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Seeking ease and comfort

I grew up in a leafy suburban town and, when I look back now, my childhood seemed idyllic. I remember playing in the woods, making dams, tree houses and camps with my friends. I lived in a lovely house, with 2 brothers and a sister, my mum and dad and a dog. It was a very happy and loving home. However my earliest memories of myself are ones of an uncomfortable restlessness. I was diagnosed with dyslexia at 7 and this is when I really started to think that I was different from the other kids. This resulted in me getting bullied quite a lot and getting into a lot of fights. I had an explosive temper; it was as though I had a Jekyll and Hyde personality and as I grew to realise this it scared me.

At 12, my mother, who would always look for the best solutions to my learning difficulties, found a school for kids with dyslexia. This was my first real life-changing experience: suddenly, I wasn’t singled out for being stupid or different. I made a vow to myself that I would no longer be angry and would try to re-train myself to be calmer and less volatile. Until I found recovery, I thought I had tamed that beast inside me through self-restraint alone. But I now realise that it was also around this time that I started drinking and was introduced to things like sniffing glue and aerosols. It is clear to me now that I was by nature restless, irritable and discontent. Once I found something that took those feelings away, I had unknowingly found the solution; a temporary cure to an illness I did not know I had.

From then on I used alcohol or substances regularly. Around the age of 15, my older brother introduced me to hash and I took some to school. Instantly, I became more popular and more interesting to the other kids. For a very long time I seemed to be able to handle life, people and places with more confidence and less fear. By the time I left school at 17, I used something for ease and comfort every day - although I thought it was just for my enjoyment.

I spent my late teens going to parties, hanging out in squats and generally doing nothing else but getting stoned, taking mushrooms, acid and speed, and drinking. I did go to a local college, where I did a course in media, and somehow, through the persistence and guidance of my parents, I got a job working for a TV channel. All of a sudden I had money and a promising career. At this time I also discovered ecstasy and clubbing. Life was good; I had bouts of fear and anxiety but I was living in London, I had a good job and I partied as much as I could. I spent the next 10 years working hard, partying, drinking and taking drugs.

At 30 years old I was working for a company that had its head office in Holland and they asked me if I would go there to work for them. I found myself living in a place where I could indulge in smoking weed and sleeping with prostitutes. After 6 months in Holland, my company opened an office in Berlin and I moved there. I liked Berlin a lot but I was very lonely. I found it easy to find drugs and I started drinking on my own, mainly whisky. One morning in Berlin I got a call from my dad telling me that my mother had cancer. I did not take this news very well: I was very close to my mother, and the news that she was gravely ill took me to a new place of self-pity and fear. It has taken me a very long time to see how I used the news of my mother’s illness to feed my addiction. ‘Poor me’ became my best excuse to use: happy or sad, I could allow myself to indulge in whatever I felt wanted to do to make myself feel better. I was able to use the pity card whenever and with whomever I wanted - and it worked.

I returned to London. Within 3 years my mother had passed away, my using had moved to a new level and I had discovered cocaine. For the next 10 years I was out of control, but somehow I still managed to hold down a good job and I started to earn more money. Through my self-pity and a 'poor me' attitude I justified using and living a lifestyle I could not afford, feeding what I know now is a spiritual malady. The feelings of restlessness and a discontentment that I felt as a child, before I had found drugs and alcohol, filled up in me again and I was surrounded by ever-increasing feelings of dread, fear and anxiety.

I travelled the world and ended up living in Hong Kong, which a friend described as the 'Devil's paradise'. In Hong Kong I could indulge in all the things that made me feel release from my malady. Although it was only temporary, I knew of no other way to feel okay. I was by now drinking a lot every night and spending a lot of time doing cocaine. After nearly 4 years of this, I returned to the UK and over the next 3 years things really started to fall apart. I was in massive amounts of debt, and I spent all my spare time either in a bar or on my own in my flat drunk and high. I eventually lost my job and my flat was about to be repossessed by the bank.

I had reached my first real rock bottom. It is very hard to describe how I felt at this time because it is not something that can be explained, it can only really be felt. Suicide was my most common thought. The pain I felt was so deep and dark, as if there was a black hole inside of me that was consuming my soul, leaving me empty and without the energy that is life itself. I was unable to see the world properly: the internal and mental pain I felt as soon as I would wake up every day consumed me. It was like no other pain I had experienced in my life, physical or mental: I felt as though death was upon me and I welcomed it. But I had a moment of clarity: I saw a chink of light in my darkness and knew I needed to reach out and honestly admit that I was powerless over this and that I needed help. I called my sister and just said 'help me'.

My family found a treatment centre, where they detoxed me and gave me a safe place to be while the fog cleared. There I learned about the disease of addiction; I found out what I suffer from and how to live with it. I met many people from entirely different backgrounds whose lives were very different to mine but who suffered from the exact same feelings of restlessness, discontent, fear and anxiety that I did. The treatment centre was like living in a bubble: it was safe and I was constantly surrounded by people that I could relate to but I was not living a real life. It was not until I had to leave the treatment centre and return to London that I really needed to find the solution to the illness of addiction. I went to a DAA meeting in London, where I heard a clear message of recovery and found a solution.

After my second DAA meeting, it became very clear to me that I wanted what these people had: a happy and carefree life where I would not have to worry about triggers, and where I could go anywhere and do anything without fear, loneliness and despair. I had been sober for 6 months and yet I still suffered from all of this and an overwhelming sense of self: self-centredness, selfishness and most of all self-pity. The message I heard was to get a sponsor, who would give me a set of suggestions to follow and take me through the 12 Steps. I asked the guy sitting next to me to be my sponsor. He kindly took me through the work, helping me to find the gift of true recovery from a hopeless state of mind and spirit and from the obsession to use drink and drugs to fix myself.

Through doing the 12 Steps I have had a complete change in my thinking. I have had my fears removed and am now able to go anywhere and do anything. I have an ease and comfort that I have never felt in my entire life. All the things that consumed my thoughts and my worries have been taken away, I am free from the obsession to use drink and drugs, and I am happy, calm and content most of the time.

This is a progressive illness, so I need to work my programme of recovery every day. If I go a day without doing what I have learned, I very quickly become ill again: old feelings return, I start to take my will back and run on self-will, and I get resentments and feelings of discomfort that, left untreated, will lead me to use drugs and alcohol again. I work my programme because I have a healthy fear of not returning to how I felt before. I am not perfect by any means, but I now have the tools and the knowledge to put the action in that is required to stay calm and at ease, and to feel free from the obsession to use and from my discomfort with life. I feel better now than I ever felt before I found recovery.

Al

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