Justin Nolan, a former pro boxer, is just one of the recovery champions to have stepped out of the ring of active addiction and into the training ground of the Hader Clinic. Now, having won just over 2 years of recovery and a job as the Client Liaison Coordinator for Seasons Bali, the Hader Clinic’s satellite rehab in Indonesia, he is living proof that anything is possible…….if you just step out of the ring and get the right kind of coach.
This is a man who was professionally trained to fight so it’s not really surprising that this is exactly what he did. Regrettably, when sparring against the dastardly cunning and flexed biceps of the fleet footed disease of addiction he stood no chance – nobody ever does. For every addict and alcoholic, the path into active addiction and out the other side never runs smoothly and it is frequently fraught with peaks and troughs where the addict looks like they might just be making it out the other side only to be pulled back under and into another volley of punches. This was certainly Justin’s experience.
“I first went into treatment in 2003 and in the last 14 years I have done a number of treatment programs. While there is no doubt that all the rehabs, therapists and doctors including my GP Dr Richard Crawford kept me alive, the really pivotal change came about in my recovery in 2009 when I first went to the Hader Clinic which was then located in Bacchus Marsh in Victoria.” he said frankly. “For the first time I was ready to accept life on life’s terms.”
Justin admits he comes from a loving family who he ‘put through hell’ and is a father himself but none of that mattered when the disease was in full flight. He explained “Addicts aren’t stupid people – we are sick people – this point needs to be accepted by the individual and the family in order to start the healing process.”
Quietly spoken and serious when explaining the severity of his addiction but given to peels of booming laughter when explaining the sheer ridiculousness of the situations he was embroiled in, including throwing up all over the president of an infamous motorcycle club, it is hard to imagine the addicted man he describes so succinctly: “I was a thief, a liar and a cheat. I was so sick I thought I was well. I lost my sporting goals, jobs, my family and my ability to manage money. I worked pretty much through most of my addiction and I worked hard but I had nothing to show for it. I used people but I never consciously tried to harm anyone. My obsession to use drugs was so powerful and I was consumed by fear and anger and was very lonely and isolated. As is usual in this game I hurt the ones I loved the most.”
The Hader Program
Justin had known Richard Smith, The Hader Clinic’s founder, for over a decade from 12 step meetings and also knew Jackson Oppy, The Hader Clinic’s general manager and co-owner from boxing circles. However, it took almost losing his life in an altercation that resulted in him being stabbed multiple times before he hung up his gloves and enrolled in their program.
“I did the 90 day program at Raymond Hader which was tough but extremely worthwhile. What I mean by tough is that I was extremely sick when I came in, I was in psychosis and I was coming off cocaine, marijuana, alcohol and ecstasy which meant I was crazy. That program and the people in it loved me back to life. It was a rewarding and positive experience and as a result Richard, Jackson and other people within the organisation have been a pivotal part of my journey.”
One of the things that really made all the difference was the length of time Justin engaged in the treatment. Experts estimate that in order to change a habit of any sort and establish a new one it takes at least 3 months. Justin said: “Primarily one of the things that was different in comparison to the other rehabs was the duration of stay. Twenty eight days, which I had attempted in private insurance approved rehabs, just wasn’t enough time. I had periods of recovery but I always relapsed. Over the 90 days I had time to withdraw and then learn and practice the principles that the program taught me. I had time to integrate what I learned into my daily living as opposed to being rushed in and rushed out.”
He goes on to explain that even despite the varied, holistic program with yoga, morning walks, CBT and one on one counselling that without certain members of staff he may not have stayed until the final bell. He said: “The staff at the Hader were fantastic, there were a couple of key people during my stay that if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have lasted.”
Addicts often display very similar symptoms to that of bipolar sufferers and it is frequently very hard to diagnose people accurately who are still using drugs or in the process of withdrawal. It is also widely recognised by the medical community that substance abuse over a number of years can lead to the development of this mental disorder. Therefore, this is something which requires expert treatment and diagnosis by people who understand both conditions.
Justin was diagnosed as bipolar and told that this was as a result of ‘going in and out of active addiction for so long’. As part his treatment at the Hader Clinic in 2009 he was sent to see Dr Bernard Hicky a psychiatrist in Melbourne.
Justin said: “He was unbelievable and he assisted me through that initially really difficult period but as a result of working a program and staying focused, in the last 2 and a half years I have got to the point where I no longer require any medication and withdrew from it with the doctors direction. For that I am so grateful. It’s truly amazing.”
Just One More Round
Despite his 90 day stay, Justin relapsed again and was taken back in by the team at the Hader Clinic and given a charity bed allowing him the chance to reconnect with his recovery. Explaining how the relapse happened he said directly: “Complacency and not engaging in the exit plan that was provided to me by the Hader Clinic. This disease is ‘cunning baffling and powerful’ (AA Big Book) and so for me the focus gradually changed. It became work and other things rather than maintaining my recovery. I certainly didn’t plan to drink again but that is what happened.”
Client Liaison with The Seasons Hader Group
Ever since his first 90 day stay at The Hader Clinic, Justin had said to Richard and Jackson that he wanted to work with them. They had told him to get educated and qualified so he took up the mantle and then ‘out of the blue’ received a phone call one Sunday in mid 2016 asking him if he would like to take up his current position as the Client Liaison Coordinator at Seasons in Bali.
At Seasons Bali and at The Hader Clinic, the Client Liaison team are the people who pick up the phone to addicts and their families wanting help. This team are experts in their field and provide essential support, assessment and information.
Justin is a university graduate who has worked in training and development, sales and human resources all of which stands him in good stead when dealing with potential clients but as strange as it may seem, his biggest asset is his experience as an addict.
Justin said: “I don’t have any judgement good, bad or otherwise, I know exactly what active addiction is like, I am talking to them from a place of experience and I want to give the clients and their families some sort of hope that things can get better. With a bit of luck they are going to choose us for their treatment and trust us in the process because this program has worked for me and it works for countless others both in Bali and in Australia.”
“We are experts in addiction. The program we deliver has been proved over almost 20 years to be a great catalyst for change. We offer transformation and change, we don’t necessarily specify that but that is ultimately what happens. It is extremely fulfilling and rewarding – watching people grow from that first contact until the day they graduate the program – and something that I have never experienced in any other occupation. That is what I love. I work with great people and what we do makes a difference.”
Time to hang up the gloves? Speak to one of our expert advisors today at the Hader Clinic for a free, no obligation consultation.