In 12 months I lost everything, but now I have hope
My name is Lawrence.
I’m 36, originally from New Zealand, but moved to Australia when I was ten. I grew up in Gladstone. Being a mining town with a lot of money, which means drugs are readily available there.
I was addicted to ice – I used to inject it and by all accounts, my addiction was full on.
I dabbled in drugs on and off for many years – I would have considered myself more of a recreational user. However, February 2019 became a turning point in my use. I’d actually been clean for quite a long time when I was involved in a traffic accident.
On the day it happened, it seemed like every other morning – get up, have breakfast and go to work. However, it was to be no ordinary day. A motorcyclist hit me doing 150km/hr. Naturally, nothing good can come out of impact at such high speed and I was witness to this rider’s decapitation and dismemberment. To say it was “full on” is the understatement of the century.
At the time of the accident, I had only been with my employer for five weeks. I was given a month off immediately. I didn’t know that Workcover existed to help deal with these issues at the time. Instead, I was nervous about losing my job, so I got clearance to return as soon as I could. Although my employer had provided some help in the form of a psychologist, the only thing I knew to do to cope with such stress was to self medicate. The self medicating started within a month of the accident and started my descent into the living hell that is known as addiction.
During this period, the psychologist was available to me via phone calls, rather than face to face. I had no idea about anxiety, depression or that the shock of experiencing such an accident would trigger post traumatic stress disorder. All I knew at that stage was about self medicating to survive my thoughts.
On my return to work, I was drug tested and passed. However, I was really beginning to unravel mentally. I couldn’t cope. I got more time off work and during this time, my employer started to change their attitude towards me in regards to my ability to work. Suddenly they were requesting documents from my psychologist, all that sort of stuff. After that, I felt like they were against me, rather than with me. My need to self medicate worsened and my drug use skyrocketed. Desperately trying to get better, I continued to utilise the services of the psychologist and counselling during these two week’s off.
Upon my return to the workshop I was drug tested, and this time I failed. By that stage I had started to give up on life. My feelings of mental instability were escalating.
My employer’s solution was to put me through a process to justify why my drug test was positive. It was just part of their operating procedure, I’m sure – I was going to lose my job anyway.
I was relieved of my role yet still had another four weeks of Workcover to assist me with my mental demons.
After that, I was on my own.
I tried to keep myself in check. Over the course of the next 12 months, my using would get out of hand. I became a daily user. I used ice so that I wouldn’t have to fall asleep and face my nightmares.
Rather than use drugs for pleasure, I used drugs for survival. I never wanted, nor intended to use, however, with access to mental health services cut off, I could see no other way of dealing with my life. It was horrendous.
I had no clue as to what I was going through mentally, that there was a term for my living hell – post traumatic stress disorder.
In that twelve months of daily use, I lost everything.
I lost my house.
I lost my family.
My children had to move to my ex’s mother in law’s home as I simply was incapable of providing the support and stability they needed.
I tried to withdraw my superannuation to fund my rehab. It transpired that I was given a hardship payment, rather than a medical grounds payment, which meant I would have to wait out another twelve months before I could access those funds for rehab.
Desperate, I tried to seek assistance from my GP for my mental health issues. I tried and tried to get clean by myself. I was going nowhere. In fact, if anything, I was sinking further into the abyss.
By this stage, things were so bad that I was forced to move in with my parents. I was still using.
As luck would have it, my claim for the accident came through and thankfully they provided everything I needed. Immediately I was given access to an occupational therapist, and she was able to get me into The Hader Clinic Queensland. I’d accessed the website previously and wanted to come, but could not afford it.
The Hader Clinic Queensland runs the best recovery program, hands down. I was extremely motivated to get well and having the opportunity to attend The Hader Clinic Queensland was like a dream come true. All of the staff backed me and I could feel their support always, even if there were no words being spoken. I had heard about other rehabs still having drugs in them and knew that with Hader’s zero tolerance policy, I was in the right place.
During my time in rehab, I committed to getting the best possible outcome, to accessing and learning about everything I could with the staff beside me every step of the way. If you are at your wit’s end with your using and you want recovery, there is help available. I owe this place my life, and the people that helped me get here, to get my life back on track.
When I walked down those steps into the residential rehab, I was ready. I detoxed for the two weeks prior to coming in. I thought that you had to be clean first before you attended. I am happy that I detoxed though as it gave me more time to absorb everything.
