Ethan Moon – From Addict to Australian Idol
Almost one year after completing rehab for drug addiction, Ethan Moon captured the hearts of Australia with his heartfelt performances, and the sharing of his addiction recovery journey, on Australian Idol. This is his story.
My name is Ethan Moon and in 2023 I was a contestant on Australian Idol. I stood in front of Kyle Sandilands, Meghan Trainor, Harry Connick Jnr and Amy Shark and sang “Half A Man” by Dean Lewis. I had a sinus infection, had under-slept and was extremely nervous that day.
When they told me I was going through to the next round, I shook their hands in gratitude. The judges called my parents into the room to tell them in person. My mum thanked Kyle Sandilands – who I found to be a kind and humble man – and he said to her “No, thank you for bringing him back to us”
The reason Kyle said this is because I had told the judges my story.
I decided to be completely honest about my reasons for auditioning for Australian Idol.
I had no vocal training and had never been a singer, but I found out I could sing while I was in rehab.
Ever since I was 13 I had been fighting a mostly losing battle with drugs, mainly ice addiction. In a weird coincidence, I realised that the date of my audition was exactly two years from the date I first walked into Hader Clinic Queensland.
After I came outside, the realisation hit me, and I broke down and cried. It just flooded out. My parents were there beside me, but not long ago I had been out of contact with them for almost a year.
They had taken out a DVO for getting into a fight and breaking into their house. I still have scars on my wrist from that incident. I had woken up in the hospital after overdosing and crashing my car. I was using ice, cannabis and benzos every single day. I thought I would always be a criminal and was suicidal at the time.
But now here I was, clean and sober, about to travel to Sydney for Australian Idol. There were over 70,000 people who auditioned and I was one of only 50 who made it in front of those judges. Although I got voted out in the next round, I’m glad I had this experience. I never would have discovered I could sing unless I went to Hader Clinic Queensland’s drug rehabilitation treatment program.
I started using drugs around age 13. I had run away from home after fighting with my dad – we can both be hot-headed and easily lose our temper.
I ended up at the house of an older guy who sexually assaulted me and then offered me drugs afterwards. I didn’t tell a single person about this until I saw a counsellor at rehab.
My dad was in the army and my mum is a police officer. Authority was respected in our home.
I was a sensitive kid, I loved sports and excelled at playing soccer. But I didn’t do so well at studying. I was known for being a troublemaker – talking back at teachers, picking fights, and wagging school with my friends.
When I was in Townsville during my teens I would spend a lot of time smoking weed with my friends at the underpass near my school, then I progressed to using ice. Townsville has a big problem with methamphetamine, and many people I knew started using it as teenagers. At the time it was a cure for my boredom and my feelings – I felt unloved and unwanted 99% of the time.
I had a job refereeing soccer games, and I could still play in matches. My parents would punish me for the infractions at school, but I just kept doing it. So, when I was 16 my mum sent me to a trade college in Brisbane to get certificates in Sports and Business. She tried to get me away from the crowd I’d fallen in with.
But when I moved to college, I made friends with other students who were into drugs and the cycle started again. I got some qualifications, but soon dropped out and went to work at a fast food restaurant – but my main gig was selling drugs. I liked the profits and the prestige. I didn’t have many real friends, but that lifestyle helped support my habit.
I had a girlfriend for a couple of years, but it didn’t last. I was selling pot, coke, and acid. And Xanax whenever I could get my hands on it.
I’m 6’5 and was able to fight, and sometimes I just could not control my anger. When one of my workmates made a joke about my ex-girlfriend I took him out to the back room and beat him up. I was sacked straight after.
I grew up with an emotionally distant father, and his dad was a Vietnam Veteran and used to flog me with his belt when I was disobedient. I wasn’t really a violent person – but sometimes I felt I needed to defend myself just to survive.
My mum moved back down to Brisbane, and I stayed with her and my siblings for a while, but she found weed under my mattress. I had another massive fight with my dad and moved out to a friend’s place where I could smoke whenever I wanted.
At this time in my late teens, I was still playing soccer in local competitions. I got the golden boot for a season and was the top striker and fastest runner. But I would also smoke bongs in the car park before a match. By the time I got on the field, my head was numb. I also started getting into cars and taught myself how to tune and build engines. That kick-started my interest in street racing.
