Greg’s Addiction Recovery
Hello my name is Greg and I recently finished an addiction treatment program at the Hader Clinic Queensland.
I’m now 23 years old. I grew up in a great family. I had a great childhood. I went to a good school and never went without.
My parents were always willing to give me things and help me and for that, I’m very grateful. From an outsider’s point of view, it would seem like I had the perfect life. I’m very fortunate to have a family that is not only in a financial position to help me, but more importantly to me, willing to.
Although my childhood was excellent, I suffered from this innate, hard to describe feeling of “otherness” – a sense of “not belonging”.
I felt like I was on the outer all the time.
I remember being at a kid’s club a resort and sitting outside, feeling like I wasn’t part of anything.
Although it appeared that I some surface friends, I found that I never really gelled deeply with anyone, which felt lonely.
I never had a big group of friends, or a clique. Plus, I never felt adequate next to my sister, who is extroverted, good looking and popular.
All I felt was “not good enough”. I don’t think I really got over that until I got into recovery.
When I was thirteen, I realised that I was gay. I grappled with it for a while. I came out really early to my friends and while I felt like I was comfortable with it, I was heavily internalising a lot of shame about it. I hid my homosexuality from my family until I was 19 – looking back, I realise harboured insecurities about it.
In Year 11, I started drinking alcohol. From the get go, I really loved it. When I drank, it was never for the pleasure of tasting alcohol, it was for the effect. When I drank, all of that shame, all of that “not feeling good enough” just faded. I thought that I’d found my solution to killing that deep feeling of “otherness”.
Once I started using alcohol, I started lying to my family about it. The more I used it, the more dishonest I became. After school ended at 17, I started experimenting with party drugs – ecstasy, MDMA, marijuana… Again, the party drugs made me feel like I’d found my niche in life.
I thought this lifestyle was about being comfortable with myself. At this stage of my addiction, I really believed that this was the best way that I could be myself.
I equated being high and drunk as being at ease with myself. It was a huge thing for me in terms of socialising. Any event where I knew there was going to be alcohol and drugs, I’d be there. I felt that I identified with the lifestyle – it was something that I could link my personality to.
By the time I reached 19, my life was beginning to spin out of control. I was doing drugs every weekend, I was failing uni. I went and did my first detox in a private facility. I spent two months there and got clean and sober. I didn’t believe that drugs and alcohol were the problem, but rather depression and anxiety. Now, I realise that depression and anxiety were probably a side effect from all the drugs and alcohol that I was using.
Even though I got clean, I couldn’t bear the thought of not having alcohol or drugs in my life.
As soon as I got out, I started socially drinking again. Everyone thought that was sensible and that I was going to be fine. I think we all thought that I was out of the woods, so to speak.
At this stage, my social scene started to expand.
I was hanging out with several older gay men who introduced me to cocaine. That was another drug that I really identified with.
At that stage I was working in real estate, so I also tried to make cocaine part of my personality. I was the “coke head real estate agent” and at the time, I thought, “this is cool, this is what I want to be”.
So, I ran with it.
The reality was that there was an identity crisis unfolding in the background.
Then cocaine became a huge problem for me, especially combined with alcohol. There was always alcohol involved with my cocaine use.
I was really wrapped up in that scene. I started hanging out with people who were dealing drugs, with bikies. There was no limit on the supply of cocaine for me.
Things went downhill, and fast.
Over that six to twelve months, I was doing cocaine every weekend and the rest of my life was falling apart.
When I was twenty, I detoxed, stayed clean for two months and then busted really badly. It was terrible.
That precipitated what was to be my first suicide attempt.
Obviously, I wasn’t successful, my heart wasn’t really in it – I can see now that it was the drugs that were making me think that my life wasn’t worth living.
I was admitted to the RBH psych ward and then I had to go back into detox again for four weeks.
Each time I would come out of detox determined not to do drugs again. And within a month, I’d relapse. It was like a yo yo – back and forth, back and forth.
Detox again at 21 and at that point began wondering whether it would be a good idea to have a break from drugs “for a while”.
I decided to have a three month break and then work out whether I still wanted to use.
