Garreth’s Story of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Recovery
Twenty-eight-year-old Garreth is clean and sober after completing residential addiction treatment for this drug and alcohol addiction. This is his story.
On day 17, I decided I didn’t want to continue, and left Hader Clinic Queensland. I called my Mum and told her I wanted to come home – but for the first time in my life, she told me she wasn’t going to help me. I was not welcome back. Mum said I had to stick it out or I was on my own. I didn’t want to hear this at the time. Hader Clinic staff had talked to my parents about boundaries and enabling. They have a family program to help parents deal with addicts and our disease, Mum was standing her ground. At the time I didn’t thank her for it, but now I do.
I had a spiritual awakening that weekend. I’d made friends with some people at the local Narcotics Anonymous fellowship (Hader Clinic was taking us to meetings every day). I didn’t have to be stuck in a hotel room with my own thoughts. I went to a meeting; someone dropped me home and offered to pick me up the next day. I offered to mow this guy’s lawn for him expecting nothing in return. Something had changed in me; with their encouragement, I went back to Hader Clinic.
I’d been missing for a few days. When I came back the nurses at the clinic were worried about me, but they could see that I had not drank or used drugs while I was AWOL. I was allowed back into the residential addiction treatment program to finish my 60 days. I’ve now been clean for almost four months. I am back at home with my parents, working and blessed to have the opportunity to interact with my brother’s kids along with forming a relationship with my baby son.
I want to say to any addicts out there – are you sick of what you’re doing yet? Because if you’re honestly 100% tired of what your life has become, you have options. But we addicts have to do this for ourselves. I have a son as my inspiration; my family’s support helped motivate me. Everybody who loves me wanted me to quit drinking and using drugs for years. I lost my partner, my job, and access to my boy because of my addiction. But we go to rehab and get clean through our own desire, nobody else’s. Only we can decide when enough is enough.
I won’t lie, this stuff is not always easy. You may have doubts. But it gets better very, very quickly. There are going to be times along the road when you’ll think you want your old life back. That you are in control. I’m telling you – do not listen to that voice in your head saying to turn back. It’s all lies.
Be careful with your recovery, because when addicts start feeling better, we can drop our guard a little bit and forget that addiction is a disease. We use our experience of Rehab and the 12-Step fellowship to keep one foot in reality.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, set small goals you can achieve to get positive feelings. The biggest one will be staying clean and sober one day at a time.
I promise you don’t have to keep living this way. I say this as a bloke who left Hader Clinic early, coming back and staying was the best decision I ever made. But I didn’t do it by listening to my head – I had to listen to others.
My name is Garreth I’m 28 years old. I spent my early years growing up in PNG with my Mum, Dad, and brother we moved to Australia for better education, and from an early age I always wanted to be a pilot. I sat in my first helicopter at 4 years old and from that time on nothing was going to stop me. I studied hard, and even with my ADHD, I was able to focus on what I wanted – flying those choppers. If I really wanted something, I would do anything to achieve it. I’d move mountains with a spoon if I had to. I was always a bit of a loner, just relying on my own willpower. I didn’t have many friends growing up or make close connections at my job. It didn’t feel like I needed anyone.
But no amount of self-determination could stop drugs and alcohol from ruining my life.
I started smoking weed around age 16. My brother was probably my only friend. I would drink in moderation at home but usually preferred to drink and smoke up alone. I was studying to be an aircraft engineer, at my 18th birthday party, I was drinking hard, and somebody drugged and assaulted me. After that, I started binge drinking regularly and built up a tolerance.
I would drink a 6 pack of beer every day after work, by age 20 I was finishing a bottle of spirits in one go. I’d put away litres of moonshine finishing my studies, it helped me focus. I’d sober up by Friday night, sleep all day Saturday, and be back on it by the start of the next week. I started using meth as well as drinking including bongs all the way until I graduated.
When I was 24, I got my pilot’s licence and started working in commercial aviation. We were drug tested in the job every month, but I had a system to beat it – I would time my using and stop for a while before the urine test, fill my body with Berocca and water, get past the screen (despite always having meth and cannabis in my system) and start again. Like I said – if I really wanted something I’d find a way to get it. At the time I wanted to keep my job and flying no matter what. I didn’t see what a dangerous game I was playing.
