Ex-Soldier Ice Addict’s Rise from Disgrace
Ben, an ex-soldier and ice addict made headlines for his fall from grace. Now, Ben shares his story of recovery following treatment for ice addiction.
My name’s Ben, I’m 25 years old and my poison before I came to rehab was meth.
I had an excellent childhood. I grew up on a cotton farm out past Goondiwindi. I worked with my dad and played a ton of sport, like rugby league and cricket. When I finished Year 12, I decided to join the army. I was eighteen, nineteen.
When I joined the army, we went overseas and during that time, we had a training incident where a few people got injured. Upon return we had a get together, where some of the older members of the regiment introduced me to meth.
It was the first time I had tried a drug. It started slowly with occasional weekend use, especially if I wasn’t away working.
In terms of starting meth, I knew drug taking was a no no, but thought a small amount couldn’t harm me.
Besides, the people who gave it to me were higher in rank within my unit and I think being new to the army and the heavy drinking culture, I wanted to fit in another way.
I remember my mum warning me about drugs as a kid, but because all of these people seemed to be OK, I thought it would be fine. Little did I know that many of them were suffering from trauma and PTSD.
I used on weekends for four years, and my drug taking really didn’t escalate until near the end of my army career.
I was kicked out of the army for returning a positive drug test and was suspended without pay. I felt like I’d been booted to the kerb by the Australian Defence Force and it seemed the DVA wanted little to do with me.
That propelled me to start using heavily and hard – I was using every day, pretty much from the day I was discharged. To say the wheels had fallen off my life was an understatement.
My experience with the army had left me feeling rejected and broken. I was directionless. I had no purpose.
I isolated myself from others and used. That was the only thing that got me out of bed in the morning. I couldn’t face life at the time sober.
After my army discharge, I lived in Brisbane with my partner. Our relationship broke down pretty quickly.
I stayed in Brisbane, sleeping in my car or moving from hotel to hotel when I could afford it and getting into all sorts of legal trouble as a result of my using.
I went home for a period of time, hoping that would get me clean, then spent time bouncing between Toowoomba and Warwick until I had to spend two months in Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre (jail).
In jail, the DVA counsellor provided me with information about The Hader Clinic Queensland residential addiction treatment program. Between the counsellor and my mum, they’d been trying to get me interested in the idea of going to rehab for about twelve months.
On my second day in jail, I rang Hayden at the clinic and organised to go to rehab.
I knew I didn’t want to live this life.
Incidentally, I didn’t get myself into legal hot water trying to fund my addiction. Rather, it came about as attempt to alleviate the depression I was suffering as a result of my army discharge.
I attempted suicide twice then had decided that owning a pet might help me.
Anyway, I was plastered all over the news for organising someone to steal a puppy for me.
The police searched the Brisbane suburbs for it, found me with the puppy and arrested me. I didn’t dob the bloke in that had done the actual stealing.
That was my first brush with the law – I was charged as being an accessory to a break and enter.
Being in the news and seeing headlines like “Ex-soldier ice addict’s fall from grace,” was traumatising. Being shamed in the news broke me even further.
In the meantime, my partner and I were continuously fighting. Not physically, but emotionally.
I had been charged with possession, had a DVO taken out against me and DUI charges.
My addiction was getting away from me.
My partner was also using ice and our relationship became toxic and co-dependent. Relationships with drugs never work – there’s always some form of abuse and in my case it was emotional.
Experiencing jail is something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
I got bashed in there on my first day. I saw people sharing needles, shooting up in stairwells. I knew that if I got out and started using again, then I’d end up like the people I was seeing.
Even if I wasn’t doing crime, I was putting myself into precarious situations on the street wandering around with undiagnosed PTSD. I realised that that I couldn’t look after other people, let alone look after myself.
I had a few days between jail and rehab. I didn’t use in jail, but did drink some alcohol on the evening I was released – so I started my clean time from there.
When I went to rehab, I was nervous, because I didn’t really know what to expect.
It was hard saying goodbye to my family and partner, but I was comfortable with my decision.
