Natalie's Ice Addiction Recovery - Hader Clinic Queensland

Natalie’s Story of Meth Addiction Recovery

Natalie completed residential addiction treatment for her ice addiction. Now, over 10 months clean, she is ready to take on a change of career to help others and give her children the childhood she never had. This is her story.

My name is Natalie, I’m 32 years old, and I am 10 months clean and counting. I completed Hader Clinic Queensland’s 90 Day program for methamphetamine addiction treatment and now live with my partner and our two children, being the stable and healthy person I never thought I could be.

Now that I am clean I am finally able to deal with the underlying mental health issues I’ve had since I was a child (I was sexually abused, neglected, groomed, and introduced to substances at an age when most girls are still playing with dolls). I never really had a childhood. And if I had not received intervention from Hader Clinic staff and the NA twelve steps, I would not have had an adulthood. I’ve grown up in recovery.

Before I went into treatment I was broken – physically and mentally. In 2020 after a bad breakup (and still unable to manage my trauma and substance abuse) I tried to throw myself off the Story Bridge. My ankle shattered from the impact when police pulled me down. I was taken to the hospital in handcuffs in a paddy wagon.

Meth was my drug of choice. I’ve been a chef all my life, and it was sometimes useful to abuse stimulants in such a high-pressure job and work long hours, but I couldn’t be in the kitchen on a broken ankle.

While I was off work I wasn’t using ice, but I developed an addiction to alcohol and pain medication. I abused opioids even when I was able to walk again. My doctor soon figured out what was going on and took me off the pills. After this I increased my drinking to about 5 or 6 bottles of wine a day, doing 12-hour shifts and staying up til 4 am. Working helped distract me from my mental pain, but I was still in active addiction.

Part of the reason I went to Hader Clinic Queensland was that my substance use wasn’t just impacting my mental health – my body was being attacked as well. In 2021 I was drinking for a whole day, fell into a pool and had a concussion for 3 months. I was still working despite the constant headaches and vertigo. In early 2022 I had a drunken bicycle accident that gave me internal injuries.

My doctor had a frank discussion with me about the cause of these injuries. He suggested Hader Clinic Queensland because he’d heard good things. A few days later when I was up late drinking, I Googled the place and sent them a message. They called me back the next day and I started the intake process.

I had a new partner of 18 months at this point. She has two young children who I raise as my own. She is supportive, but we still had so much conflict over my drinking. Our relationship started to resemble other toxic, codependent romances from my past. I had too much to lose now and didn’t want to continue the same cycle.

My partner was ready for me to get well, and she arranged for my super release so I could continue after detox and complete the whole 90-day program. I was drinking every day in the lead-up to admission. Part of me wanted to keep putting it off, as I wasn’t sure what my life would look like sober. I had half-heartedly attempted other rehabs and never finished them.

When it came time for me to go into treatment, Hader Clinic Queensland staff were able to help my partner as well. They referred her to services where she could get help for her own co-dependency. There was a focus on helping families of addicts, not just the person in treatment.

I came from a broken family. My parents split up when I was young. I’m pretty sure my mum has been an addict most of her life. As a child she gave me and her other kids pills to help us sleep. By around age 10, she was offering me alcohol to look after my siblings while she disappeared for days at a time. Dad wasn’t around. I was being sexually abused by multiple male relatives, and telling my mum didn’t change anything.

My older brother who I was close to and who protected me was taken into foster care. I was smoking weed in high school and quietly abusing Ritalin to deal with the constant feeling of abandonment and my home life.

I found I would get completely psycho when I ran out of the stimulant pills and often experienced suicidal ideation. These symptoms only got worse as I got older, and my drug use progressed. I learned how to act “normal” when I was high to keep my habits private.

