Leonard’s Alcohol Addiction Recovery Story
When I came back to work after completing my 60 days at Hader Clinic Queensland for alcohol addiction treatment, a couple of my colleagues asked “how was your holiday”? There were also rumours I’d had a heart attack. But I told them the facts – I’d been to rehab because my drinking was out of control.
I’m not afraid to disclose my condition. I manage a large team, and having an understanding of substance abuse allows me to contribute more in the workplace. Both at a company level (such as HR policies) and a personal level (co-workers whose relatives struggle with addiction have confided in me).
My patience and empathy have expanded. I deal with conflict in a patient manner now – in the past, I internalised those feelings with drinking and self-harm.
My heart is at the front of everything I do. I’m looking forward to being able to guide others in their recovery. Inside I am a caring man, and I always feel good looking after people. I’m happy, healthy, and sober. A complete turnaround from where I was – depressed, and always drunk.
I have type 2 diabetes and since I left rehab my insulin is down 75%, which is a miracle. But that’s only the physical improvement. Hader Clinic Queensland helped me feel mentally and emotionally whole again.
My name is Leonard. I’m 50 years old. I’m a Production Manager, a husband, a father of five, a grandfather… and an alcoholic. That last part of my identity almost destroyed the rest.
Before I went into treatment, I was putting away at least 16, maybe up to 24, pre-mixed bourbons every day. I tried booze-blocker pills, but they didn’t work. I’d been in and out of the psych ward for suicidal depressive episodes and received electro-shock treatment, and while that did help the depression I continued to drink.
Not even the pain I could see this inflicting on my family was enough to stop me. In the lead-up to my admission to Hader Clinic Queensland in February 2023, my wife was crying nearly every day. She didn’t feel comfortable leaving me at home to supervise our 12-year-old daughter by myself.
I was a full-time single Dad to the children from my first marriage. They’re all adults now. Raising a family came naturally to me. But now I was drinking so much that my wife couldn’t trust me to look after our kid, and that really hurt.
My wife had taken over control of our joint account to try and curb my drinking. I found ways around it, like lying to her about how much money I needed for groceries or petrol and spending the money on alcohol.
We had separated for about a month because my wife couldn’t handle my behaviour. She was shocked when she found out that I’d stolen money from our daughter’s wallet to buy alcohol. I was out of control and my mental health was getting worse.
I grew up in New Zealand and I was a dad from a fairly young age. I met my first wife when I was still in school, and we had three children together. I was always reliable at work; I’d been working for my parents since I was 8 and had my own job at age 14. I used to smoke a lot of weed in between my daily responsibilities.
When I moved to Australia with my kids around age 30, I stopped using pot daily because the drug testing policies for my industry were pretty tough over here. So, I switched to alcohol instead.
The binge drinking started around 2007 when my first wife and I separated. She moved out and I cared for our 2 teenage sons and pre-teenage daughter. My wife’s younger brother was around the same age as my kids, and he also moved in with us. Somehow, I kept up a household of all these kids by myself, and a full-time job. I was able to lean into the challenges, even as my drinking escalated.
As the boys got older and started drinking with their friends – though it wasn’t very often – I had all these young fellas at my house teaching them “how to drink”. I’d pass water around and look after them, play drinking games, and be a kind of Party Mentor.
I felt very connected and valued. I was in a fog, but it was a happy fog. I’d be the last one to fall asleep but also the first one to get up, make everybody breakfast, and ensure they got to work and school on time.
I met my second wife in my late 30s and we quickly fell in love and had a daughter together. I don’t think either of us could have prepared for what was to come. I used to abstain from drinking during the work week and just get hammered on the weekends, but it soon became a daily ritual.
My wife and I tried everything. I told her I would try AA meetings, and I got drunk on the way there and back, then just stop going. When I was committed to the psych ward, I would be sober for a few weeks on release, but always start drinking again. I still had a job, but I was making excuses to leave early and run to the bottle shop. And I was drunk nearly every day when I was working from home during Covid.
I went to see a GP who suggested I try Hader Clinic Queensland, because nothing else was working. I was able to use our medical insurance to cover the first 29 days of detox, and my admission date was set for late March 2023. I timed it so I could go straight into treatment after my son’s wedding in February.
Well, I never made it to that wedding. I attended my son’s bucks party where everybody was drinking manageably and having fun with each other… and I spent most of that night sitting out the back by myself, getting extremely pissed. I thought it might be like the old days when they were kids and we partied together. But the reality was I was alone with my alcoholism.
After that night I told my wife I needed Hader Clinic Queensland right away. I was drink driving every day as soon as the bottle shop opened, regularly missing days at work. At this stage my wife was giving me a small daily allowance for alcohol until I got into rehab, but I was burning through that pretty quickly. I told her the metho in the back shed was starting to look tempting.
I called Hader Clinic Queensland in desperation, and said “I can’t do this anymore”. I felt like any further delays would cost me my life. I wasn’t sleeping or showering. I had daily thoughts of moving out bush and drinking myself to death.
The staff I spoke to took me seriously. Hader Clinic Queensland did everything it could to move my admission forward, and I was lucky that it happened. I had to miss my son’s wedding, my daughter’s 12th birthday, and the birth of my third grandchild. But it was necessary to save my life.
Hader Clinic Queensland’s 60-day program was intense but comforting and exactly what I needed. The first month of supervised detox helped me get off the booze safely and the staff got straight into educating me on the nature of my disease.
I’ve been to many counsellors and psychologists over the years because of my mental health issues. I can honestly say the counsellors at Hader Clinic Queensland were the best I ever met in my life. We had many sessions, which is helpful because I got to dig into who I really am and what is underneath my drinking.
Rehab is where I learned what I needed to treat the underlying causes of my alcoholism, not just try to control the drinking. I got introduced to the 12 Steps and I still go to meetings today. I had wonderful experiences with the staff who told me I can have a new life and use my experience to help others.
I am 86 days clean and sober today and each day I find something new to be grateful for. There are so many little things. Hader Clinic Queensland taught me to value healthy routines, so I have a good system now for laundry, cooking, brushing my teeth a few times a day, going to the gym every morning, and making my bed. I’m not hungover and sleeping half the day.
I’ve reduced my medication and have a clearer head. I look forward to building a bond with my new grandson. I also have an older grandson who I never spent much time with when I was a hopeless drunk. I’m very keen to take him fishing. And I get to be a present dad to my youngest daughter without a foggy brain.
I’ve begun to rebuild things with my wife, although it’s early days. I’m not bothered by her questions or keeping track of my movements and spending. I have nothing to hide anymore. We’re having another chance at love and marriage.
The other day my wife and I were walking and holding hands. We used to do that all the time at the beginning of our relationship. It’s only something we started again recently.
My wife suddenly apologised to me. She said we’d walked past a bottle shop, and she didn’t mean to take us along this route in case it was difficult for me. But I hadn’t even noticed. I was just so happy to be holding her hand.
Photographs of this client have been changed for their privacy.
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