Mia’s Story of Drug Addiction Recovery
My name is Mia, I’m 29 years old and just over 8 months clean. I completed 90 days of residential addiction treatment at Hader Clinic Queensland, and their 3-month Transitional Housing Program. My life is so different to where I was a year ago. Recovery saved my life and my relationship with my family.
It was 6am when police broke in the front door. I was there with my boyfriend, his mate, and his mate’s girlfriend. Both men were drug dealers and the target of the raid, but the other girl and I were too much part of the situation to get away unscathed. We were laid face-down and ordered not to move. I was high on GHB and freaking out. I reached over to touch the other girl’s hand, squeezing her fingers for comfort. The cops saw this and kicked me in the stomach. We yelled at them to stop. The girl and I were crying while they assaulted our boyfriends.
A male and a female officer took me to the bathroom where I was strip-searched and put in handcuffs. It all happened so fast. Nothing felt real – like it was a bad dream or a horror movie.
I panicked, resisted and the officers retaliated with what seemed like unnecessary force; I had never experienced pain, terror and helplessness like this, and I hope I never will again.
In the holding cell, as the drugs wore off, I started to feel the damage. It was painful to breathe. I had lacerations and bruises everywhere; my face was swollen up and I suspected I had at least one broken rib. When my mum came to see me, I remember the horror and heartbreak in her eyes. I still cry thinking back on that moment.
I love my mum so much. She’d seen me in hospital beds for drug-related injuries (like falling from a cliff when I was high or overdosing in the bath). My mother moved from country NSW to Sydney to be near me. She could see I was in trouble.
A few weeks after the raid Mum asked me – “don’t you think it’s time to go to rehab?”
I grew up in a country town in NSW and never felt like I fit in. I was quieter than my siblings, and not interested in academic stuff like they were. I was more a sporty and creative type. My dad smoked weed and drank, and though he loved us I don’t feel he was always emotionally present. Mum was busy doing everything for the family.
When I was in Grade 2 I started hanging with a girl from a dysfunctional household. We tried cigarettes and a vodka cruiser at her home. I was sexually abused but didn’t tell anybody. I started rebelling in other ways – like shoplifting and stealing money from my parents. It felt good to rebel. I was 12 when I got drunk at a party where I vomited and passed out, but still, I wanted to do more. By age 15 I was binge drinking most weekends and regularly taking pills and speed.
Mum and dad never knew the full extent. When I got caught stealing or using drugs I’d just run away from home for a few nights or even a few weeks. I stayed with friends or at random older guys’ houses. Later in life, I was mostly attracted to older men who could get me drugs.
I felt like I was on a mission to be bad. All my idols were rock stars and artists who died of overdoses. Something about those stories intrigued me and I aspired to be like them. I didn’t want to live past 30. Over the years I’ve self-harmed, had suicide attempts, and developed eating disorders. I had no care for myself at all.
When I was around 19 I moved to Sydney where I smoked weed and drank alcohol almost daily, did cocaine and ketamine a few times a week, and casually used meth and pills. For the last couple of years in active addition I was abusing dextroamphetamine tablets.
I worked as a professional model in my early twenties. I was travelling a lot, doing a couple of shoots a week in between castings. It was full-on, shooting for 14 hours a day and being judged by strangers for how I looked. I had anxiety, felt terrible about myself, and used drugs to control my emotions. But I also felt everyone – even my family – put me on a pedestal. I was getting all this false praise. As long as I looked good and was in the spotlight, then I had people’s support. I had no identity outside of being a model and a party girl.
I wasn’t able to hold down many other jobs after I quit modelling. I started an on-off relationship with a dealer and got my drugs paid for that way. I managed to get a diploma in design, but beyond that, I wasn’t doing much with my life. I thought all I needed was free drugs.
I lived with my mum after my arrest, but our relationship was co-dependent. I couldn’t do running or normal exercise with my rib injury, so I started studying yoga. It was my first introduction to spirituality and the concept of a Higher Power. I managed to stay clean for 2 months and felt better than I ever had in my life.
Soon I started using weed and alcohol again, doing coke at parties away from the house and hiding it from my mother. Using wasn’t fun at this point – I just wanted more but it gave me no relief and I was always on edge in case mum found out. She wanted to keep me close, but I know it made her anxious. Mum wanted to help me but she didn’t know how.
I tried a 3-week rehab program in Sydney and did some 12-step meetings. This is where I found out my addiction is a disease. I abstained for about 6 months, teaching yoga, and then getting a job in set design. I had something to prove. I wanted to show the world I could work a proper job and stay clean. But I didn’t realise how much effort it would take. Soon I was working 6-7 days a week while abusing dexies.
I was taking uppers during the day, and weed at night. I said I was “sober” at AA meetings but soon realised I was kidding myself. I got honest with my peers who advised me to try another rehab. I didn’t want to be in early recovery and relapse for the rest of my life. I did another 3-week rehab stint, and it was in that program that I realised, after 15 years of addiction, I was going to need longer than 3 weeks to reset my brain and build new habits.
The intake process for Hader Clinic Queensland was very easy compared to other places we called. Mum was happy to loan me the money for treatment.
During my first week at Hader I had doubts, thinking I’d made the wrong decision… but I soon settled in. I was surrounded by greenery and nature. They had a gym and grounds for me to go running. We had weekly counselling, and I saw a psychiatrist before I left. Over those 90 days, I developed some consistency. A shorter stay would have made it too easy to slip back.
Most of the Hader Clinic staff are recovering addicts themselves. They just wanted to help me. We had classes on boundaries, feelings and relationships, mental health, and strategies for life. I really benefited from Hader’s 12 Step approach and the daily meetings. I made friends who I still hang out with today.
The Transition Program was sharing a house in Brisbane with other clients in recovery. We lived independently, doing 12 Step meetings with weekly check-ins and drug screening at Hader Clinic head office. We did fun activities together like bowling or visiting the Buddhist temple. I took part in Hader’s “Give Back” program, where we visit the rehab for a few days and share our experience with clients who’d just arrived. This work was so grounding, and I’m really glad I did it.
I feel like I’ve had a fresh start. My relationship with my mum, dad, sister and brother is much better because we communicate honestly. Hader Clinic talked to my mum about how to have a stable relationship with me.
I feel blessed to have the life I do now. It’s very simple, but I love it. I do house-sitting and pet sitting so I get to cuddle and walk dogs all the time. When stressful things happen or I find myself overwhelmed, I can rely on my routines and the people in the Brisbane fellowship for support. I have really deep connections with other young people in recovery. It’s nice to live independently from my family.
On a good day, I like to get up early with the sunrise, and then drive somewhere beautiful in nature to have a run. I do breathing exercises and prayer, go to meetings and catch up with friends, and have dinner and an early night cuddling one of the dogs. I’m in touch with my old boss and look forward to returning to work as a set designer.
When I was young I never wanted to turn 30… But now I’m nearly 30, and I feel like my life has only just begun. I want to do weekend camping trips and go to the beach once I get my own place. I connect to the spiritual realm through nature and yoga. I seek a sense of freedom in healthy ways – like hot baths or ice baths. I just love the sensation of floating.
I’ve changed who I look up to and who influences me. I’m not idolising celebrities who lived fast and died young. My biggest role models are my mum, my sponsor, and my former boss. Healthy and strong women. I follow spiritual teachers on social media like Nedra Glover Tawwab. I want wisdom from people who show kindness and courage. People who can laugh at themselves and not take life too seriously. And now that I am in recovery, I get to be that person myself today.
Name and photograph of this client have been changed to protect their privacy.
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.