Lizzie’s Drug Recovery Story
Twenty-four-year-old Lizzie is now eight months clean from her polydrug addiction. She is returning to competitive rowing, and life has never looked more promising. This is her story.
The years before my second stay at Hader Clinic Queensland were a blur. It was chaos. An overdose where I almost suffocated on my own vomit.
Taking fantasy in an Uber and passing out on the footpath as it drove off, where a council worker found me the next day. Drug raids, a DUI, and multiple possession charges. I was so overcome by meth-induced anxiety I couldn’t sleep and was afraid to go to work. The creeping paranoia was constant.
Throughout this insanity, I think I was also quite lonely. My big sister, who I used to confide in about my problems, said she didn’t want to know me anymore. I hadn’t spoken to my dad in 2 years.
There were no more parties and fun nights out, just drug dealers and criminals. I was in my early twenties but couldn’t hold friendships for long because I had zero regulation over my moods. I’d end up pushing people away with verbal attacks. Everything was in Crisis Mode, all the time. And it was lonely as hell.
When I came to Hader Clinic Queensland my spirit was broken. I didn’t believe in love anymore. I’d had a couple of abusive relationships but thought that behaviour was normal. The nastier a guy became, the more I felt I deserved it. Telling me I was unattractive and worthless; blaming and threatening me, or hitting and choking me during rage fits. But in between these incidents, they acted friendly and said they loved me. Those trauma bonds kept me trapped just as much as ice and other substances.
The crazy thing is, I’d never grown up in that kind of world. I attended a private school and was a promising athlete. I was a bit rebellious as a teen but no more than the other girls. My home life was stable. My sister and parents loved me… But here I was picking up narcissistic, violent men from psych wards, unable to hold a job, injecting ice, and facing serious criminal charges.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. This disease can destroy anybody. I am one of the lucky ones.
My name is Lizzie, I’m 24 years old and almost 8 months clean. I completed Hader Clinic Queensland’s 90-day residential treatment program and their 3-month Transitional Housing Program, and now I work in hospitality and live with my dad. The people I have in my world now are good friends, there’s no drug use, and I’m physically and emotionally safe. I’ve taken up rowing again, competing in state championships and want to compete at a national level. All this in the few short months since I left Hader Clinic Queensland.
I’ve been able to dedicate myself to my health and my goals in a way I never could before rehab and the 12 Step fellowship turned my life around. There is a lot I missed out on during my years of using, but now I’m looking forward to all those things I never did before – even something as simple as attending a family Christmas. I have a trusting relationship with my father, and I do cooking classes with my mum. My sister and I are talking again and I made amends to her. I don’t feel like I could ever go back to drugs with all the gifts I have today.
It was not a smooth ride though. My first stint in Hader Clinic Queensland was when I was 19. I used drugs casually with my friends in high school. I had mental health issues and an eating disorder in my teens; it felt like there was a lot of pressure to achieve. A couple of the teachers were worried about me and of course, my parents didn’t like the people I was hanging out with. I felt like I was disappointing them. At the time all my friends were drinking and doing coke and pills on the weekend. I was the “party girl” and didn’t think I was liked for my own personality… just my willingness to have fun and rebel with them.
By the time I had graduated, it wasn’t just occasionally partying – I’d progressed to using ice. I was smoking about 2 points a day, then drinking heavily to regulate the anxiety, and taking Valium when I could get it. Ice was the answer to a lot of my problems in the beginning – it helped me unplug from my feelings and kept my weight down. I came to my sister in desperation because I couldn’t stop. After that came to a family intervention, which was scary. They gave me an ultimatum to go to rehab or move out.
When I first went to Hader I did have an awakening to the fact my addiction is actually a disease. It was a relief to meet other people who experienced the same problems. I made it to 89 days, but then I decided to take some medication I wasn’t prescribed (a friend of mine had died during my stay and I didn’t know how to handle it). But I also think the main issue was that I wasn’t fully ready to stay clean. Within a month of leaving, I was using again.
