Addicted Australia - Episode 4

 

The Addicted Australia documentary series takes cameras into the lives of ten Australians and their families, to show real stories of addiction. Each of the ten participants have enrolled into a unique and bespoke treatment program, developed by Turning Point, to access holistic care and support, recover and get on with their lives. ​

 

First, Rethink Addiction wishes to commend SBS, Blackfella Films and Turning Point for the incredibly powerful series. It has truly been ground-breaking and has begun to reshape how we talk about addiction in Australia.

 

But the conversation is not over, and we need your help to keep up the fight to Rethink Addiction and make improving treatment and banishing stigma a national priority. If not already, please sign our petition and follow the campaign on social media to help change Australia’s attitude and response to addiction.

Lapse and relapse

Episode four showed a common aspect of recovery – lapse and relapse. When Matt has a lapse, he comes to his next counselling session concerned about what the team will think. But what he encounters is the support of people who are on similar journeys.

“I feel positive, I felt like I let a few people down. But they don’t seem to think so, it all seems to be a part of it, I’ll keep it going.”

 

Matt, 33

 

“Relapse is part of recovery, it’s certainly not a failure. It’s that willingness to make mistakes and the critical thing is to have the courage and resilience to get up and keep on going.”

 

Professor Dan Lubman

Executive Clinical Director

Turning Point

‘Just stop’ is just stupid

“If we were running a treatment program now for diabetes, stroke or heart disease the expectation wouldn’t be that we could fix everyone. The same’s true here in addiction.”

 

Professor Dan Lubman

Executive Clinical Director

Turning Point

 

We don’t expect people with other health conditions to recover without treatment and support, yet there is a widely held view that people struggling with addiction should be able to ‘just stop’. It is a damaging misconception that clearly shows the significant stigma and inequity faced by people affected by addiction.

Another issue is that support services and treatments available for addiction are often underfunded, and not necessarily connected with one another or available through an integrated program. This can make it difficult for people to stay on track and maintain positive changes. The treatment program featured in the documentary series has been unique in this regard, with wrap-around and holistic treatment and support available to participants throughout.

 

It’s what we need to see more of across Australia and why Rethink Addiction is calling on decision makers to make addiction a national priority so that more than just the 10 participants can be helped in this way. You can help make this change by signing our petition today.

Judgment and stigma

We know that the stigma around addiction and people’s perceptions of who is affected by addiction can be a huge barrier for people accessing support. Stigma can also be a stumbling block for people who are in treatment, as they can feel constantly judged by others, which can put a huge amount of pressure on them.

 

In a peer group session, Sarah says:

 

“It’s the judgement that comes from other people, like are you an addict or whatever. I work on myself every single day, I don’t think a lot of the community can say the same about themselves, yet they are so quick to point the finger… I’m just a good person that’s trying to do the best I can. It’s exhausting though being an addict.”

 

Sarah, 42

 

For some people, the shame and stigma are so overwhelming they don’t feel they can tell anyone about their struggles. For most of the treatment program Heidi still hadn’t told anyone about her addiction, however when she finally does tell her mum, the relief is palpable.

“She had no idea what I was going through, she just listened. She didn’t do any of the things I had imagined in my mind, she wasn’t angry, then I just cried. Then she said thank you for telling me.”

 

Heidi, 31

 

As we have found out more about the participants in the program, it’s become clear that many of them have experienced mental and physical trauma, with addiction developing as a result of using alcohol, drugs or gambling to cope.

“I think the stereotype is that people with addiction are generally weak in some way and what I think’s really been demonstrated by this group is they’ve had to overcome some incredible struggles in their life. They get up every day and they try to make themselves better and that takes enormous strength and resilience.”

 

Professor Dan Lubman

Executive Clinical Director

Turning Point

 

What the participants demonstrate is that they are extremely strong with their ability to survive adversity, and their desire to work through the hardships in their life and find other ways to cope beyond their addiction.

