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But how can you live without ketamine?

I went to a party when I was 14 and smoked a spliff. It was great. I got drunk for the first time, kissed some guys, and had the happiest night I could remember. The next weekend, I took some Es. I started selling them at school and made a load of new friends overnight. I felt unhappy at home, and though I can't really remember how this happened, drugs started to feature as a daytime activity, rather than a 'parties only' event.

Speed, pills, mushrooms, acid, skunk - there was a drug for every occasion. Festivals would be a delicate balance of acid for the fun, coke when the world went too weird, ketamine to take the edge off the coke, valium in case of paranoia, mushrooms to enhance the visuals, and DMT or mescaline just to make it into a better story. But then I'd get back to home life, school, work, and I just felt devastated by the return to reality. Until I discovered that I could just about get away with taking speed and ketamine throughout the day, to liven things up without being too noticeable.

But people started to notice. My mum was hysterical. I got fired, twice. I fell in a river and almost drowned. I was sexually assaulted. I got barred from every club in town. I got arrested. I missed one of my A-levels whilst on a drugs run to London. It had become chaos, and I felt lost. I decided I needed to quit.

I called all my dealers and asked them not to sell to me anymore. I deleted numbers. I made a decision. But somehow my brain just talked me into it again - I'd be on the dealers doorstep telling myself that the bad stuff from before wouldn't happen again.

In desperation I moved cities. Me and my best friend made solemn vows in the car that we wouldn't touch drugs in our new city. We'd scored a few hours later though.

Ashamed by my defeat, and how visible the drugs problem suddenly was to all my friends, I became increasingly dishonest. I hid my drugs, used only in the bathroom, took more than was socially acceptable from other people's stash. I seemed to develop a ketamine radar - I'd show up in a club and try and sniff out who had drugs, and try and get them to share.

Three years on I'd destroyed my body. I had 'ketamine bladder', an extremely painful condition that was emerging in k-heads, which left me unable to walk for much of the day. I had terrible and unpredictable attacks of k-cramps that left me reeling on the floor in pain. I started trawling round doctors surgeries, begging for help - but their advice was to stop using and get some medical tests. I couldn't stop - I needed it for pain relief, and more importantly, to stay sane.

I kept taking ketamine every day for two more years. Friends started to die around me. Life became the daily crawl to the dealers and painful rationing of drugs into tiny and ineffective lines. Once, a friend tried to intervene - another friend told him not to bother as I was 'clucking'. That shook me - I thought only crack heads cluck? Ketamine wasn't physically dependant after all so how could I be a proper addict?

My family arranged counselling for me. I'd been before and didn't trust the counsellors. This one seemed to get it, but I couldn't keep off drugs before the sessions so I was too wasted in the appointments for them to help in any way. He told me to go to a 12 step meeting - I went reluctantly to make it seem like I was trying, though really, I'd given up hope.

The meeting was weird - people seemed enthusiastic to see me and to want to help, but I didn't see how they could. I liked the stories they told - some were funny and others shocking, but most clearly - I could see that they were like me when they spoke of stealing drugs off their friends and money from their family, something I thought so shameful I would take it to the grave.

A girl took my number and started to call me. I agreed to meet her for coffee. We had a long talk. She told me that she had found the groups weird at first, but something magic had happened to her there that she couldn't explain. She had started praying, though not a religious person, she had started to experience a change. She had a sponsor who she spoke to regularly, she prayed daily, went to meetings and tried to help others, and just by doing these things, she had stopped feeling any desire to take drugs. The obsession with how to get money and how to score quickly was just lifted - it didn't enter her mind.

Encouraged by this, and the similar stories of others, I gave it a go. I went to meetings, I got a sponsor, I started reading the Big Book and following the instructions in the text. Like waking from a zombie nightmare, I started to feel like a human being. Thoughts of drugs lifted from my mind. I could do some basic self care. I became interested in the world around me.

I've continued to follow the instructions in the book, with guidance from a sponsor, for almost seven years. Not once during that time have I come close to using - I've never felt my life would be better if I took some ketamine and have remained dedicated to the action-based recovery programme. These past few years have been accelerated growth for me. I got an education, a job I absolutely love, and a totally fresh perspective. I wholeheartedly believe that I have a unique purpose in the world - to be helpful to those in my community. I stick close to the programme, which doesn't mean living in meetings, rather I try and live in a way that is focused on what I can bring to the world, not what I can take. People at work don't believe me when I say I was an addict - what, you?

I wouldn't bother writing this if I didn't feel compelled to tell anyone who might be suffering like I was that there is a way out of the trap. It may seem unlikely, but if you are basically screwed and cant see the light at the end of the tunnel - try this as a matter of urgency. It's given me a simple way to be not just live free, but genuinely at peace, and anyone who wants it and does what I did can have that.

Hannah K

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