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Lauren had to use about $50,000 of her and her partner’s superannuation to fund four weeks in rehab after battling alcohol addiction for almost two years.
It’s the kind of money many families would put towards a mortgage or new car, but that’s what most Aussies fighting addiction can expect to pay for just a few weeks of rehab.
“I’m not going to lie; when we first saw the bill, we freaked out,” Lauren tells 9Honey, but it’s a price she was willing to pay for the sake of her marriage, kids and mental health.
The Adelaide mum spiralled into alcohol addiction after struggling to cope with the pressures of raising two small children, working full-time and running the household.
It wasn’t that she resented her children or her partner, but the ‘mum juggle’ can be brutal and she felt her mental health deteriorating not long after her second child was born.
“I think what kicked it into gear for me was postpartum depression and then working for a toxic company,” she admits.
“It was the feeling of being alone, of being expected to wear so many hats but only having one head.”
When it didn’t get better, she went to her GP for help but was crushed when he dismissed her out of hand.
“You’re just upset because you don’t have a baby anymore,” he said. Lauren had two toddlers at home and knew that wasn’t true.
It was only when she pushed back that he gave her a referral to a psychologist, but Lauren struggled to connect with them and ended up back at her GP’s office soon after.
He then prescribed her medication to treat her depression and for a while that worked, but when Lauren really started feeling better she stopped taking the medication.
It’s a common mistake Aussies can make with antidepressants, and around the same time her alcohol consumption spiked.
“I couldn’t go without having a wine after work, or a wine after putting the kids to bed, and then a wine turned into two, then into three,” Lauren says.
Her husband noticed the change in her drinking habits but Lauren insisted it wasn’t a problem, pointing out all the ‘wine mum’ memes that made her drinking seem normal.
Lauren excused the drinking by saying all mums needed wine to get through the day. (Stock image) (Pexels)
“He said to me multiple times, ‘I think you drink too much. I think there’s something wrong here’ and I would just shrug it off,” she says.
Soon three wines turned into a whole bottle, and as the months went by the drinking started to affect other parts of Lauren’s life too.
She was underperforming at work, she broke out in itchy psoriasis that made her want to “tear her skin off” and her marriage suffered, so she started lying about how much she drank.
“I would pound a bottle of wine and hide it under the kitchen sink,” she confesses.
“We’d have a great family evening and when the kids went to bed I’d say, ‘I’m just going to have a glass of wine’. Little did he know that was my third.”
Lauren before she went to rehab for alcohol addiction. (Supplied)
Lauren had come to depend on alcohol to get through the day and though she never let her drinking endanger her children, her husband was fed up and knew she had a problem.
After 18 months of trying and failing to get Lauren to stop drinking, he warned her that if she didn’t cut down he’d get her friends involved.
“I didn’t want that because you don’t want to show weakness to your friends and your colleagues… but I couldn’t stop,” she admits.
The intervention started with a knock at the family’s front door one morning while the kids were staying with Lauren’s in-laws.
Her husband had arranged for three of her best friends to come to the house and finally confront her about her drinking problem, which had Lauren fuming.
“I was like, ‘what the hell?’. I was so angry with my husband at the time… but my friends started talking about the dangers that I was putting myself in,” she says.
“It was pretty intense, but I sat there and listened to them. I could have run away, but if my closest friends and my husband thought there was an issue, then there clearly was.”
One of those friends was a nurse who insisted Lauren needed inpatient care to beat her alcohol addiction, so the mum-of-two agreed to go to a private rehabilitation facility.
Waiting for a place in a public rehab centre can take weeks or even months and Lauren needed to tackle her drinking problem as soon as possible.
First she headed to a facility in Victoria, where she’d still be close to her husband and kids, but after a few days there she knew it wasn’t the right fit for her.
Lauren didn’t feel like she was getting the support she needed, so with her husband’s support she moved to a rehab house on the Gold Coast instead.
Lauren before she went to rehab for alcohol addiction. (Supplied)
Salt Recovery was much further away from her family, but with daily therapy and a dedicated psychologist she hoped to finally get the help she needed.
It was a long, hard journey to sobriety.
“There were a lot of tears, a lot of laps around the building going, ‘is this what I want?’ and trying to keep yourself motivated, trying to not go back to bed and cuddle up with your pillow,” she admits.
“You’ve got to do what they need you to do, from a holistic point of view, to the therapy. It’s a lot of hard work and I’m not going to lie, I learned a lot about myself.”
Salt Recovery is a rehab facility on the Gold Coast.
Salt Recovery specialises in addiction, including the medical withdrawal process, and takes on a holistic approach on the journey to recovery, which can be confronting.
Lauren had to unpack a lot of emotions and trauma going back to her childhood years to understand her alcohol addiction and take accountability, then work on recovery.
It was something she desperately needed to do if she wanted to beat the booze, but it didn’t come cheap and her family didn’t have enough savings to cover the bill without help.
“[Private rehab] costs 50-odd thousand dollars, give or take, depending on where you go but the Australian government’s actually quite kind in this situation,” Lauren says.
“Because addiction is a mental health crisis, the government lets you withdraw from your superannuation for compassionate reasons to pay [for rehab].”
The Australian Government allows Aussies to access their superannuation savings to help fund private alcohol and drug treatment, provided they pass certain eligibility requirements.
That includes a technical application, which requires a medical assessment and a report from a psychiatrist and GP, and proving you can’t pay with a loan or using savings.
Even then, many Aussies can’t afford or feel that they can’t justify the high costs of rehab and ongoing support to treat issues like alcohol addiction.
Fortunately, Lauren and her husband were able access their super to fund her four-week stay at Salt Recovery, but her recovery journey didn’t end when she left.
Since returning home six months ago, Lauren has been having weekly appointments with her psychologist from Salt Recovery and working hard to stay on the wagon.
Lauren after leaving rehab. (Supplied)
“It’s a long journey and I’m still on it. You get to spend four weeks away in a fabulous facility that supports you … but it’s hard when you get home,” she admits.
“I’m not going to lie, I have cravings but I’ve tried to steer clear of those cravings. I don’t want to put myself back in the situation that I was in prior to recovery. I want to be in control.”
Drinking culture is everywhere in Australia and it can be tempting for Lauren and the millions of other Aussies coping with alcohol addiction every day.
That’s why she’s urging everyone – including mums like her – to take a closer look at their relationship with alcohol this Dry July.
It’s never too late to change and after being through rehab herself, Lauren wants to break down the stigma that holds many Aussies back from seeking help with alcohol abuse.
“You are your own person and you know what’s right and what’s wrong. Using alcohol to numb all the pain and numb all the senses is not right,” she warns.
Lauren understands why many are worried about the cost of professional support and rehab amid a cost of living crisis, but she can’t put a price on her own mental health.
Since getting sober, she’s felt like a better mum and partner and she’s working hard every day to make sure she stays that way.