I had my Dad with me and I even joked with Jay that it was him, not me, being admitted. We had a bit of laugh and broke the ice (pardon the pun) that way.
It was a warm welcome, and I wasn’t sure who I’d meet in rehab. I felt at ease straightaway.
With the help of the program, and support from the staff, I experienced several ‘light bulb’ moments during my stay. Upon receiving feedback from others, I began to realise that I deflect a lot of my emotions with humour. I would never resolve anything, I’d just get around making a funny joke. The penny dropped during check in one day – hearing about me using my sense of humour as a mask was a defining moment. I realised that I used this strategy my whole life to try and deal with all sorts of uncomfortable communication issues – with my children, my partner, my parents. It was my way of getting out of dealing with a situation.
The guilt and shame, plus the burden I thought I had placed on everyone started to lift during rehab. I was able to work on this and was shown that if I can get myself right, that other things, especially with relationships, have a way of working out – probably because you’re communicating better from the get go.
My parents were happy that I was safe and they told me that they felt like they could “relax” in rehab.
I have strong family ties, both with my parents and my children and I’m glad that they now don’t have to see their son and dad slowly kill himself, because he didn’t know or understand the trauma he was experiencing. I didn’t know how to deal with what I was trying to run away from. Most everyday people are just not going to go through what I experienced with the accident. Except, perhaps for the DVA guys. I’m really able to relate to some of the stories they share and events they’ve been through. It’s been helpful for me to learn that others have suffered similar traumatic experiences and have been able to come back and recover.
The relationship with my ex wife and children is improving. I’ve always been there for them but not really present, in mind and body. Now, it’s nice to be able to go for a drive with them and experience special places clean, instead of being on a drug fuelled high.
The courses and support have been amazing here. I was doing meditation and more and more flashes of the accident have come back since becoming clean. I remember now distinctly seeing the motorcyclist’s head come off whereas before my brain had been in protection mode and I thought I hadn’t witnessed it. To have that support around me with people that could help me through these things was amazing. I was absolutely in the right place to be able to deal with these unexpected demons.
My occupational therapist was amazing. As well as get me into The Hader Clinic Queensland, she referred me to a psychiatrist, who got me onto the right medication.
Making that transition from coming out of drug addiction to recovery was also a good time to get specialist advice, especially around medication that would help smooth the emotional pathways for me – in other words, my emotions weren’t taking huge nose dives or jumping up into big spikes. Being “even” helped me to really work and understand the program.
I am hoping to move to Yeppoon. I have met someone amazing, who I have asked to be my sponsor – so I want that to be my home group. It’s a good idea for me to move, because everywhere I go in Gladstone there are drugs. When I go home, I drive my mother’s car so that nobody recognises me.
I’m looking forward to a fresh start and a new job without the constant worry of, “are drugs going to be thrown in my face?”.
I know that drugs are everywhere but with now what I’ve been taught in rehab, I can actually use the tools in my toolbag to protect myself from those situations when they arise. Obviously in a new town, I never plan to look for drugs. You never find them unless you actively look.
I’m doing the 12 Steps with an AA sponsor, so I’ve had to learn the AA materials – which are very similar to NA. It’s all recovery based. My mum was an alcoholic, and when I told her that her drinking was having a negative impact on my recovery, she stopped. She’s been sober for 40 days. It’s great.
After my accident, I lost my passion for my original role as a diesel and gas fitter. However, during my rehab I was offered the opportunity to do a Cert IV in Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD). That really sparked an interest and down the track I want to be able to help and support other people. That the staff all have lived experience, rather than just reading from a textbook, has shown me the value in my own journey and how powerful it could be to save another life.
Connection is also vitally important in being able to stay clean. I’ve been using the HaderCare aftercare App to stay in touch, as it’s not always easy when you’re living remotely in relation to the clinic!
My favourite feature of the App would be having access to checking in each day. Being in a remote area, I don’t always have readily available support. I am able to use the app to reflect upon how I am feeling and it’s great to have the support of the Hader Clinic Queensland staff reading and responding to your check in. I’m then able to discuss the checkins each week during the counselling sessions I have.
I also use the meditation side of the app, which helps me recentre and refocus when I need to. There is also access to online classes which have helped me when I’m “running rough” to pin point what’s actually going on and make the necessary adjustments to my routine. I recommend that everyone uses it, especially if you don’t have physical proximity to the clinic. It has been a reminder that support is always there and I am grateful to the Hader Clinic Queensland for the support and care that has underpinned my recovery journey.
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