I WAS IN COMPLETE DENIAL ABOUT ADDICTION
I was in complete denial about my drug addiction for a long time. I went to my first meeting with a friend of mine in 2001. My girlfriend had just broken up with me and I felt so sad that I went to see my friend under the influence of a drug. She was going to a meeting that night and suggested I join her. I didn't want to be on my own so I went to that meeting so that I didn't have to be alone. I left the meeting saying to myself, 'I'm glad I'm not like that lot' and said goodbye to my friend. I immediately went home and got high. As far as I was concerned I wasn't an addict; I was a drug user - not a drug abuser. I didn't even consider that I may have a problem. It was almost another seven years before I accepted that I was an addict and returned to meetings to engage in the 12 Step program of recovery.
Three months after that first meeting I was in my British army sleeping bag on a park bench in sub-zero temperatures in a strange city. I had just woken up, my sleeping bag covered with a couple of inches of snow. I sat up and noticed a hedgehog in front of the bench looking up at me and sniffing the air. I smiled at the hedgehog and I thought that the hedgehog looked content and curious at the intruder in his home territory. I began to think about myself and my situation and banged my fist on the bench saying to myself, 'How the hell have I ended up homeless again. Thank God I've at least got a carrier bag full of Tennent's Super to keep me going.' I was in tears because, believe me, being homeless in winter on the streets is tough, especially when you throw in the emotional torment that drug addiction causes, such as the paralysing fear and depression. It would have been blatantly obvious to an observer that I was in that position as the direct result of my drug addiction but drugs were, at that time, my only friend. It was the only thing that gave me comfort and a sense of hope for the future.
Incidentally, I would just like to point out that one does not have to have been homeless to be a drug addict. It just happens to be part of my story.
Two years later I was homeless, again, and was offered a room in a home run by a charity to help alcoholics and drug addicts get back on their feet. One of the house rules was that I had to attend meetings. I argued profusely with the house manager that I wasn't an addict and that I didn't need to go to meetings, such was my denial. But I went to meetings as I wanted a roof over my head.
I went to a meeting and listened very carefully. I really related to other people's stories and even though I couldn't bring myself to accept that I was an addict I did admit that maybe I had a problem and decided to do what everyone else in the meeting had done to overcome their addiction and to rebuild their lives. I decided to get myself a sponsor to show me how to work through the 12 Step program of recovery.
Nine months later I got as far as completing Step 8 and I felt wonderful. I had peace of mind; my self-respect had returned; I had my own flat; I was doing a college course I really enjoyed and had, what seemed to be, a nice girlfriend.
I convinced myself that I wasn't an addict after all, that I had just been a problem drug taker, and left meetings. I just could not and would not accept that I was an addict. Of course, I began to take drugs again as I like taking drugs. Just on Friday and Saturday nights to start with - MDMA and Ethanol (8 pints of Kronenbourg lager to you and me!) Sundays were spent waking up to watch Country File on the TV and smoking copious amounts of Cannabis throughout the day. I worked in a scrapyard and found no problem staying away from drugs between Monday morning and Friday night.
I managed to take these drugs successfully for quite some time. I knew that I had to be careful and moderate my drug use as I had learnt a lot about the nature of addiction when I used to go to meetings. But as I am an addict a downward spiral slowly started to develop where I began to lose control of the amount I would take. Eventually my drug taking became the worse it had ever been and I knew that my life was rapidly falling apart at the seams yet again. Finally the day came when that utter denial I had suffered from was completely over as I remembered the book 'Alcoholics Anonymous' saying that drug addiction is a progressive illness and that we always get worse, never better. In that moment I realised that I was an addict and made the decision to return to meetings to work through the 12 Step program of recovery.
I am reminded of a particular lady that I met in a meeting in 2003. She was an alcohol addict and came to meetings for two weeks and then disappeared. I saw her soon afterwards in a government building and we were both waiting to be seen so we had a chat. She told me she had severe liver damage and was told at hospital that her condition was so severe that if she continued to drink that she would probably die within a matter of weeks. She was in fact very lucky to be alive as the liver tissue was healthy around the main artery that supplied blood to her liver and she would survive and live a relatively normal life if she stopped drinking immediately. She seemed happy and was telling me about her new positivity and felt she didn't need to go to meetings anymore. I wished her the best of luck. A few weeks later I told another lady in a meeting that I had seen her a few weeks ago and asked if she had spoken to her recently. She said that this lady had drunk herself to death just as the doctors had warned. That is denial in its extreme and I have since had several friends that have died from the drugs that they have been addicted to.
We, who are of the hopeless variety, suffer from a very real, life threatening condition.
Fortunately for us DAA exists and offers us the opportunity to recover from our drug addiction through the 12 Step program of recovery. Thank you DAA for providing me a bridge to normal living!