage years, I continued to use alcohol and the relationship I was in to escape.

We got married when I was 20. During the first year of the marriage, I started drinking red wine a few times a week. I felt very depressed and trapped. I didn’t know if I wanted to be married. I had been in this relationship since I was 14 and felt that I didn’t have a childhood. I wondered what other girls my age were doing. There were a lot of powerful feelings.

My unresolved trauma, regular drinking, and feelings of being trapped led me to have a nervous breakdown. I told my husband that I just wanted to run away. Anywhere would be better than where I was.

I went to Tasmania with some money I had saved. I wanted a break from the marriage, a break from my reality. I stayed at BNB’s and hotels. I would go out at night to party and drink heavily. I was very promiscuous and would go home with random men. I wanted to be as free and wild as I could be. The holiday lasted for 3 weeks in total. I rang my husband and told him I had affairs and that I didn’t want to be married anymore.

When I got back, we separated. I had progressed to drinking 1 bottle of red wine a night and was a regular at bars and nightclubs. This was a very wild time in my life. I don’t recall having any control of my emotions. As devout Christians, my parents were very concerned about my divorce. I didn’t care about anything; I don’t recall caring what anyone felt or who I was hurting.

Things spiralled out of control, and my alcohol addiction was progressing. I was a registered nurse and I stopped working for around 6 months. My parents supported me financially. Because of the divorce, we sold our house in the Blue Mountains and I moved in with my sister. I had nowhere else to go. I couldn’t stay with my parents as I wanted to drink and had also started smoking pot. I lived with my sister for around 4 months.

When I was 23, I moved into a share house and started working again, but only part time. The rest of the time I was drinking and going to pubs and clubs, I still had the same agenda of escaping with men and alcohol. Shortly after moving into the share house, I met my second husband. He was a friend of one of the people I lived with.

He was a binge drinker but didn’t consider himself an alcoholic as he didn’t drink every day. My daily drinking habit concerned him, and this caused friction during our marriage. He would often talk to me about it and would even try to enforce restrictions on the amount and time I could drink.

He was a daily pot smoker. After a year of being with him, I fell pregnant with our first son. I continued to drink occasionally and smoke pot with my husband.

In the late 90s it wasn’t as unacceptable to smoke and drink a small amount during pregnancy as it is today, there wasn’t as much information about the harm it could cause. Even so I felt guilt and shame about doing it. I was rationalising and justifying my behaviour. We had 2 more children, a boy and a girl. All of my children from this marriage were born healthy. I remained married to him for 14 years.

Our marriage was not a happy one, and I had still never addressed the internal struggles I faced daily. There was no limit to the amount I drank. I would often drink so heavily that I would have blackouts. My husband was an interstate truck driver and he would go away for long periods of time.

I was working as a nurse full-time, so I only drank at night, but most nights so heavily that I would pass out or not remember what had happened. I rationalised it was ok as I would make sure the children were fed and put to bed beforehand. Although everything I did for the children, I had a drink in my hand. It was the only way I could cope with life.

There were periods where my husband would want me to stop drinking. I would try to stop, but deep inside I didn’t see it as an option, as it was my only coping mechanism. Our relationship became really unstable when he realised I had a drinking problem. He would get in his truck and leave us. He was dishonest and unfaithful. The more he lied to me, the more unhappy I got and the more I would drink to cope. It was a vicious cycle. It felt like I was trapped in this horrible cycle of alcohol addiction and couldn’t get out.

When this relationship ended, it was terrible. He fought for custody of the children. He used my drinking to say I was an unfit mother. The children were old enough to decide, and they went with their father. He had really painted me as an unfit mother to everyone that would listen, including my kids. I couldn’t cope with this. I felt so alone. I drank a lot.

Anytime I wasn’t at work, I was drunk. I was devastated and mentally unstable. This was the first time I contemplated suicide. But I knew I had to stay alive for my kids. They needed me.

I eventually got my children back in my care. They were gone for four months. It was a bitter break up and this feud continued for years.

When I was 38, I went out with a friend of mine. I met a man and got into a new relationship. Things moved fast, and he moved in shortly after we met. He was great with my kids at the start. However, he was a heavy drinker and a heavy smoker. I liked this about him. It was a total green light. He completely enabled my drinking. He was 10 years younger than me, and we had the common interest of sex and heavy drinking.

