Joe's Journey Through DVA-Funded Addiction Treatment

Joe’s Journey Through DVA-Funded Addiction Treatment

Now in Hader Clinic Queensland’s Transitional Housing Program, Joe completed 90 days of DVA-funded residential addiction treatment and is feeling better than ever. This is his story.

I lived a life of active addiction after experiencing some trauma in childhood, difficult experiences in the army, and losing a child to Sudden Infant Death syndrome. Most of my time as a young adult I spent using drugs and drinking alcohol, and eventually, it affected every aspect of my life until the point that it was either get help or die. I have now completed 97 days of residential addiction treatment through Hader Clinic and am in the Transition Program, with a new life ahead of me.

I started taking prescription pills when I was a pre-teen after an event that happened to me early in life. Through my teens, I was using speed, marijuana, party drugs, painkillers and dabbled in intravenous use. When I was 17 I joined the army and attempted special forces and completed recon and several other courses including combat first aid.

I experienced some pretty tough medical incidents as a combat first aider that have stuck with me. Drinking culture in the military is huge which meant if you didn’t drink you were left behind pretty quickly. So, my drinking was pretty heavy and I was also using heavy amounts of pain medication. As a combat first aider, I had access to lots of painkillers, including morphine. Eventually, I spoke up about what was happening, I tested positive and was discharged from the army.

When you leave the army you lose all sense of purpose and are completely lost. I got a job in a pub and was still using drugs. I was definitely a poly-substance user, but the one thing that was pretty consistent was the painkillers.

When I had my first child I reduced my drug use, slowed my drinking, and stopped intravenous use. After my second child was born I lost my job as I was stealing money to fund my drug habit. I got involved with the wrong kind of people as I had been missing the brotherhood feeling from the military. I left my partner and started up intravenous meth use in addition to what I was already doing at the time, but I always made sure that I didn’t inject through my arms to hide it from my kids and family.

I ended up getting a job in a hospital that I loved so I applied to study medicine. But things were getting worse, so when I was supposed to start med school I ended up in the ICU a couple of times. I had some overdoses but was still able to hide it from my family and kids. I had been lying for years and using a friend as next-of-kin so they didn’t know about the hospital visits.

I blew every opportunity to break the cycle of addiction and eventually was told by a doctor that I had six months or less left to live. I went to the pub to celebrate. My Mum found out about my alcohol and drug addiction when I locked myself out, called her to help, and she found me completely passed out with tracks in my arm. She googled rehabs and found Hader Clinic Queensland and suggested it to me. To please everybody, I went in but when I found out that I wasn’t going to be able to leave rehab to go use I did freak out.

The first month in drug and alcohol detox I was a complete mess. I eventually realised that when you’re in my kind of situation, 28 days was not going to be enough. I needed to grasp the concept that I had a problem before I could start to do the work to change. Rehab was good, the staff were awesome, and the best thing was definitely the fact that all of the staff had lived experience. It was imperative to me that I wasn’t going to be told stuff from someone who had just read it in a textbook. I could actually learn from someone who had been there before and done it. The individual support was amazing and there were a couple of specific people that definitely saved my life.

I did 97 days of DVA-funded addiction treatment and am one month into Hader Clinic Queensland’s Transitional Housing Program. I didn’t think I had changed, but the people I respect and trust said that I have grown incredibly as a person. The Transitional Housing Program is a brilliant program that has been really really good at getting me used to the realities of life with the support I need.

If I had gone straight back into the real world I would likely be in active addiction again. My life now is good. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been, my head’s clear, and I’m in the best shape I’ve been in a very, very long time. I’m nowhere near as reactive and I can face life’s challenges head on and not blow things out of proportion. I am in the best mental state I’ve been in since I started using painkillers as a pre-teen and it’s all because I decided to do the work and complete 120 days (and counting) of DVA-funded addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland.


Photographs of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.

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