I did party drugs in my teens and early twenties (acid and ecstasy, as well as weed and alcohol) but whatever I used was always to excess. I met my now ex-wife when I was starting in hospitality, and by age 22 I was using meth. From the first time I tried ice, I knew I loved it. This drug seemed to make all my worries vanish and I felt invincible. I was shooting up 10 times a day at my chef job.

My wife was anti-drug and had no idea I was doing any of this. I made up stories about where my money was going. Eventually, I had a breakdown which resulted in our marriage ending. I was hospitalised for multiple suicide attempts, dosed with Seroquel for a while, and then started using ice again upon my release.

After the divorce, I had no friends except other drug addicts. I worked for 80 hours a week and came home to a mattress and a sofa because I’d sold everything else. I would have bouts of psychosis where I thought people were trying to kill me. A lot of this was internal, I didn’t tell many people about what went on inside my head.

I started another long-term relationship, moved cities, and started a new job. For the first 6 months, everything was great, and I wasn’t using drugs. But then I fell in with the old crowd I knew in that town and the meth habit started again. Like last time, it was in secret. I started mixing it with Fantasy and this caused memory blackouts at my work.

My partner and I moved around a few times. I had regular breaks of just drinking and trying to have a normal life. The disease never went away. When I started using ice again I was sneaking out while my partner was asleep to get on. Once I disappeared for half a day and gave some excuse about seeing friends – but I was really in hospital getting an abscess treated.

It came apart when my partner found messages on my iPad showing I was trying to score meth. She confronted me and I still lied, telling her I flushed the drugs and never took them. We both worked at the same restaurant, and she told my boss. I eventually lost my job, and my partner asked to separate.

By the time I ended up in Brisbane on that bridge, I was done with the drama, but still in denial. I had been living with my ex during COVID – knowing we would never reconcile, but afraid to leave her and be all by myself.

When I got into Hader Clinic Queensland I was able to confront this issue – my fear of being alone, the childhood trauma, and the drugs I was using to avoid facing it. I formed a great relationship with the rehab counsellor, Sally. She was always available for support. During our sessions, I learned to feel my feelings and not try to control them or be controlled by them.

The biggest benefit to my time in treatment was learning emotional regulation. I had the urge to self-harm while I was in rehab, but I was transparent about it with the staff and they helped me get out of that headspace. I did daily readings with the other residents, and we talked about them as a group. It helped me reflect on past behaviours.

I took on every suggestion. I wanted to use everything Hader Clinic Queensland had to offer me – the classes, journalling, step work, meetings, meditation and yoga, and morning walks. This routine settled me down. After a lifetime of insomnia, I learned how to put my body into a restful sleep.

I kept these habits when I left rehab – walking to work, doing gratitude lists, and meditating on the bus. I no longer need sleeping meds to get rest at night. And I’ve lost 36kg in the last 8 months. I can re-centre myself and slow down those racing thoughts. And I can work in a licensed venue and not have the urge to drink. I still attend meetings and use my sponsor.

The biggest change and benefit has been my relationship with my family and partner. When I come home, I have a clear head and I’m ready to be present for her and for our kids. We have an affectionate relationship with lots of hugs. We can afford to do activities for the children like gymnastics, because we’re not wasting money drinking.

I’ve decided I’m ready to leave hospitality. I’m a great chef, but I think I’d make a good paramedic because I can deal with high-pressure situations and people in distress. I’ve been there myself. I know I can be of service to others.

My advice for anybody struggling with addiction is to not delay going to rehab. I put it off for years and sat in a place of pain when I didn’t need to. Help is out there if we really want it. We will be welcomed into the clinic and into meetings with open arms. Whatever our past, or how long we have been addicted, we do recover.

I never thought I’d be able to raise a healthy child. My upbringing was so terrible. I had no blueprint for being a good mum. I was afraid to have children because I felt I’d pass on my issues. But our kids are thriving. We cook together, do homework, learn about the world, and talk about our feelings. I get to give them the kind of childhood I never had.

The name and image of this person have been changed to protect their privacy.

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