Burden and relief for families

Ruben expresses considerable guilt for the impact his addiction has had on his family. When he tearfully talks about his mother, being so scared it is an incredibly raw moment.

“First thing she does when she wakes up is come to my room, she just comes to see me move, you know. Because she doesn’t know if I will be alive or dead.”

 

Ruben, 48

 

Later in the episode, we see the impact that the program has had on the whole family. Ruben, his sister, son and mum can all see a future that is much brighter.
 

“We always say don’t lose hope but there was a point that I was thinking…is he ever going to do anything, is he ever going to get better? But now I can see the difference, yeah. I’m proud of him and I think he will make me more proud.”

 

Dora, Ruben’s mum

The impact of COVID-19

Towards the end of the program COVID-19 restrictions have started to be implemented, and the face-to-face aspect of the treatment needs to be shifted to telehealth. Unsurprisingly this is difficult for the participants who are quite vulnerable and are concerned about being isolated.

As Victoria goes into its first lockdown Heidi says,

“All of us will kind of be struggling at the moment and I think even more so if you have an addiction. It just plays on anxiety and uncertainty and that’s what this time is right now.”

 

Heidi, 31

 

One advantage of shifting to telehealth is that this has helped some people who have traditionally struggled to attend healthcare services face-to-face. This difficulty attending services could be for many reasons, including geography, privacy concerns, financial barriers, time constraints, access to transport and childcare. It is envisioned that in the coming years that a mixed care model will be broadly be adopted to provide treatment, including in the addiction treatment sector.

In the final peer support group, we see the progress made by the participants and the crucial role their connection to each other has played during the treatment program. They are supportive, understanding and encouraging of one another, and will even call each other out when they see someone not being truthful with themselves or others. Importantly, they support and interact with one another to try to help each other make positive changes.

Lucas reflects on the peer group saying:

“It gave me for the first time ever a sense of community. Throughout this whole journey I had never found a community and that’s what I have got out of it. It’s just having that back up for the first time in my life and I can’t thank you all enough!”

 

Lucas, 38

Recovery is possible

As the series wraps up, we see incredible progress from the participants and the recovery that are possible for anyone affected by addiction. While addiction might still be part of who they are, it’s not the thing that defines them:

 

“My name’s Sarah. I’m currently a full-time student studying a Diploma of Community Services, I’m also a daughter, I’m a sister, I’m an aunty and I’m a dog lover. And I’m currently recovering from addiction.” 

 

Sarah, 42

 

“My name is Ruben and for the longest time I believed that heroin had broken me. But today I strongly believe that you know I have a chance to finally be normal again and I have tomorrow and the next day and you know the day after that.”

 

Ruben, 48

 

"My name is Dawn [and] I started drinking when I was 13. I’m about to turn 63. People can get on top of this addiction at any age you know. You don’t have to be 20 or 30 or 40. It’s never too late to stop, never."

 

Dawn, 62

Things need to change – we need to Rethink Addiction

In reflecting on the program, Professor Dan Lubman points to the lack of integrated treatment and support options and the evidence-based treatment for addiction available:

“I think what’s really unfortunate is addiction isn’t seen as a health disorder, because of that it doesn’t have the attention, the resources, the commitment to actually put in the treatments we know that work.

I think what this program has shown is if you meet people where they’re at, if you look at where they want to go and you put the right supports and structures around them and provide them with what we know works in terms of treatment we see people flourish, we see people get to where they want to be.”

 

Professor Dan Lubman

Executive Clinical Director

Turning Point

 

 

“My name is Heidi and I’ve had a problem with alcohol for about 5 years now. I am currently sober thankfully. As a society, we don’t want to talk about addiction. Why, why are we not doing this, what is there to be ashamed of, because I can promise you that you know someone who has an addiction, and we need to talk about it.”

 

Heidi, 31

 

Now that these incredible people have shared their powerful stories and recovery journeys with you it’s time to take part in the conversation and become part of the campaign to #RethinkAddiction.

You can do this by:

We hope you found the final of Addicted Australia to be empowering and insightful.