Successful Australian businesswoman, Lorraine Wood, Co-founder and Owner of South Pacific Private, Australia's leading treatment centre, has shared her inspiring story of addiction and love, and her life mission of healing families and saving lives, in a new book, Love & Addiction.
Now aged 78, the book tells Ms Wood's story: sharing her struggle with alcoholic parents, leaving her first husband after meeting her soul mate, her second marriage to a recovering alcoholic which exacerbated her depression and her ultimate triumph of helping over 7,000 people as the co-founder and owner of one of Australia's most respected addiction and mental health hospitals.
From heartbreak to triumph, Love & Addiction explores the themes of recovery, relationships, family, addiction and achieving success against the odds.
'This book is for people who had a difficult childhood, who are stuck in the wrong relationship, would like to improve their present relationship, or who aren't sure where they are going next. But more than anyone, this book is for those who are, or know someone who is suffering from addiction or mental health issues."
'I wanted to share my story to really show that even when you are at your lowest, there is a way out. With support, love, and direction you can change your life and succeed," said Ms Wood.
The book tells of Lorraine and Bill Wood's struggle to overcome the crippling disease of addiction that almost tore their family apart, and their mission to help others.
'Looking back, I can see how many of my life decisions were shaped by my childhood and being raised by alcoholics. There were times when I was convinced I didn't deserve happiness and as a result I battled depression for a large part of my life. But, luckily for me, my life changed when Bill and I reached out for help. Part of our healing was establishing South Pacific Private, so that we could help others to recover from addiction and mental illness."
Not only did alcoholism threaten to tear their family apart, her late husband's obsessive risk taking behaviour, which can only be described as an addiction, left Lorraine with a mountain of debt.
'When Bill died, he left me with several million dollars' worth of debt," said Ms Wood.
From 2000 when Bill passed, to now at age 78, Lorraine has not only recovered that debt, but has also expanded the hospital so she can help more families change their legacy, which is her ultimate triumph.
'This book is all about letting people know that you can reach out for help, that recovery is possible and that no matter how dark the night, there will be a new dawn," added Ms Wood.
Love & Addiction
Author: Lorraine Wood
Question: What inspired you to write Love and Addiction?
Lorraine Wood: I tell my story in the hospital – the book is a way to share it with more people who may be living with addiction.
I was inspired to write the book by my own family experiences – from understanding how addiction is not one person's experience of themselves, but is often a multi-generational issue that is enabled by family members and can show up in many different ways.
Addictions may be substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, food) and may also be behavioural (sex, love, OCD)
PTSD afflicts many people and can often be traced back to childhood trauma that shapes who we become as adults. The book is inspired by the people I meet and treat at SPP – many of whom feel alone or isolated by shame. I hope the book can give them hope – that addiction is common and has many different faces. I continue to be inspired to help people get into Recovery and live a life beyond their wildest dreams and I hope this book inspires people to take that first step.
Question: Was it difficult to relive aspects of your life when writing Love and Addiction?
Lorraine Wood: There are moments that still spark tears, memories of family members who suffered their whole lives without getting into Recovery:
The loss of my soul-mate, Bill. I felt we had many great years ahead of us, together. I did not think I'd navigate this part of my life without him.
Working through the business and corporate aspects of SPP without my most trusted advisor, Bill while grieving for him.
My parents – who were beautiful, in love and with great opportunities during the Great Depression such as the lottery win – and could not realise their true potential because of their addictions. While writing the book, it was difficult to re-live specific moments of being the eldest of many siblings doing whatever I could to parent them when my own parents were struggling.
The traumatic decision to leave Arnold, my first husband, and be with Bill. I knew it was the right thing for all concerned but not everyone shared my positivity and I was concerned about the impact on our daughters.
Question: What motivated you to put everything on the line to open a specialised treatment hospital?
Lorraine Wood: The epiphany moment – -my parents are alcoholics'
Bill being in AA and learning about the method, process and success of the 12 Step Program
My own experience of Treatment and the joy of recognising my own PTSD, my own addictions and how they affected people around me.
After gaining such self-knowledge, realizations and how they set me free to move into Recovery, I was inspired to help others into Recovery. The program advocated by Pia Mellody in the US is effective and transformative so I felt the best way I could help people, was to bring it to Australia and set up a Treatment Centre, a safe place for people to go on their own journeys into Recovery.
Question: What highlights did you experience when writing Love and Addiction?
Lorraine Wood: The humour while remembering some past events – EG the -pumpkins and bumpkins' packing into the truck to leave farming life behind and embrace a new urban life in the real estate business. The many memories of larrikin Bill and the things he said and did that still make me laugh – the wonderful costume parties, Bill getting robbed in India and being saved by his youngest daughter, the camel ride
The appreciation of the tragedy that afflicted family members – some people have so much heartache and PTSD heaped upon their shoulders – Asher and Olive
The authentic forgiveness I feel instead of resentment toward my parents
The pride, respect and great love I have in our daughters and grandchildren
The joy of helping SPP into its own form of Recovery by expanding it in 2016 which means we can help more people into Treatment.
Question: What is South Pacific Private?
Lorraine Wood: South Pacific Private is Australia's leading treatment centre offering inpatient and day programs to treat anxiety disorders, mood disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), behavioural addictions, alcohol addiction and substance abuse. Treatment at South Pacific Private offers the best possibility of recovery through its multidisciplinary, tailored programs which are designed to meet the individual needs of clients.
South Pacific Private was founded 22 years ago by my husband and I to offer Australian's treatment for mental health and addictions which was unparalleled in Australia at that time. Bill had undergone treatment for alcoholism at -The Meadows' in the US and we were so inspired by the program, we decided to open South Pacific Private in Australia so others could benefit from the treatment program we experienced. Since then South Pacific Private has treated over 7,000 people and their families.
SPP is a safe place for people who do not feel safe. It's a place of understanding for people who need to understand themselves. It's a place that offers a way forward into Recovery. It's a place people can return to without judgement and keep their Recovery on track. It's a place for people of all ages and walks of life.
Question: How can Australians support South Pacific Private?
Lorraine Wood: The question really is, how can South Pacific Private support Australians? Each year approximately one in 200 Australians seek treatment for addiction and 20 per cent will experience mental health issues, and these figures are growing. South Pacific Private's aim is to help stem this problem and people suffering from mental health and addiction issues, and their families, to live a happy and successful life in recovery.
South Pacific Private offer a range of programs and pathways for the integrated treatment of addictions and mood disorders. All programs are tailored to meet the individual needs of clients and are designed, structured and supervised by a multi-disciplinary team of psychiatrists, psychologists, GPs, registered nurses, psychotherapists and counselors.
Take the first step and turn up.
It is rare for many people to make it through early life without some form of PTSD that untreated, goes on to shape how they behave and react to the world. It is a gift to oneself and to those around us, to invest time into exploring past trauma and understanding it.
We are living in a time of high anxiety and fear and many of us would benefit from Treatment and Recovery
Love & Addiction
Author: Lorraine Wood
Interview by Brooke Hunter