Every Day Is A Win - Joe's Addiction Recovery Story

Every Day is a Win

Joe has spent nearly all of his life in the grip of addiction. 

He undertook our addiction treatment program for his addiction to heroin, alcohol and other opioids.

His story is ongoing and one of courage and determination as he continues the recovery process.

This is his story.

Where do I start?

I’m now 30, and I started using drugs at school when I was 15. I played rugby union and went on a tour to England with my school.

I started drinking and smoking pot pretty much from the day we arrived.

When I was 17 I went to Schoolies and I started using ecstasy, cocaine and speed. That lasted for two years – and then when I turned 19, I started using heroin.

I used heroin for about 12 months before I sought help.

I enrolled in the methadone program (methadone is taken as a replacement for heroin with the idea of preventing physical withdrawal and reducing harms associated with illicit drug use).

I even remember the date I started methadone – it was the 9/9/2009. I was 20.

Methadone was just a once a week thing – the program (usually administered through a local pharmacy) would give me five or six “takeaways” for the week and I’d use them all in one day and use smack for the rest of the week.

Little did I know at this time that it was because of these addictions that I would end up at the Hader Clinic Queensland for treatment.

When I was twenty I had a girlfriend who I loved, but she died of an overdose.

I was devastated and my way of dealing with it was not to give a f*!* about anything.

My habit grew worse. Paying for it was a problem.

I became a “collector” for drug dealers. I got involved with bad people in Sydney. I’m a big guy and I used my physicality to get what I wanted. You could say that I didn’t care and that I was quite violent.

From the ages of 20-25 I thought heroin was great. I had money and what I wanted, well everything I thought I wanted.

But from 25 onwards I started to decline slowly. By the time I got to rehab, I had definitely had enough. 

I had met a girl, and moved from Sydney to the Central Coast. We were fighting because I was using all the time.

One night I was driving home – I guess you could call it a suicide attempt after drinking a bottle of Wild Turkey and having a gram shot of heroin. Not expecting to make it, I woke up twelve hours later in remote bushland.

I had fifteen missed calls from my dad. I hadn’t spoken to him for six months. My girlfriend must have called him the night before because I didn’t know where I was. I had a voicemail from him where he told me that I was terrible and that I needed to go to rehab.

He took money out of his super to get me there. I have had an on and off relationship with my parents over the years. I did a bit of jail time when I was 19 and after that they told me to get lost. They didn’t enable my addiction initially but they well and truly did at the end.

When I came out of rehab they were a real problem. They had no understanding of addiction and abstinence.

I loved my stay at the Hader Clinic Queensland. I only left 18 days clean – it took me 72 days to come off the methadone, the physical withdrawal symptoms were that bad. I was as sick as a dog for most of it. 

Mark and Jay (at the retreat) were amazing. I have so much love for them both. They were both so important in my recovery. I saw a doctor before the day I was admitted and we worked out a reduction program and once I was in rehab, the staff took care of everything.

During my time at the retreat, I had a lot of time to think about my whole life, what I was doing and where I was going. It’s weird, a lot of the time you don’t want to be there, but when you leave, you want to go back. It was the first time I had been happy for a long time. 

At the retreat we’d wake up early, and I’d do everything that was asked of me. I committed that I wasn’t going to lie to myself and others while I was in there and I tried my best.

The physical and mental parts of the withdrawal were the worst.

When I came off the methadone, I didn’t sleep for 14 days. Definitely hard times there, but I had good support.

There are people that I met that I could be actually friends with for life. I live with one of the guys I did rehab with and when he saw that I was struggling with my family after I left he told me to get on a plane and come and stay with him.

I had all sorts of dramas with my family when I left.

Jay, from The Hader Clinic Queensland, suggested that I’d be an ideal candidate for the transition housing program and to my surprise my family were totally against the idea.

They were rude and they just insisted that they wanted me home.

I was devastated.

I had met these wonderful guys in Mark and Jay who were over ten years’ clean and who had come from nothing to make an amazing life. They tried so hard to convince my family that I needed more time – most people who come to rehab come in after a detox or they detox quickly.

I had only been clean for 18 days.

I didn’t get the opportunity to go to transition. On the 20th August I left rehab. I was sad to go. I have a dark sense of humour that was appreciated. 

I don’t think I have laughed and joked as much as I did in those final two weeks.

My humour was a problem for my parents but worst of all, so was their attitude to alcohol.

My Dad offered me a beer.

I got out on the Monday and here he was, offering me a beer on the Tuesday. I can’t stop at two beers. I drink until I fall over and hit my head. 

So now, I’ve only been clean for seven days. I moved to Queensland seven days ago and I’ve been clean that long. Every day is a win.

I haven’t used any hard drugs since completing rehab.

My flatmate, is so strong. He’s been nothing but supportive. 

I’ve been going to meetings (NA/AA) twice a day and he comes along with me to support me. He doesn’t always go to meetings, he’s just so strong mentally.  He said “enough was enough” and that was it for him.

He gave me a place to say. It was becoming quite toxic at home.

My insecure and needy partner wanted to know where I was 24/7 and what I was doing and I couldn’t handle it. That was making me depressed.

In some ways I regret not telling my parents to take a hike so when I came back to Queensland, it was like I’d stepped into a breath of fresh air. 

I needed to get away from my family.

They seemed to have no idea about addiction or how to best support me, despite me asking for help via the clinic.

They refused help from Jay and Olivia. I think it’s because of my older brother who’s 43. He was never as bad as me, but he was a big drinker.

They gave up on him as a hopeless case, and by the time they got to me, being the second youngest, they just wanted me out of their life – they weren’t going to put up with another addict in the family.

The thing that really gets me is that I expected them to forgive me for my addiction and all that went with it. But how could I possibly expect that?  I said to my flat mate, maybe it will take double the time I think – we’ll be in our sixties before anything is finally resolved.

I still get depressed, even up here, but I keep moving forward. I really want to get a proper job.

It’s a bit conflicting, seeing as the only trade I’ve ever had is being a criminal. So I might start with being a cleaner.

I’d like to study. But right now I just am taking one day at a time. I’m getting a job and I’m going to AA meetings.

You never get treated like a piece of rubbish at an AA meeting.

I can talk about things.

If I said these things in front of my family they’d gasp, but here they nod their heads and accept me.

I do two meetings a day. There are so many meetings here, it’s insane.

It’s really nice. People care.

If I had to give anyone advice about the The Hader Clinic’s addiction treatment program I would say, “whatever Mark and Jay say to you, listen to them!”

And choose a good focus word. Mine was “determined”.

Every time I got up and walked down the stairs I thought, “I’m getting off this stuff – and I’m never getting back on it”.

I don’t know how many people get to the point where they’ve really had enough but I was there and I think you could tell.

Since completing the rehab program I haven’t thought about using at all.

I just remember how hard it was to withdraw and I make sure that I never forget.

Jay and Mark had such a big impact on me, I’d love to do the same thing one day and help others.

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