Addiction recovery is something that can be managed with specialist help and there are agencies in each Borough that can support someone. While Westmeria aren’t a specialist agency in this way, once the addiction is managed and someone is in recovery, talking therapy can help support a client process all the ways which may have made any addiction an option. Addiction is often a way of trying to stay alive, the best way someone can in that moment.
Within this blog, there is the exploration of what it is like to look back and reflect on addiction recovery from a member of our team.
Until 17th August 2015 I had no idea, I was an addict. Now, I have an understanding of my illness, and I can look back and see I suffered with the mental health side of this illness from a very early age. I remember feeling different and uncomfortable in my skin and I wanted to be anyone but me. I had strange thoughts that made me feel guilty and ashamed, so I put on a mask and pretended to the outside world I was OK. On the outside I was a funny, confident, outgoing sporty type; but on the inside, I felt like there was a hole in my soul. I obsessed over what people said, I obsessed over sports, clothes, boys, and crushes, using any external ‘thing or person’ to change the way that I felt on the inside. As the years went on into my teens and 20s, my addictions helped give me confidence. I thought I drank the same as everyone else, but looking back, I was having blackouts and couldn’t remember large chunks of the evening. My behaviour was unpredictable when I drank – I could end up crying in the toilets, taking a poor hostage or passing out; it was Russian roulette. I got a degree, and eventually went on to a job in sales. I got married, had two children and neither of these filled the hole either. I was continually chasing the ideal that would relieve the aching need in me to feel enough. As time went on, my drinking became heavier, and it was constantly on my mind. I began drinking indoors as I didn’t trust myself to drink with ‘normal people’ and they didn’t drink at the pace I did. I felt angry at the world, angry at everyone around me and I hated myself. Daily panic attacks began, and I felt suffocated. The only thing that took those awful feelings of panic, isolation and shame was a drink. Then came the terrifying day when the drink stopped working and then I was in trouble. I had an accident one night when I was drunk, resulting in a trip to A&E. The next morning, I woke up and had what I now know as a moment of clarity. I was exhausted from trying to hide my drinking, lying, keeping the mask on and I couldn’t go on anymore. I remember thinking ‘I just cannot do this anymore.’ I rang the Alcoholics Anonymous Helpline, and someone took me to a meeting. To hear other people, share how they drank the same as me and felt the same as me was a huge relief. I felt like I had come home. I haven’t looked back since and have been an active member since that day. I have learned about my disease which is physical, mental, and spiritual and if I take away alcohol, I need a substitute. AA and talking therapy have been that substitute as it’s taught me a different way to relate to myself, others and to life. It involves an internal change. I now have acceptance of the things I cannot change, forgiveness, gratitude for what I do have, hope instead of fear for the future and above all, peace of mind. I practice mindfulness and meditation, which I cannot recommend highly enough, and I have ongoing therapy. It takes bravery to face your addiction; I was in denial for many years as the thought of living without alcohol was inconceivable, but it’s been the best thing I have ever done.