2 years into this relationship, I fell pregnant with my youngest daughter. I was still drinking heavily and smoking pot. I rationalised I was healthy and that it hadn’t affected my other 3 kids. I had no choice to stop. The relationship struggled. He became very abusive after my daughter was born. He would runaway through the night. I knew he was an alcoholic, but I later found out he was an ice addict as well.

When our daughter was 6 months old, he became very violent towards me. He refused to work so I had to go back to working full time. I had 4 kids to support and a mortgage to pay.

For the next 2 years, I was assaulted physically, mentally and sexually daily. My drinking was continuous and I would regularly have blackouts. When I was unconscious, he would assault me. He would always come back despite me trying to end the relationship. I was powerless, my life became a living nightmare, I was so sick. I couldn’t end this relationship or stop drinking.

Our daughter was 2 when I finally got him out of my life. My parents came and stayed with me on and off. They helped me get him out of my life for good. I took him to court and got an AVO against him.

They charged him with the physical and sexual assault. They offered me domestic violence support which helped me, but I was still drinking so heavily that even though he was gone, my life remained completely out of control.

My daughter had learning difficulties at school. She couldn’t read well and was behind her peers at school. I took her to specialists. They thought it was because of all the trauma she experienced. They later diagnosed her with foetal alcohol syndrome, complex trauma, and depression. I was devastated. I could no longer deny the impact my drinking and my unhealthy relationships had on my children’s life. I desperately wanted to stop but could not find a way out.

I had no choice but to live in this horrible cycle of drinking to cope with life. The constant shame and guilt I felt was unbearable.

Two years ago my family intervened. They took my daughter to Cairns to live with my sister. My alcoholism had progressed so far, and I could not care for my daughter. I couldn’t do anything. The alcohol was the most important thing in my world and I became completely depressed. I tried to commit suicide multiple times.

My parents gave me an ultimatum to either get well or I could not have my daughter back in my care. Even the love I had for my child couldn’t stop me from drinking. For 18 long months, I was in a living hell. I still had my house and my job but I was completely alone. I had no family, no children. The only person I could speak to was my sister, and this was only to talk to my daughter.

The isolation and the degradation I felt are unforgettable. I missed my daughter immensely. I made many attempts to stop drinking on my own. I was never successful. I did not understand the disease of addiction. I would try to stop cold turkey or try to just smoke pot. I could stop for short periods of time, but I couldn’t stay stopped on my own.

Six months ago I had come to a point where I felt like my life was so awful, I was so unhappy. I knew I couldn’t continue this way. My sister said to me, why don’t you just go to rehab, just give it a go for even just a month? I did some research online. I saw Hader Clinic Queensland offered a 90-day rehabilitation program. Rehab had not been something I had considered previously.

After some research, Hader Clinic Queensland seemed like the best place to go. I felt I had a good chance to get sober there. I thought if I am going to do this I want to go somewhere that I had a good chance of recovery and reading through the recovery stories gave me hope.

I decided to go there. I was not forced or manipulated to go there; the choice was mine. I think that is important because all the other times I had tried to get sober had been for other people. This time, I wanted it for myself.

Of course, I was afraid and didn’t really like the idea of going to rehab. I slept a lot in the first 5 days and just took direction from the staff. I felt awful but I knew I was in the right place. After the 3rd day, I started going to the classes. The staff really cared for me and supported me.

The Hader Clinic gave me a great foundation. The accountability and structure they taught me still help me today. I learned that alcoholism was a disease, that it was a progressive fatal illness with no cure. The only way out was to follow the program they gave me. They also encouraged me to attend Alcoholics Anonymous and work the 12 steps. Since leaving rehab, I have thrown myself into the AA program.

I have made connections with people in the rehab and in my fellowship. I am now coming up to 5 months. Hader Clinic Queensland changed my life. I have now bought a house in Cairns and I am working as a nurse.

The tools I have learned help me be a part of my family and my community in a way I have never experienced before. I go to my sister’s house every day to spend time with my daughter. She is 10 next week and is going to stay with me regularly.

