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'Recovery is the hardest thing, but worthwhile.' How Lea-Anne supported her husband through ice addiction.

Queensland Health
Thanks to our brand partner, Queensland Health

This post deals with suicide and might be triggering for some readers. If you or a loved one need help, call the 24-hour Lifeline Australia crisis hotline on 13 11 14 or reach out to Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.  


The image still burns in Lea-Anne’s memory.    

It's a permanent scar that causes piercing pain every time she remembers. 

Six years ago, on an otherwise ordinary Friday night, Lea-Anne walked into her laundry to a scene not even her worst nightmare could conjure.

In front of her was her husband – the love of her life and the father of her children – trying to end his life. 

“It was just gut-wrenching to think that the person who I loved so much in this world, who was my soulmate, had got to the point where he wanted to take his own life,” she remembers of that moment.

What Lea-Anne learned that night was incredibly hard to understand. Her husband, she discovered, had been using ice. For the past two years, he had been hiding every hit he took, every high he had, and every low he endured. 

With the facade of long and arduous work hours, Lea-Anne’s husband kept his addiction a secret from his wife and their five children. Lea-Anne thought his “tired, reserved and grumpy” personality-change was a result of him working six days a week. 

In reality, though, it was his addiction to crystal methamphetamine, or ice – a drug that has seen a worrying rise in Queensland, where Lea-Anne and her husband live.

“I worked at a church helping people suffering from drug addictions and I couldn't even see it under my own roof,” she tells Mamamia.

Image: Supplied.

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“I'd like to think that the person who is my soulmate could have told me when he was struggling to the point of contemplating ending his life. But unfortunately, it doesn't happen that way.”

He never told Lea-Anne of his drug addiction because of the intense personal shame he felt, he told her after she found him in the laundry.

After that fateful Friday, the couple had to confront their future. She handed him an ultimatum; she remembers. 

“You get rid of this out of our life, or there won't be any 'us',” she remembers telling him. 

The following Monday, he went to a detox centre for one week – a period that typically involves intense physical and psychological symptoms of withdrawal. 

Following detox, he went to rehab for three months. That period, Lea-Anne shares, was one of the hardest times of her life.

“We felt abandoned. He was able to get the help he needed, but we were at home struggling,” she reflects. 

Lea-Anne says transitioning to a one-income, single-parent family, compounded by the mental struggle of emotionally supporting five children whose father was in rehab, was incredibly exhausting and testing for her personally. 

Image: Supplied.

But the immense struggle of him being in rehab was ultimately of enormous benefit to not only him, but their family as well.   

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“While he was there, he did lots of self-help courses and self-improvement tasks. He learned what his triggers are and how to love himself,” she shares. “He came back a different man.”

Lea-Anne continues, “He just blew me away because he loved himself again. He was so proud of himself. When he came back, it was like we had this hero back in our life that had conquered everything.”

Key to his recovery was the family’s unwavering support and unconditional love for him. 

“Knowing that we had stayed and supported him made a big difference. He was so grateful for us.”

Image: Supplied.

Lea-Anne believed that after going to rehab and being sober, her husband would be “cured”. And for the next few years, he seemingly was, she shares. 

Whilst his recovery was relatively smooth after rehab, she did constantly worry about him. Lea-Anne knew well that recovery is an every day, even every minute, challenge. 

Then, some years later, Lea-Anne noticed a personality change once again. 

“He wasn't being his normal self. He was getting angry and moody and he wasn't home as much as he normally is. Instead of being home with the family, he was taking on extra hours at work.”

Her husband then sat her down, and shared his secret: he had been using again for six months. 

“I felt so sorry and disgusted – not just with him but with myself as well. I’m the person who is meant to be his best friend and I couldn't see what was happening. So I felt like I'd let him down. He felt like he'd let us down. It was pretty traumatic for us all.”

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They tried to get him into another detox centre, but the wait list was four weeks.

Lea-Anne says they didn’t have four weeks to wait, explaining that period could mean someone dying or going to jail.  

“So we decided to try to manage this one ourselves at home. We sent the kids away for a week with family and then he just detoxed at home.”

“Before detoxing, we got advice from the doctor on how to detox at home. We got some medication from the doctor too that helped him sleep and to cope with his anxieties.

“It was horrible. It was like a living nightmare,” she shares, her voice breaking. “He was up and down all the time; cranky and sad.” 

Whilst it was incredibly draining, it also worked. 

Lea-Anne’s husband is now drug-free and counting every day without drugs as a win. 

“Every 10 hours he gets through [without using], we get excited because that's another 10 hours that he's beaten his addiction,” she explains. 

“If he falls off the wagon now and then and has a relapse, as long as we're all there together to pick him back up and keep him going, that's okay. That's the most important thing.”

As she continues to help with her husband’s recovery, Lea-Anne wants other people to know her story, to reduce stigma and encourage empathy.

“There's such a stigma about people who use drugs, but they are usually someone who has just struggled with everything in life and reached for ice to take the pain away,” Lea-Anne says.

“Most people think that people who use drugs are just ‘oxygen thieves’ – they think they’re ‘homeless scum’ that don't need to be fixed or helped. But they do. They're normal, everyday people that need love and support. We've really got to put that stigma down and understand that they're still a human being.

“Just because they have used drugs, doesn't mean they're not worth helping.”

Lea-Anne is excited about what the future holds. She said he's an “amazing father” and that there's joy and hope in their lives again.

“Recovery is definitely possible,” she explains. “They just need love, support and not to be judged.”

Recovery from ice is possible. Help is available.

Whether you’re looking for yourself, a friend, or family member, there are people that care and can offer support. You can find anonymous and confidential help at qld.gov.au/icehelp 

Queensland Health
Recovery from ice is possible. Whether you’re looking for yourself, a friend, or family member, there are people that care and can offer support. Find confidential and anonymous help today at Qld.gov.au/icehelp