The moment I walked down those stairs and had my first interview, I had people coming up and introducing themselves and shaking my hand and finally I had found the connection with others that I hadn’t experienced since I was in the military.
After five days there, I could honestly say that I felt happy and connected there. I was grateful to be here.
I got involved in everything that rehab had to offer.
Compared with where I’d just been, it was a spiritual holiday.
I felt like I’d spent so long trying to get people, like my parents, to understand my situation, but I could never quite articulate what I wanted to say.
With Jay and Mark and the other staff at the rehab, they knew exactly what I what I was going through. It was a relief to know that I was in exactly the right place.
Now I’m living back in Goondiwindi with my parents.
I like living here but it’s a bit remote, as there aren’t really any meetings to attend face to face. I’ve been using the HaderCare Online Aftercare App instead. I can check in with the clinic every day.
Plus, if for some reason I don’t check in as agreed, or my check ins are going negative, I get a phone call from Olivia, the staff psychologist to check that I’m OK and ask what’s going on.
They can tell if you’re heading towards a relapse or you’re struggling and they have plans in place to manage this. I like the app because as well as knowing that the staff at Hader Clinic Queensland are looking out for me, it also provides me with accountability.
If I was left to my own devices, I don’t think rehab would have been as effective.
I have tasks to complete and counselling each week.
As you complete each week clean, you receive new materials to work on, like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) lessons and preventative measures.
You are continually progressing through lessons.
The staff can see if you have completed the coursework too and give you feedback. It helps with building self esteem, has taught me about co-dependency and relationships, it’s been really good.
I’m still looking for a sponsor though and doing Zoom International meetings.
Olivia has set up a once a week meeting with members of the Transition House, which has been fantastic. It keeps me connected to the people I went to rehab with.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about this journey? I thought that I wanted to be isolated, but in actual fact, what I was really craving was connection to people.
And also a bit of spirituality. I was never a spiritual person. I remember speaking to Jay about it when I was in jail and I didn’t understand what a spiritually based program was. I didn’t realise, but I was spiritually bankrupt back then.
Now I apply the spiritual principles I’ve learned in rehab each day and call myself out on it. I never thought that would be something I would ever do.
I would encourage everyone to go to rehab, even if you’ve been clean for a few months and are “white knuckling” it. That’s what I’m trying to convince my partner to do.
She’s three months’ clean but we’re not connecting on the same level.
I would encourage people to stick it out, it will change your life for the better.
She’s done it cold turkey without having the benefit of actually working a recovery program.
I consider there to be a big difference between recovery where you’re working a program than if you’re not.
I feel like I’ve experienced more personal and spiritual growth as a result.
I know people can get clean on their own but I don’t think they can get rid of the underlying toxicity in their system that drove them to use drugs in the first place. If you don’t have that growth in place, it’s a wobbly ride.
You’ve been smashed around by addiction, but you’re only one small issue away from a relapse.
That’s where rehab has been a blessing.
I have acquired so many tools to keep me clean and help me deal with problems as they arise.
I still have my bad days. I am working hard on my recovery despite not having access to meetings.
I have developed a good routine. I get up early, go for a walk, have breakfast and study my PT course for two hours daily. I read my books, I do my check in and I do something that supports personal development every day.
That’s been the difference between me and my partner. She doesn’t have that and we’ve grown apart. It would be a good time for her to do rehab too.
You don’t have to be using to still be an addict.
Every single day since I’ve been to rehab has been better for me.
Now I’m doing my personal training certification through the Australian Institute of Personal Trainers.
I’ve got connection with my family back. My family trusts me. I’ve got DVA support. My life is now moving forward at a rapid rate – something I didn’t think was possible when I was in the grip of addiction.
With the Hader Clinic Queensland, I feel like I’m part of a family. That’s what I love about it.
I have been travelling back to the residential rehab once a month to “give back” and share my experiences with others, particularly with the AfterCare App.
It helps me just as much as it may help someone in the rehab. It gives me a bit of a recharge and keeps motivating me to pursue recovery.
I am grateful for my recovery every day. Thank you to The Hader Clinic Queensland for helping me get here.
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