Hader Clinic Queensland gave me the knowledge that I was just a really sick person and being with other people with the same illness showed me I was not alone in this. They introduced me to Yoga and many daily practices that keep me healthy. Body, mind, and soul.

I finally have a reprieve from this disease. I have replaced alcohol with real coping mechanisms that help me deal with a range of emotions and live my life to the fullest. My mind is clear and I can finally find the words and the strength to get help with the trauma I experienced as a child.

I am finally free to be my true self. Today, I experience true joy.

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.

Wil’s Addiction Recovery

Wil proves there is hope and recovery for people whose lives have been destroyed by their long-term drug addiction. Watch his story.

You could say that being an addict is the only thing I’ve known – because I’ve spent at least half of my twenty four years in active addiction – as well as several years in jail. You’d think that there would be no hope for someone whose addiction has led them down this path, right?

WRONG!  Thanks to the Hader Clinic Queensland, I was reborn into a life free of drugs five months ago. I’m currently undertaking the Clinic’s transition housing program.

I came straight to rehab from jail, so being out in the community feels very different, but the support I’m receiving has been helping me a lot. I’m currently undertaking a challenge – to attend 180 NA meetings in 90 days. That works out to be two per day. It’s been really good in that I’ve been making new connections and friends.

My name’s Wil and I was what is known as a “poly user” – my substance of addiction was anything and everything.  I’d use whatever worked to numb the pain or transport me out of my misery to a different place.

I used opiates, benzos, alcohol, ice – you name it, I tried it.

My problems started early in childhood – in primary school. I was a naturally introverted, shy and nervous kid, who found it almost overwhelming trying to make friends and connect with other people. It was as if I never felt really very comfortable in my own skin – at home or at school.

In primary school I was bullied a lot. This left me feeling worthless and empty. I hated myself. All I saw when I looked in the mirror was “not good enough”.

In Year Seven and Eight I started smoking cigarettes. I remember feeling like I was at the bottom of the food chain.  I remember searching out male role models who weren’t victims.

I had spent my whole childhood feeling like I was a victim. I’d had enough.

I surrounded myself with people who I perceived were my opposite. I started drinking alcohol and smoking pot. I was twelve years old. Eventually I picked up ice.

Pot use went on for many years. I became violent and unpredictable. I transformed my persona into that of a predator and built up a “tough guy” persona – so I could feel comfortable and safe. I was untouchable.

If I wasn’t using, I didn’t feel like I was functioning. Without continual using I’d start feeling apprehensively uncomfortable. I’d feel hopeless and that my worth amounted to nothing. Using took me away from these feelings – and I thought that drugs were the solution to every problem that I had.  When I drank or used, I’d have these momentary windows of self confidence – by myself and in a social situation.

With drugs, I believed that I was capable of living and managing life, just like everyone else. I’d feel moments of happiness or what I thought was self-esteem, especially when I got onto ice.

Now, looking back, I can see that I was trapped.

Drugs was never about a party or socialising with friends. I used to survive my own existence.

My parents didn’t know about my drug use for a long time. There’s a fair history of alcoholism in my family, but not drug use. I was good at being able to keep it under wraps. However, eventually it caught up with me.

They didn’t really know how to handle it, except to ask me to stop. They told me that if I didn’t stop, I couldn’t live at home and that so long as I was using, that they couldn’t be in my life.

The problem was that I was in so deep by this stage – even if I’d wanted to, I had no idea how to stop. I wasn’t capable of it.

I went to see psychiatrists, psychologists and counsellors. They couldn’t help me. I was put on a cocktail of medications that made my head worse.  They didn’t know what my problem was – before addiction or with it.

My solution was to leave home. Without any income or employment, I turned to crime to support my using. I started dealing and I pushed anyone away that had ever tried to help me.

I managed to stay under the criminal radar until I turned 18. At this stage my ice use was out of control. It was horrific. I started doping myself up on opiates as the ice was no longer working to numb the pain.

To fill that empty hole, I started adding more and more drugs – in different combinations. I was desperately trying not to feel.

I experienced drug induced psychosis for years. I used a lot of benzodiazepines which made me forget everything I had done. This included my first armed robbery at eighteen – I spent three months in jail before I got bailed.