When I was at work, I was always a pretty honest person, even to the point of annoying my bosses. I saw myself as a hard worker, a straight talker… But being honest with myself was an issue. I couldn’t see the damage my addiction was doing until things got really bad.
I was working for a helicopter company distributing COVID vaccines and got my hands on some weed resulting in an encounter with the law. I called my boss who helped me out of the situation, but I lost my job, followed by 2 weeks in quarantine nearly drinking myself to death.
When Dad found out he and my partner gave me an ultimatum to go to rehab. My partner and I broke up when she was 3 months pregnant because I played up on her when I was on drugs, she’d had enough. I got clean for about 5 months – but that rehab didn’t have a 12 Step focus. I was spending all my time alone in my apartment. Soon I was back to drinking and using meth again.
I had no money and no food in the fridge. So, I tried to manage my addiction my own way. I switched to medical marijuana and scripts of dextroamphetamine. I had legal access to these drugs, but I was still abusing them. My mental health went to pieces very quickly. My now ex-partner had taken my son and moved to another state – I’d only seen him a couple of times. My relationship with my parents was on thin ice; they didn’t know what to do with me.
Every day was the same. After I had my first cone, for about 30 seconds I would feel ok. Then came a sudden attack of sadness. I missed my son, and I hated my life. After that, I felt intense anger, like I could burn the whole world down. I had to smoke more and more weed just to stop myself from smashing everything in my flat to pieces.
It got to the point where I was starting to get suicidal. I didn’t need an ultimatum anymore – that stuff never worked anyway. I told my ex-partner I wanted to be a part of my son’s life, and the only option was to try another rehab. A GP recommended Hader Clinic Queensland, I was fortunate my parents were able to get me into their 60-day program.
When I look back on my time at Hader Clinic Queensland, the benefits have been immeasurable. They kept me accountable, introduced me to the 12 Steps, and helped me understand how to keep my commitments. If I didn’t show up for classes or didn’t do chores, I had to write an account of my actions and how they affected me and others. I was learning to value connections with others. Soon I was holding myself accountable for everything.
Mark – one of the staff at Hader Clinic – really believed in my progress and he helped set up a video call with my ex-partner and my son. I’m so grateful for that. I learned tools to set long-term goals – like the possibility of having a relationship with my boy. I know some fathers who are separated from their children, letting the resentment overtake them. But now through the 12 Steps, I have a way to manage my anger and focus on what I can do to improve my situation.
My Mum learned some hard truths while I was in rehab too. We have a healthy and more honest relationship now, and I’m back working for my Dad and slowly earning the family’s trust which means so much to me.
Today I still go to meetings, and I’m saving up for a fishing boat with my Dad. I’ve got friends and connections. I’m not controlled by my anger anymore. Other people’s behaviour doesn’t impact on my serenity, and I can keep walking the path. I have faith that things will get better.
Right now, I’m reading the 12 Rules For Life and the teachings of the Dalai Lama. I have a great sponsor and we go to the gym together. I can sleep through the night, wake up really early, and do a workout before I start my job, it sets me up for a great day.
I pray every morning. My parents bought me a Staffy pup – her name is Lilly, and she needs training and love, I feel very rewarded looking after her. I talk to my parents about my spending habits and staying financially accountable. I started a stamp collection, bought some decent rods, and got back into fishing. I look forward to being able to take my son out on the boat one day.
Hader Clinic Queensland was a really good drug and alcohol detox program. The things I learned there; you just can’t put a price on it. They taught me how to stay clean, but also how to create real value and a good future for myself. When I feel down, I’ve always got someone to call and keep my head straight. I know when to cut people out of my life if I think there is a risk I’ll relapse. I have too much to lose now to go back to that old life.
My dream is to get back to flying helicopters regularly again, I’ve never lost that urge – I wasn’t born to be wasted and miserable. I have a gift and I want to make the most of it. Being in the cockpit, not stoned or hungover… Just me and the sky, floating above the ocean, the earth laid out below me as far as I can see. There are no words to describe that feeling of flying. That’s what being clean is like. It’s pure freedom.
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