The Challenges and Rewards of Working at an Addiction Treatment Rehab
Jay's Addiction Treatment

The Challenges and Rewards of Working at an Addiction Treatment Rehab

Jay, the Program Manager at the Hader Clinic Queensland, shares a personal insight into the challenges and rewards of working with clients who undertake the residential addiction treatment program.

The Hader Clinic Queensland’s “whole person” approach changes lives for the better and while my role is often challenging, it is highly rewarding.

Seeing clients change is what gets me out of bed every single day. It can be very demanding, but when you see the positive shifts that happen in peoples’ lives, it makes it one hundred percent worth it.

It doesn’t really take much, especially in a supportive environment. To see that positive change in people, really makes it worthwhile and makes the hard days easier to deal with.

A particular challenge is when a client leaves rehab before they give the program time to start working.

Their addiction, their alcoholism, their disease is so powerful, it’s talked them out of the door before they’ve even tried to give the program an opportunity.

You just know that they’re heading back to a poor-quality life. That’s the hardest part – seeing them leave before those positive shifts happen.

Many of our clients describe their behaviour when first admitted into rehab as “intolerable”, “impossible” and “wayward” – and they came into rehab kicking and screaming and fighting the program.

For me, I don’t find this aspect of rehab hard at all.

Let’s face it, we are dealing with people who are really broken, whose perspective of life is really skewed, and this just comes with the territory.

That’s addiction. It’s never a surprise. It’s the norm if anything.

Because we’ve got such a great multidisciplinary team, we have staff with lived experience right through to the psychologist and psychiatrist, and we can always find that language that we can communicate with a person.

We can give them an understanding of why they’re doing what they’re doing, why they’re thinking the way they are thinking and how we can get them over the line and engaged in their next phase of recovery.

That “early recovery madness” is really normal, it’s part of the whole recovery process.

It’s all about being compassionate and understanding, and helping them understand why they are the way they are. Every behaviour serves a purpose.

We look past that behaviour and we really begin to focus on what that person really, really wants.

That’s the other rewarding part of my job, where you see people come closer to what they actually value in life, once they’ve gone through that initial phase of detoxing and beginning to engage with the addiction treatment program.

They are usually completely different people to the way they present on admission.

That’s what we see with 99% of our clients.

They come in presenting one way – they’ve had to do this to survive their addiction, whether it’s denial, fear, resentment, isolation, blame, whatever…. When you remove all of that over time, you begin to see who that person really is.

And more importantly, they begin to see it too.

They often tell me, “I haven’t felt like this in twenty years! I’ve forgotten who I am. And now all these years later, I have to get to know myself”.

Often an addiction sufferer simply hasn’t had that space to allow change to happen, plus they haven’t had a group of professionals around them to give them that guidance, to provide insight to help them come to those conclusions themselves.

When they’re out there on the street addicted to the drama of it all their drug dealer isn’t pulling them aside and saying, “hey you, let’s work on those core values of yours”.

The changes that an addiction sufferer can make in three, six and twelve months is profound.

You see people at three months, six months, twelve months, two years, ten years and they’re forever evolving and growing, changing. It’s a continuous journey of recovery.

Definitely what they’ve thought to be true in the first ninety days of their program is completely different eighteen months down the track. They’ve grown up.

They gain more insight, try new things and challenge themselves. They become more connected with what they really value. Their whole world changes because their perspective on everything starts to change.

Basically, they grow into different people.

What they thought they liked a year ago changes. They find new hobbies, new partners, new careers, all that sort of stuff. And it’s all as a result of them learning to make better decisions for themselves, which involves the removal of all drugs and alcohol from their life.

We’re very focused on long term connection and support.

Everyone who’s in the Transition Program participates in a “give back” program where they return to the retreat and communicate with the newer residents in the program, giving them support and feedback through their journey.

It offers the opportunity to open up, get vulnerable and just connect with each other, because when they come back to visit after finishing their ninety days, they really have established a connection and bond with those who have just started because they can share and understand what it’s like to be in their position because they’ve lived it.

They can encourage those who are struggling with tips on how to get through the early phase, to give them hope that if they can just hang on long enough, they will be successful., for example, sharing “this is what I learned to get me through this phase..hang in there, things will get better.”

There’s a ton of reassurance.

What this also does for those who participate in the “Give Back” program is an opportunity to be of service to other people. One of the principles we really try and teach our clients is “get out of yourself, and think of, and support others who are doing it tough as well”.

We often get people returning on a regular basis to our Sunday NA meeting which is held on site. They’ll come and share their milestones when they get twelve months clean, eighteen months clean, multiple years clean etc.

They share a message of hope. These clients came into treatment broken with no sense of direction and their lives are now completely different.

We encourage everyone to stay connected. It’s all too common to see someone toward the addiction being so completely isolated and disconnected from not only themselves, but those around them.

There’s a saying we have;”the opposite of addiction is connection”. Connection goes a long way.

One of the biggest factors I believe in for successful recovery is having support. Once you remove that support, it’s hard to go it alone.

In rehab you have that support 24/7. Once you leave it’s important to maintain that support through fellowship and the like.

One of the other great components of our program comes from our family coordinator.

We support the family through their loved one’s recovery. It gives them the opportunity to learn some skills in how to support their loved one, but also how to put good boundaries in place. Plus, how to recognise warning signs.

As a result, both parties get a much better understanding of each other. They’re able to start to have a more productive relationship, just by changing the dynamics. There’s often a shift within families that happens as well.

That is a fundamental part of our program.

Not many treatment centres offer that – they focus on the individual and forget that they’re part of a bigger ecosystem. However, we see it as an essential part of the bigger picture. It’s definitely an advantage.

Overall, I think we try and break down each individual component of the program.

We try and work on many different levels with our clients. For example, if someone is doing “check-in”, it’s not only them being able to check in and identify their feelings, it gives some of them who may be suffering from anxiety, for example, a platform to manage those feelings and to learn to voice their feelings rather than retreat to a place of avoidance and non-communication.

Over ninety days, it becomes much easier for them.

What that translates into when they’re back in the community is an ability to communicate their needs better, rather than falling away and feeling like they haven’t got a voice to be heard.

You don’t go to rehab, undergo the program and get kicked out. Everything that’s done in the program is transferable to real life, no matter who our clients are, where they come from and what they do for a living, or whatever their financial or social status is – that doesn’t come into it.

All the skills taught in treatment positively affect all aspects of life.

That’s one of the most beautiful things.

Initially they come into rehab and really lack emotional intelligence. Over time you start to see them develop emotionally, where they can interpret not only their reactions to situations that come up but that of others as well.

It builds connection.

I can’t see any scenario whether it be family, employment or sporting club where this isn’t of benefit. They get lots of teaching, support and development of these skills to understand themselves and others.

It’s a most rewarding job, and please remember, there is always hope!

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