UN: How many times have you been to rehab?

C: Six times to 5 different rehabs in 4 States over 10 years, starting when I was 17. I’m 30 now.

UN: Why rehab?

C: I never had any belief I could stop using on my own. I hear that word “recovery”. To me, that means to get something back, but I have nothing to recover. My life was shit before I started using drugs. I was raised around drugs; they have always been a big part of my life. So I felt I needed to be taken away into someone else’s drug-free world.

UN: Was it always your own free will to go to rehab?

C: It was usually my choice; I really wanted to change my drug use.

On one occasion Child Protection said if I went to rehab for 3 months they would close their file; they kept their word. I had come to their attention because I felt suicidal after a traumatic incident. I asked Mum to mind 2 year old Sam while I tried to get into a psych ward. They told me to get off drugs and come back in 2 weeks. Obviously that didn’t work and I ended up on a bender...

UN: How would you sum up your rehab experience?

C: All the rehabs I have been to ran on the philosophy of “break you down to build you back up”. Except they were all brilliant at the “break you down” stuff but failed miserably on the “build you back up”. I think rehabs can be very blame driven and very down on drug use. They present drug use as having no positive aspects. Everything bad that has happened in your life is because you used drugs and is therefore your own fault. You should feel shame about your use and that should motivate you to stop. I believed this for a long time.

UN: What bothered you most?

C: I went to some rehabs that had unqualified workers, their only experience was that they had done the program themselves. I respect peer-based education but I don’t want someone unqualified messing with my head. I particularly disliked the group sessions, that you are expected to talk about extreme trauma with a group of people you don’t know.

There were some stupid rules too. I remember getting two weeks of restrictions because someone “stole” a drink from the kitchen and didn’t admit it. Restriction meant no TV, no radio, no phone calls, no shopping... and get this: no counselling sessions. You just clean all day. Not sure what that is supposed to teach you.

UN: Did you see the programs through?

C: The longest I have stayed is five months.

Rehabs take all your money. You sign over your Centrelink payment and get a small amount for cigarettes and toiletries, personal items. So you 49 are often somewhere in the middle of nowhere with no money to get out. So you stay.

The last rehab I did I wanted to leave but had nowhere to go. One of the workers told me I could stay with him if I lasted 3 months. I was so desperate to get out yet still so messed up I did it against my better judgement - knowing he expected sex. It became a domestic violence situation and he used stuff from my file to bind my silence. Luckily I am out of that situation but it was scary for a while.

UN: Did you go to rehabs with your child?

C: Yes, but there aren’t enough quality services for people with kids. At one rehab they wanted me to leave my child with another resident that I didn’t know while I went to an NA meeting. When I refused, they told me in no uncertain terms how difficult I was being. It wasn’t long after that that their funders came down on them for having people care for kids who hadn’t had a Working With Children check.

UN: Would you recommend rehab?

C: Let’s put it this way, if you want to go somewhere to get away from drugs and sort your drug use out, my advice is to get private health insurance, because the public rehabs I have been to were sub-standard. In fact, save up and go to a health retreat in somewhere like Bali.

After trying for so long, I realised I can’t do the abstinence thing so I have had to come to terms with my use. That way I have found not only peace and self-worth but some control over my drug use