I didn’t have any real program or support around me at the time. There was nothing in this program to address my mental health.
I saw a psychologist weekly and a psychiatrist every two weeks. Diagnosed with anxiety and depression, I was put on a cocktail of medications to address it.
To deal with my addiction, you could say that we were taking the clinical approach.
It worked, for a little while, maybe three months.
As soon as the thoughts of clinical treatment disappeared from my mind, I started drinking again.
I was able to manageably drink on occasion but seven times out of ten, I would drink, not be able to stop, then move onto drugs. It was a rare occasion for me just to have one or two drinks and go to bed. It was more like, get drunk and then head out to score.
Just before my 21st birthday I went to London. It was a big party holiday, nonstop drinking, nonstop drugs. When I got to London, I ended up meeting a guy who offered me ice. I was so off my face on cocaine and alcohol, I didn’t have the judgment to say “no”.
When I came home, I didn’t touch it for eight months. I was drinking a lot though and still doing cocaine and party drugs.
Then I came across someone in my older circle of friends that was doing ice. I started doing ice regularly at 22 and that took over like an out of control bushfire.
If I thought cocaine addiction was bad, ice was ten times worse. It took over within a month.
My journey has been five years of getting myself into a bad stage, getting out of it and repeating the whole cycle. It was hectic. Nobody knew what was going to happen next.
When the harder drugs started, at 21, 22, the benders would just go for longer and longer.
The physical and mental consequences were worsening. I was in a dark place.
The first two times I had a bust on ice, I went into a private hospital detox.
Of course, it would only temporarily fix the problem.
It was a band-aid for the underlying issue of the disease of addiction I was suffering from, but that nobody was really addressing.
In September 2019, after four years of hell, I decided that I needed to do a longer term rehab. I knew that I needed to do something else. I had no idea about NA/AA.
I arrived at Hader Clinic Queensland’s residential rehab and was welcomed straight into a community of people who had been dealing with exactly the same issues that I had.
I felt good doing my three months’ there. I learned so much from the program.
I ‘graduated’ rehab and then decided to opt into the transition housing program. Within ten days, I had relapsed. I simply was not working the program and had underestimated what it was going to take to stay clean.
My relapse lasted eight days.
My parents, who have been through so much, simply told me that they had finally had enough and kicked me out of home.
They froze my phone and my bank accounts. I had nothing except the clothing on my back.
I walked around Brisbane for eight days, asking drug dealers if I could stay with them. It was a horrific experience.
Fortunately, it was enough for me to want to really ‘surrender’ this time. I realised that the addiction was so much more powerful than I was. This time, I wanted to get well, and I needed to get real.
I also realised that if I were to have any chance at staying well that I needed to work the program and attend AA/NA. I returned to Hader Clinic Queensland for an extra month and got clean.
Then I was allowed to come home.
That was three and a half months ago.
When I relapsed, I was hyperaware of what I’d done – I had to stay consistently high for eight days so that I would avoid feeling anything.
Living on the street for those eight days made me realise the depths that I could drop to.
I was so desperate, and it was a feeling that I never want to experience again.
When I went to Hader Clinic Queensland, I found the first couple of weeks rough and I remember wanting to leave at least twice. Initially I struggled with myself. After a few weeks I came to the realisation that I needed to do this in order for things to start working. I had to let go of my perception about what rehab was.
Eventually I connected with everyone in the rehab, plus I was able to really learn about what AA/NA was. This is what is keeping me sober today. Rehab is great for wanting to get sober, but the NA/AA program is what is keeping me that way.
All of the staff and their stories were so good to hear. It was heartening to see how much they’d changed, some from situations that were far worse than mine. There were so many parts of each story that I could identify with.
The future? I’m taking it day by day, but my plan is to head back to university, where I was studying aviation management. The good part about university is that I can reduce my course load if necessary to manage my recovery better.
Through rehab I feel like I’ve finally found out who I am. This was what I was searching for in drugs and alcohol, but have actually found in recovery. I have found a peace and calm in my life that I didn’t believe could exist. I’ve reconnected with my family. Life is good.
I am grateful to everyone at the Hader Clinic Queensland for their care and support.
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