Renee’s Alcohol Addiction Recovery
A successful psychologist, Renee never thought she’d be the one needing help. After an unsuccessful rehab stint overseas, Renee attended the Hader Clinic Queensland for alcohol addiction treatment. This is her story.
It wasn’t until I was 37 that I had my first drink.
Growing up, I had a very normal childhood and upbringing. I was raised in a Christian family, and particularly in the church back then, alcohol was very taboo. It was frowned upon, and people just didn’t do it.
In my family, we were never allowed it. There was never a drop of alcohol anywhere in the house. Or when we went out. If you were to drink, that would be a big deal. I was never exposed to it as a teen or even as a young adult.
I got married at 18 because back then, you were encouraged to get married rather than have sex outside of marriage. It didn’t really matter if it was the wrong person. I was married for 18 years.
My husband left me when I was 37, and that’s when I first started drinking.
I realised at the time, that it numbed the pain. It gave me some relief from the feeling. That was my introduction to what I thought was the benefit of drinking.
After that, I realised that I didn’t even like the taste, but I liked the effect. So, at the end of the day, I would have a glass of wine, just to settle me before bed. It became a regular thing, that one glass. Then that built up to two, and then three, and then a bottle, and then two bottles.
I always knew it was a problem. And I was very proud that I could get away with it. I didn’t really think I was an alcoholic, just high functioning.
I’m a psychologist, and it wouldn’t affect my work. I would work every day. I knew my limits for me to maintain my work schedule during the week. I would go harder on the weekends because I knew I could. I thought I wasn’t like anyone else. I thought I’m not harming anyone, it’s not doing any damage, so why can’t I do this?
However, my husband (I got remarried), who has been wonderful through all this, would regularly say to me that he felt lonely at night. He said it was like I wasn’t there; like I was checking out. He felt lonely in that period. I wasn’t nasty or rude, but I was absent.
Out in public, you couldn’t pick it. When I was out with friends, I wouldn’t drink. I didn’t drink for the taste and one drink wouldn’t do anything for me, so I’d rather not. Then I’d go home, go to the bedroom, and down a bottle.
In 2018, I went to rehab in Thailand. It was great. I went for a month. It was very luxurious – like a resort, and quite cheap. They had lots of psychologists, the accommodation was luxurious, and there were celebrities there. But it ended up failing, and I went to the Hader Clinic Queensland, which gave me results.
I did enjoy rehab in Thailand, but after returning, I was sober for about 6 months. One thing I didn’t do when I left rehab was attend any AA meetings. It was wonderful while I was there, but after I came back, I didn’t give it anything.
Hader Clinic has been life-changing.
One thing I didn’t ever want to do because of my profession, was go to AA meetings. With our AHPRA registration, if people find out you’re an alcoholic, it has the potential to affect your registration. It was a big barrier for me in getting help. In fact, for anyone in the medical profession, it’s a big barrier. You’ve got to really trust the people in the rooms, and I didn’t really trust the people, especially here at the Sunny Coast where I’m known (I practice psychology here).
My husband dropped me off at Hader Clinic, and I couldn’t believe it; the first day, that afternoon, they said we were going to an AA meeting. The meeting location was in the area where I lived.
I couldn’t believe it.
I was really shocked that first night. I was close to going back home, after hearing I’d have to attend a meeting. It had really annoyed me and scared me.
But one thing Hader Clinic Queensland did well was the meetings. Every day we had to go to a meeting, and the more I went, the more I got used to it, and I didn’t feel so paranoid about what it would be like. It was different to what I thought it would be.
Over in Thailand, we only did it once a week. I think it was the biggest point of difference between the two rehabs.
That first meeting was scary. I was just scanning the room for anyone who might possibly know me, thinking, who do I know, who do I know? Being a psychologist, I was looking around to see if there was anyone there I had worked with. I couldn’t really relax or enjoy it because I was too busy scanning the room.
It took me a few sessions to calm down. But what worked was the next night when we went to Cotton Tree for the women’s NA.
I walked in and I did know someone in the room.
I looked at this woman, and it was my worst fear – seeing someone that knew me in a professional capacity. She came up to me after the meeting and gave me a big hug, and just said, “Welcome. It’s so good to see you.”
I was quite overwhelmed with how she just accepted me, and that there was no judgement.
After that, I was fine and realised my fear was all in my head.
I think the strength of Hader Clinic is the support staff. They were great. JJ was awesome, and Mark, and Donna.
The staff were just amazing. And the psychologist I had too, she was good to work with.
The staff, meetings, and family components were the standout things for me.
I’ve got adult children, some with partners. So when I was in rehab, they all did the family therapy program. It became this whole investment; the family became a big part of it.
My family were really invested, so it put pressure on me in a good way to step up. When they’re all invested, it makes me want to do my best. It’s another layer, realising that my drinking has an impact on the family as well.
We’ve had rules since I’ve been out. They all drink around me, but they must take the alcohol with them; it’s not to remain at the house.
Another thing that’s really helped me is that my husband’s never had any alcohol around me. If we go out, he won’t drink. At home, he won’t drink. Wherever I am, he won’t drink, and it’s been helpful.
Having family be a part of rehab is huge. I feel differently now. I don’t feel like a failure anymore. I feel like I modelled something to my family. I showed them what it’s like to go and get help. I also modelled to them that it doesn’t matter how addiction presents, it’s not okay, and this is what you should do.
I feel as if I’ve created a bit of a legacy in the family. Potentially something that was quite shameful, shame-filled, and negative, became a real positive for me.
I’m nine months sober now. I never thought making it through Christmas and New Year would be possible, but I did. The kids tell me how proud they are of me.
Thank you to Hader Clinic Queensland for helping me get where I am today.
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