Harriet’s Recovery Update – Five Years On
“Somewhere between my first drink in my teens and my last ‘drunk’ at 42, alcohol had gone from being my solution to being my problem.”
In the beginning, and for many years, drinking was my solution to anxiety, depression, stress, and pain. It gave me confidence, made me feel happy, helped me meet people, allowed me to escape from all the stress and pressure of life, numbed the pain and other uncomfortable feelings, and helped me to fit in.
At 40, my husband thought my drinking was getting a little out of control and that I may need some help, so I did a three-week detox in a medical facility to appease him. In that period, I didn’t drink, got fed three times a day, and didn’t have to face the responsibilities of family or work – I felt great and thought I was cured!
Within a week or two I was telling my husband that I could control my drinking now and just have one or two, but over the next two years my drinking got progressively worse – to the point that I was rarely able to go to work, I was stealing money to buy more alcohol, I was lying and making excuses for my absences from important family functions, I was hiding bottles around the house, I was disposing of empty bottles in various council bins around the neighbourhood so my husband wouldn’t know just how much I was drinking, I was frequently driving drunk to bottle shops further and further afield so the attendants didn’t think I had a problem, and I was sitting in parks and public toilets drinking hot bottles of the cheapest wine I could find.
My life consisted of obsessively and compulsively thinking about drinking – how much alcohol I had, where I could get more, how I could get money to buy more, when I could have my next drink……and on and on it went all day, every day. If I wasn’t drinking, I was thinking about drinking and if anyone got in my way I would unleash a storm of anger and intentional hurt on them. I felt alone and desperately unhappy.
I occasionally sought help from doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, self-help books, acupuncture……. anything that I thought might help end the depression and anxiety, but never once considered stopping drinking. What they told me made sense intellectually, but nothing worked for longer than a week or so. The fact was until I was honest, nothing would ever work because I was ignoring the problem and just trying to fix the symptoms.
It is said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome”, but for me, it was doing the same thing over and over again despite knowing full well what the outcome would be.
At 42, after an ultimatum from my supportive and long-suffering husband, I was so scared and desperate that I was honest about my drinking for the first time – honest with my husband but more importantly honest with myself. I had to accept the fact that alcohol was no longer my solution, it was my problem – it had removed my freedom, independence, dignity, meaningful relationships, and hope. I was no longer living life; I was purely existing and contemplated suicide.
I was physically and mentally broken and desperate, and all that was left to do was ask for help and surrender completely – I realised that I couldn’t do this on my own.
My husband found Hader Clinic Queensland through a desperate google search. When he went to the website, he was impressed by their:
- Immediate admission
- Long history of success with long-term recovery
- Highly qualified staff
- Family support
Hader Clinic Queensland helped me through their 90-day Residential Treatment Program. During this time, I lived in a Therapeutic Community (TC) which had a holistic, sustainable recovery orientation, focusing on the whole person (physical, emotional, social, psychological and spiritual) and overall lifestyle changes, not simply abstinence.
Hader Clinic Queensland also recognise that addiction/alcoholism affects more than just the individual and their Family Support Program provided my husband and family with a greater understanding of the disease of addiction/alcoholism, positive practical skills and support during and after treatment, and most of all, gave them hope.
The TC approach of Hader Clinic Queensland’s Residential Treatment Program is based on mutual self-help and support rather than medically oriented abstinence, which I had tried in the past but did not work for me. It helped me learn about myself, gain self-esteem, develop self-respect, learn about others and foster mutual respect while establishing and maintaining appropriate levels of responsibility, authority, language, and behaviour that were important and valued by the community.
Another key to the success of this approach, in my opinion, is that many of the Hader Clinic staff are in recovery themselves and have made helping other addicts/alcoholics their chosen career. This provided me with a very powerful message about the benefits and success of treatment in long-term recovery.
The program includes formally structured groups and individual therapy sessions with a professional psychologist, as well as more reality-based therapies that allowed me to utilise and develop skills such as communication, collaboration, decision-making, problem-solving, empathising, reaching out, helping, and teaching in a safe and supportive environment. Even the most fundamental activities such as laundry, cooking, and maintenance were therapeutic, as they enhanced my personal growth and assisted me to improve the life skills necessary to manage my own ongoing recovery outside treatment.
In conjunction with this Residential Treatment Program, I was exposed to daily AA and NA meetings. This allowed me to identify with other addicts and alcoholics through their stories in which they described where they were, what happened and where they are now – showing me that long-term recovery was possible, even for me.
In my journey so far I have learned that addiction/alcoholism is a cunning, baffling, powerful, progressive, and fatal disease; and that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety but connection.
I am a very grateful alcoholic who is sober today thanks to the grace of my Higher Power, the Fellowship, and the 12 Step program of AA. This program has taught me not only how to stop drinking, but how to stay sober and live a meaningful life – one day at a time.
I will always be an alcoholic and as such, this disease continues to try and isolate me and make me think that I’m cured, but if I don’t pick up the first drink, stay connected, help others and remain grateful I’ve got a chance of staying sober and being happy, joyous and free – just for today. Recovery is a journey not a destination and I must put it first so that everything I love in life does not have to come last.
Since leaving treatment I have travelled overseas, been on cruises, returned to full-time work, and repaired my relationships with my husband, son, and family. I have attended AA/NA meetings at sunrise on Waikiki beach in Hawaii; among the bright lights of Las Vegas; on-board cruise ships; around roaring campfires in the outback; in the rainforests of far North Queensland and continue to go to meetings during my lunch breaks, every weekend and most evenings. By doing what is suggested by members that have been sober for longer than me; listening to newcomers; sharing my story honestly; being of service to others (both inside and outside of AA); and using this program as a blueprint for my life, today I accept myself and have a life that is better than I could have imagined.
I also attend the local AA meeting which is attended by the current Residential Treatment facility clients once a month to share my story and give back what has been freely given to me.
Addiction gave me a life of isolation, fear, darkness, and despair but recovery has given me a life of connection with others, purpose, limitless possibilities, and hope. As my alcoholism was progressive, so is my recovery – it just keeps getting better and better. It’s not always easy but it is definitely worth it!
Hader Clinic Queensland has been successfully treating addiction since 1998 and provides ethical, compassionate, and highly effective treatment options. The facilitation of successful patient outcomes makes them Australia’s premier addiction and mental health treatment program. Their primary purpose is to fully relieve suffering addicts and families from the pain of active addiction and untreated mental illness.
If alcohol or drugs have gone from being your solution to being your problem, why not reach out to the team at Hader Clinic Queensland and see what they have to offer? For me, that was the beginning of a life that I truly deserve and allowed me to find, accept and love myself…my authentic self.
I share my story in the hope that it helps others find freedom from addiction and long-term recovery.
Names and photographs of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.
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