What Works in Treatment?: Adam’s Story

rsz_img_3275In the second of our series on what works in treatment, we look at Adam’s experiences and views. Adam had a problem with alcohol, amphetamine and cannabis before attending a residential rehab in Northam, Western Australia. 

‘I remember my first day in the rehab very well. I thought to myself, “What am I doing here? What have I got myself into?” I was very, very nervous, and along with the shakes and anxiety from coming off the alcohol, I was a right mess. However nervous I felt though, I had made my mind up before the implant operation that I was not going to drink or drug again. I was determined to do something about my addictions.

I did all the necessary paper work and was shown around, before being taken to my room. I was relieved to find I had a room to myself. I then sat on the end of the bed with the two garbage bags that contained my possessions, and had a good cry. I started to think about my family and I realised how much I missed them. Later that day, I was allocated a night to cook dinner and assigned a daily chore.

I had been given the naltrexone implant to abolish my alcohol and drug cravings, and I have to say, I did not experience any cravings. However, I did experience other withdrawal symptoms, such as strong shakes, which lasted about three months.

I was very depressed, nauseated and my body felt like a wreck for a similar period. I was prescribed Effexor, an SSRI antidepressant, and Seroquel, which is usually prescribed for bipolar depression. The latter drug made me sleep a lot in the early days. I remained on these drugs for about eight months.

I spent a good part of my first week in my room alone, reflecting on how I would lead a new life. I thought a lot about my family and the damage I had done to them. I hadn’t seen them in years and they didn’t even know if I was alive. As the drugs left my system, I started to feel the full force of my emotions. I began to realise my previous self-centeredness and was repulsed by this.

It would have been easy to just give in to these feelings, or hide them with more substances, but something in the words and kindness of John and others, made me decide that I wanted to change. There was a future for me if I could change. I had to find another way of dealing with these emotions other than use alcohol and drugs.

There was no single factor that helped me in the early stages of recovery; rather it was a combination of factors. I really began to feel hope, hope that I could and would have a new life. I had been unable to relate to people for a long time, but I now started to interact with people and make new friends. I felt that I belonged. People cared about me and wanted to help me. I shared experiences, a vision and an understanding.

The Northam rehab does the 12-step programme, using the Recovery Bible. At the time, I thought, “The Bible? Oh no, Bible bashers!” My first instinct was to run. However, that book helped save my life, and years later I still read it. It contains powerful stuff.

Basically, the book is based on the 12-steps and is couched in modern language. It teaches principles of living in an easy-to-understand fashion, and it opened up my eyes to what I needed to do to get better.

Funny enough, I had a picture in my mind of some of the things that I needed and wanted to do with my life (formed in my first few days in the rehab), and when I first read the Recovery Bible it focused on these things and much more. It all made so much sense and was so clear.

Although I was not a Christian at the time, the book became my manual for living and without my daily use of it I would never had made the progress with my recovery that I did. As an important aside, I became a Christian during my stay in the rehab and remain one today.

Counselling became a regular thing for me too. In the beginning, I did not like it at all. A guy I did not know was asking personal questions about my life. However, as the weeks went by, my attitude changed and I began to understand what was going on. The counselling helped me to get deep into myself and see and address personal issues of which I was unaware. My inner self started to change.

I also wrote to my family a lot and began speaking to them regularly. Over time, I patched up the wrongs that I had done to them. I think this helped me, allowing me to forgive myself and accept the person I was.

I was touched by the kindness of people around me, staff and other patients. Peter and Gloria, who ran the rehab, treated me like a son. I was amazed that someone as important as George O’Neill always had time for me.

Leon, another patient, and I cheered each other up, worked out in the gym and played golf together. This physical activity helped me to relax. It was also needed as I had put on a lot of weight in the rehab, going from 80 to 130 kgs, which I am sure was due to the medication.

As Christmas approached, I thought about my parents a lot. I really wanted to be with them for the holidays, but I didn’t have much money. One day, out of the blue, Peter and Gloria asked me if I wanted to go home for Christmas. I said I would love to, but couldn’t afford it.

To my surprise they said, “That’s OK, we want to buy a ticket for you to go and see them.” I just about fell over in shock and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Nobody had ever done anything like this for me in my life. I was so overwhelmed…

… I started volunteering over at the old hospital in Northam, which Fresh Start was converting. I got to know the project manager, Ian McClure, really well. Quite often, we would have a good chinwag while we were swinging sledgehammers or sitting down having a smoke.

I found it really easy to communicate with Ian because, as I discovered, he was young and wild once too. He used to talk to me about his younger days and what he used to get up to. I was blown away at what I was hearing. He is such a nice guy, you would never expected him to have such a past.

In a way, Ian was my counsellor on the side. He was another person who helped me get deep stuff out of myself and better understand myself. It was like learning about the new me. Learning to live a life without substances. I felt that I had been incarcerated most of my life, but was now free.

I hadn’t known how to do simple things, like pay a bill or make a bed, so had to learn how to do such things and develop a routine in life. Now I feel guilty if I don’t do things properly. I’m known as the neat-freak.

Ian was an important role model for me, someone I could look up to. He gave me confidence and hope, and I was able to ask him questions knowing he would give me sensible answers, providing information I could use in my life. He’s ‘been there’ and come back from a life of hell, so as far as I was concerned I could relate to, and trust, him.

John Stallard was of course another important role model for me and I still to this day think the world of these two people. To me, role models are a key element in recovery.

I stayed in the Northam rehab for ten months. I had a second naltrexone implant halfway through my stay and a third when I left the rehab. I had to pay back the cost of these implants over a long period of time, but I value how much they helped me. Having an implant gave me time to get my head together without craving for drugs or alcohol, which was key to my recovery…’

‘… In the rehab, I began to feel hope and a sense of belonging. I began to believe that I could and would have a new life. I started to interact with people and make new friends, which reduced my isolation. I discovered that people cared about me and wanted to help me. I also started to learn how to live without using drugs and drinking as a coping mechanism.

As time moved on in this environment, I learnt to trust and respect again. I accepted what I had done in my past and forgave myself for all the hurt I had caused my family. I became more accepting of other people.

I started to see the benefits of change. I began to see and feel a new me. I began to view the world, and the way I interacted in the world, in a different way. I felt a letting go of my old self, some sort of emotional release or purging of the spirit.’

 Why not check out Adam’s full Story.