ONE PILL: An ecstasy pill was one woman's gateway into an addiction nightmare.
ONE PILL: An ecstasy pill was one woman's gateway into an addiction nightmare.

How one pill changed the course of a lifetime

IN 2013 one single MDMA pill was the beginning of what would become a five-year nightmare for a 35-year-old mum.

The woman who asked to only be named as Sally said, she accepted a pill from someone she trusted.

"I was on an island holiday with my ex-partner and he offered me an ecstasy pill. We were with a group of friends and everyone was taking them and my initial reaction was that it was a bit of fun," Sally said.

But it wasn't long before partying with pills turned into using meth.

The now 40-year-old mother of two said, the transition from that one pill to meth was a blur.

"I'd never been a drug user before and so I guess I thought if I tried a pill, why not try meth," she said.

"At first I was using it casually, then it turned into every fortnight and soon it was daily - not long after that I hit rockbottom."

'Rockbottom' to Sally meant losing custody of her two children and soon after that her parents, who she was living with, kicked her out of their house.

It was 2018 when she was left homeless, with nowhere to go.

"I was couch surfing and wearing out my welcome with all of my mates - I crashed my car and when that happened I was carrying methamphetamine and a smoking implement."

Sally was charged with drug crimes and said she realised it was time to stop using, but knew she couldn't stop using on her own.

She remembered a friend telling her about her sister going to Indonesia for drug rehab.

Owners of Eden Medical Retreat in Lombok, Indonesia Dr John and Dr Elizabeth McIntosh.
Owners of Eden Medical Retreat in Lombok, Indonesia Dr John and Dr Elizabeth McIntosh.

Sally got in touch with the friend and soon found herself more than 2000km from home at Eden Medical Retreat in Lombok, Indonesia.

"Being at the retreat was exactly what I needed.

"I was far away from any sort of temptation or bad influence and there was a big focus on counselling.

"We had six hours of counselling, six days of week.

"And Indonesia is a beautiful place but you have to get used to losing your independence because they don't take their eyes off you the entire time you're there - the important thing is it worked."

Eden Medical Retreat co-owner Dr Elizabeth McIntosh said these were factors her and her husband Dr John McIntosh had in mind when they first opened in 2018.

"Drug addiction has reached epidemic proportions globally and we wanted to be part of the solution," Dr McIntosh said.

The couple originally wanted to open a centre in Mackay, where they operate several GP Superclinics, but after exploring their options found it would be more viable to set up shop in Indonesia.

"We can offer western standards at a more economical price for our clients offshore," Dr McIntosh said.

Plus, there were unforeseen benefits, patients such as Sally said being isolated from her unhealthy environment was one of the best things about Eden Medical Retreat - that, and the counselling.

"Our focus is dual diagnosis, meaning we treat the underlying mental health issues as well as drug dependency," Dr McIntosh said.

"A lot of drug programs don't work because they're not treating these underlying issues, like depression, anxiety, psychosis."

Now 15 months sober, Sally said if she could go back in time she would never have accepted that first ecstasy pill.

"I lost five years of my life, and now I have a serious heart condition due to my drug use.

"I've also had to rebuild relationships with my children and parents and that was very tough."

Sally said she still deals with drug cravings regularly and the way she manages it is with counselling, support from family and friends and keeping her environment clean.

"It isn't easy but I knew I had to get my life together - not just for myself but for my family."