As soon as I was released, my use continued and so did my crimes. Again, I was sent to jail. In a way, it was almost a relief as I began to feel comfortable there. For the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere, that I was accepted, that there was a place for me to go. This was because I was surrounded by like-minded people who were broken, destroyed and hopeless as well.

Upon release I’d try to maintain my drug use, or cut back as a way of trying to remain functional. Naturally, it didn’t work. I’d be off my face and out of control.

I got a job when I was on bail. It lasted a month, then I was back on the run. That resulted in another twelve month jail term.

After this release, I thought I’d try and find a girlfriend to fill the void. However, she was also using, and it wasn’t long before I was back on the run, arrested, and this time jailed for two years.

When I was released, I tried the same things. I tried to get a job, I tried to maintain and not escalate my drug use, I’d try and swap one drug for another. However, there wasn’t a day that I didn’t use some substance of addiction to get by.  I wouldn’t go to sleep at night unless I knew there was a hit of something I could look forward to in the morning.

From the moment I woke up, my life was full of drugs. Whether it was a needle in my arm, or something in my mouth, it was always there.

My life of crime continued to support my habit.

Again, I went back to jail and was bailed to another rehab. That went to shit really quickly. They wanted to deal with my mental health issues before dealing with my addiction. The last thing I needed was more medication. I escaped the rehab and lasted seven days on the run.

That transgression resulted in me going back in jail for sixteen months. At this time, my mum came back into my life. She visited me in jail. I tried to push her away. She had received an inheritance that would pay for a proper rehab and also set me up after my transition program.

She persisted in visiting and as I couldn’t see a future for myself, I kept trying to push her away. I thought the only hope for my future was to have enough drugs so I could survive it.

At this stage, I felt so bad that I didn’t want to leave jail. I was exhausted, defeated and broken.

However, she wasn’t giving up. After seven days out of jail and not using, I was suicidal. I began to see that I was causing her pain, I was causing myself pain and I was causing everyone in my family pain. Surely there had to be a better way? I was now at the stage where I couldn’t live with using anymore, yet I also couldn’t live without using.

When I was still in jail, my mother started looking at rehab options. I was still using in jail and didn’t want a bar of it. There weren’t many rehabs that would take me, given my criminal history and that I was on parole.

However, she discovered The Hader Clinic Queensland and when she called them, she had a sense that this was the right place for me. During that initial phone call, the staff related to all the problems I experienced as a kid as well as the addiction. They seemed to understand the person I was.

I got paroled from jail straight into the rehab. The rehab became my parole address.

I managed to arrive at the Hader Clinic Queensland detoxed, broken, defeated and willing to give anything a try.

I was also suspicious, sceptical and unconvinced.

I walked down those stairs to a big welcome. Staff members Donna and Mark were there to meet me. There was something about them that I could relate to, especially Mark. They spoke to me on a level where I felt accepted, and welcome. It was a surreal experience.

This part where I felt I related to them? They didn’t talk to me like a psychiatrist or a medical doctor. They talked to me as a person. It helped me to understand that I had a way forward.

I began to realise that I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. I started going to meetings and whether I told them or not, heard my own stories in some way.

JJ (support worker) was a big part of my experience there – the way he shared his message and recovery was an inspiration to me.

The penny really dropped when I realised that people live and deal with life without using. It was amazing to see that it was possible that people who had lived like me were making a life for themselves and were genuinely happy.

Watching the way these people had recovered and seeing how tall and proud they walked made me want the same thing.

I’ve been in the Transition Program for two months. I’m using the NA framework and doing the twelve steps. I have a great sponsor and I’m currently up to step five. I’m about to move in with someone from NA who is four years’ clean.

I would be lying if I said those stepping stones from being practically institutionalised in jail have been easy. I’m catching up on many things like learning to budget, cook and clean. It’s a bit intimidating at first, but the support I have had makes it worthwhile.

At the same time, I’m looking forward to taking on all those bits of life that I’ve missed. Living life clean. I appreciate every single day.

I want to get across to anyone who’s been living in jail and thinks that there’s no hope and it’s the end of the road to think again. There are stepping stones that you can take to get your life back.

Thank you to The Hader Clinic Queensland for giving me hope, and my life back.

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.

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