I had a few jobs in retail and painting houses. I attempted one year of a psychology degree but found I couldn’t focus. I was a lone wolf most of the time. My parents were always worried about me, and they couldn’t trust me. Sometimes I would only communicate with them when calling Mum in a crisis. I was never at home very much; I was very unreliable at my job. Basically, I only worked to support my habit.
I started dealing not long after my relapse. Things were a lot worse this time – I had begun injecting and experiencing more periods of psychosis. I was reactive and unstable all the time, and my parents had to help me escape from one particularly dangerous man I was dating. I just had no self-esteem and no connection to reality.
When it came to my second stay at Hader Clinic Queensland, that was my own choice and not my family motivating me. My mum said she would not send me to any rehab again unless I asked for it, given what happened last time. It turned out that things had to get very bad before I was willing to properly commit to the program.
When I dedicated myself to giving Hader Clinic Queensland another go, I had all these criminal charges against me and could see my life was going to implode. I knew there was no way I could handle going to court in my state – I was off my head all the time. But I knew from experience there was a place I could go to get help.
The admission process was very easy, I felt a lot more comfortable this time. I’m fortunate that my family paid for me to attend the entire 90-day program and the Transitional Housing Program because that has helped me maintain my recovery. My stay was a lot less scary – I knew what to expect, and could catch up with the staff I already knew. I felt comfortable and understood. The therapeutic community was very structured with meals, classes, and meetings. It was very healing; I knew I was safe. Part of me didn’t want to leave.
My parents visited me some weekends, and about a month into my stay I remember my Mum and I were laughing together for the first time in years. She said, “I forgot how funny you are Lizzie. I love having you back, you’re so serious when you’re on drugs”. I was already changing and growing.
My biggest growth was probably in the Transitional Housing Program where I lived for 3 months with other clients. We lived independently but did check-ins with staff several times a week, drug screening tests, and counselling. We had structure and accountability.
It was useful having a weekly shopping budget and learn how to share space and work together. I had a chance to ease back into life and get some stability. I joined a home group in NA, got a service position, and was a sponsor. I and the other residents took care of each other and are all good friends today. It’s wonderful to have these deep connections for the first time in my life. I don’t know if I would have stayed clean without Transition. My parents were relieved I took that option.
I started rowing again while I was in Transition. This was something I always excelled at but hadn’t done since high school. I found I could dedicate myself to my training, get up early in the morning, and find joy in it again. There is a sort of meditative stillness to rowing. I’m using the tools I learned at Hader Clinic Queensland and in Narcotics Anonymous to find a more spiritual path in life, and I now attend church and have a healthy romantic relationship with someone who is in recovery.
On a good day, I wake up at 4 am for training, after getting a solid 8-hour sleep. I meditate, eat breakfast, go, see my partner and go to a meeting. I do the daily readings and go to work. I used to struggle with bulimia since I was 15, but now I have a good relationship with food and listen to what my body needs. I love growing plants. And I feel immense joy in simple things – like getting birthday presents for my relatives. For many years I wasn’t around for these celebrations or buying anybody gifts. I was just too self-absorbed, and everything was about drugs.
It kind of shocks me now how calm I’ve become. Nothing really disturbs my peace the way it used to. I can create space around my feelings, talk to someone, journal about it, or pray to a Higher Power. I have faith and community, so I can always find my centre again.
I’m telling my story in the hope it will resonate with someone out there who is still suffering. Hader Clinic Queensland has completely changed my life, and it can change yours too – if you are willing. You are not the only person who feels like this. There are many other addicts out there, and we get better by helping each other. No matter how scared we are when we start this journey, it always gets easier. I wouldn’t have imagined I could have the life I do today. Hader Clinic Queensland and its program and staff give us a safe space to rewrite our own lives.
I plan to go back and finish my psychology degree so I can help others who have gone down this path. I really feel I have something to give back to the world. I look forward to competing in more State and National Championships for rowing. Thinking about the future is exciting, not terrifying. Because I know whatever happens in my life, good or bad, I will be ok. We can learn to ride the wave and just keep going.
Queensland’s only private rehab centre with ACHS accreditation
We are proud to be the only private drug and alcohol addiction treatment centre in Queensland to be independantly accredited.