My parents heard I was selling drugs, but I was mostly out of contact with them. They would try to reach me, but I didn’t want a bar of it. I got a criminal record pretty early from being caught so many times carrying drugs. I didn’t want to stop at the time. The substances helped me cope with my feelings.
I got another girlfriend who fell pregnant, and I was saving up money to prepare for the baby. After not seeing her for 6 months I learned the pregnancy was terminated. I wasn’t ready to be a dad, but I still grieved.
I was in a spiral. At this point, it was hard to make a living off dealing drugs as I was smoking most of my profits. My family reached out again and asked me to come home – this time I did.
I went to a GP and got diagnosed with depression.
Then my parents held an intervention – my grandparents and siblings and aunts and uncles were there. They told me I could either go to rehab or be out of their house.
It was intimidating, but I agreed. My parents paid for me to do the 90-day program at Hader Clinic Queensland. They told me they just wanted their son back.
I was the youngest person at the clinic. I found the staff very understanding, but after I left I thought I could manage on my own. Everything I learned there went out the window.
I stopped going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings.
Things got worse from that point.
I remember having an argument with my sister when I was off my face. Dad came home and intervened, the fight escalated, and I pulled a knife on him. He kicked me out of the house and called the police.
I drove away and 10 minutes later was back banging on the door demanding to collect my stuff. I punched in a window to open the locked door. I was barely inside when the police came in to arrest me.
Paramedics took me to the hospital and spend most of the night extracting the shards of glass from my arm.
My parents took a DVO out against me so I couldn’t go near them or contact them. Not that I wanted to anyway – I had returned to my old life of dealing, staying with friends at their houses, ignoring my loved ones, and driving around recklessly.
It was only a couple of days after the DVO that I was caught doing 75km over the speed limit and driving under the influence, and I lost my licence.
One of the worst experiences was when one of my drug runners got robbed. I was so angry.
Me and a couple of mates got high on meth and Xanax, jumped into the car and went to get those drugs back.
When we got to the house a fight broke out, I saw my mate stabbed in the kidney. It was a very confronting sight. We dropped him off at the hospital, and as I was driving home I blacked out.
I barely remember what happened when I woke up in the emergency room. I told them to not bother calling my parents because they wouldn’t care anyway. I’d lost all hope for my future with them. The car had $10,000 in drug money stolen out of it. I’m pretty sure one of my friends did that… Like I said, I had no real mates.
I was completely sick of my life. I had one guy I knew who also wanted to get clean and we went back to meetings together. I started to rebuild my life and made contact with my family again.
When I was in Hader Clinic Queensland the staff got each of us to write our life story down.
My mum found those pieces of paper at her house when she was clearing up my stuff. She saw everything – my childhood, my experiences in the drug world, my feelings about my family.
Dad hadn’t hugged me since I was 8 years old, and I felt disconnected from him.
Mum showed this story to my father, and something changed in him. He sat me down and apologised, told me that he loved me. For the first time in my life, I saw my father cry, and we embraced. Now we talk every day, and he is my best friend.
Back when I was in Hader Clinic Queensland, I was cleaning up the kitchen and singing Elvis Presley. I was embarrassed to find people had been listening. They were impressed.
Me and some of the other residents practised and performed in a little concert at the rehab. I sang “Holes” by Passenger and afterwards, I could see some people crying.
One of the biggest and toughest older blokes at the rehab came and hugged me afterwards saying “Thanks mate, I needed to hear that”.
One of the staff, JJ, told me I had a gift. I started to think about making a career out of music.
It was my mum who signed me up for Australian Idol. I did two rounds of online auditions and made it through to see the judges. I stayed clean the whole time. I was working at a pub and I still am, doing the night shift. I don’t feel the urge to use or drink anymore.
Hader Clinic Queensland was where I learned my addiction is a disease and there is a way out.
I want to use my music to help other young people struggling with drug abuse. There are a lot of us out there, and many of us feel alone. I’m only 21 but I managed to turn my life around, so I know it’s possible for anybody.
I love how music has the power to move people. When I sing, I feel a deep connection with others.
Since I got clean I’ve learned that I’m a caring person and that I can have my passions like cars and sports but don’t have to live dangerously. I am close to my family. I look after my nieces and nephews and I’m a trusted employee at my job. I now have real friends who are also clean, and we help support each other.
I have dreams and plans for my future. I want to be a performer and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. I have too much to lose now to go back to my old life.
Next week I am celebrating one year clean.
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