I COULDN'T COMPREHEND LIVING A DRUG-FREE LIFE
My relationship with drugs started at an early age; to be honest it started before I even started taking them.
My home life wasn't great. My father was an abusive alcoholic who had fled the country to avoid paying (amongst other things) child maintenance - this made me angry and upset a lot of the time. I often felt that there was something wrong with me - that I didn't fit in with everyone else and was very much inferior.
When I was around 11 years old, I remember that whenever I saw or heard anything about drugs - be it in a newspaper, in the news or in the school playground - I was drawn to it like a magnet. I'm unsure of exactly what it is that attracted me to them, though I found the concept of being able to change the way I felt very seductive. I couldn't wait to start taking them; I desperately wanted to experience them first hand.
I started using butane gas. The first time I tried it I passed out unconscious and woke up in a daze. As soon as I came around I did it again. Rather than being scared of what had just happened, I loved it and wanted more. Looking back I think this was quite a tell-tale sign of things to come. I continued to use butane gas as often as I possibly could - until I found a connection that could get me cannabis.
As with the gas, I started smoking cannabis at every possible opportunity every single day. I found that without it I couldn't cope with life at all, everything was boring, everything was a chore. I would steal and lie to get money if needed, and easily justified it to myself as I felt that bad without drugs in my system. The way I used cannabis was different from others as well, rather than using it socially like my friends - I wanted to be alone in my room stoned. I hated the idea of having to share my drugs.
As I grew into my later teens, I quickly started to have access to stronger drugs - speed, ecstasy, acid and Ketamine etc. I fell in love with these substances, and they were at the very centre of my life. This was in the mid-90's, rave culture had exploded and it seemed that everybody was taking them. This made it easy for me to heavily abuse these drugs and not be noticed as an addict. My use of these drugs continued to escalate, and I soon began injecting them. This had a powerful effect on me, and I would be strung out all the time. By the age of 17, I had developed a strong needle fixation - and would inject any substance I could get my hands on.
I knew that my drug use was way out of control. I knew that the way I used and thought about drugs was deeply unhealthy and not like 'normal' people. The problem was that I really didn't know how to change things. I just couldn't comprehend living a drug-free life. The thought of it terrified me.
Somehow, throughout this I had started training as a chef, had got a job, and was actually very good at it. Using this I managed to get a live-in position hundreds of miles away from my hometown. I thought that if I could just get away from my current environment then things would be OK - I would be able to have a fresh start and get on with my life and live like a normal person. This didn't work for me. Although I was able to hold my drug use down for a short while, it was only a matter of time before I broke down again and my life would become unmanageable, I was unable to cope without drugs in my life and I would welcome them back with open arms.
This repeated itself for a few years until I found heroin at the age of 24. I quickly became physically as well as mentally addictive, and things went from bad to worse. The next 10 years of my life consisted of train wreck after train wreck.
Every opportunity I had fell to pieces as I was unable to put anything before my drug use. At one stage it seemed that I had everything I thought I wanted - a job, a flat and was engaged to my childhood sweetheart - but these things where just not enough to stop me using. My family had stopped talking to me and I had no real friends. Drugs had taken me to a place where I genuinely hated my life - I hated the destruction it caused me and my loved ones, I hated lurching from crisis to crisis, I hated living like an animal and feeling ill all the time.
Sometimes, I would have these moments of clarity - where I would take stock of my lifestyle and my surroundings. It terrified me. Though what really scared me was that I knew no way out of this nightmare. My only solution was to use more, and try not to think about it.
I was in regular contact with drug support agencies and counsellors, and would listen to what they said but couldn't put any plans or strategies they suggested into action. After multiple failed attempts of getting clean I was sent to an in-patient detox followed by residential rehab. To this day, I believe that this saved my life - I needed removing from society for my own safety. Overdose and/or suicide where becoming a very real possibility.
During this period, I was surrounded by lots of people that were trying really hard to help me. I learnt a lot about myself, and built up some confidence in my recovery. I was sure that when I left I would be strong enough to stay off drugs and alcohol for good.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. Very quickly my old way of thinking came back. I began obsessing about drugs and easily justified that using 'just one more time' would be OK. Very quickly 'just one time' turned into 'all day every day' - and I was back at square one. A friend of mine suggested that I go to a DAA meeting. I had tried other fellowship meetings before, but found them off-putting. I didn't like the 'god' word that I saw in their literature and found that the people at the meeting made me resentful - as they had something that I thought was beyond my grasp. Though this time I simply had no other option; I had exhausted every other avenue of recovery to no avail.
When I got to the DAA meeting, I found that I was surrounded by people that were like me. They understood my warped thinking around drugs as they had suffered from it as well. They talked about drugs and addiction and the thinking behind it in a way that I completely understood and related to. Most importantly though, is that they had found a way out of it - most of them where leading normal happy lives without destroying themselves with drugs. I started going regularly, and soon picked up a 'sponsor'. He gave me a few simple suggestions to do every day, and started taking me through the 12 steps.
I found that fairly quickly, the fear and anxiety that I woke up to every day disappeared, I had a certain peace of mind that I had never had before. This felt great and motivated me to carry on. As I worked through the steps I found that I thought about drugs less and less. When the thought of using did come into my mind, I found that I was more easily able to see the reality behind my using and would be able to quickly dismiss the thought without it being a struggle.
Since joining DAA, I haven't used drugs or alcohol for a number of years, and have been given the opportunity to enjoy a life I never thought possible for addicts like me. More importantly, my family and loved ones are no longer suffering and hurting as a result of my drug use.
I don't think that I'm 'cured' from drug addiction; to be honest I don't think such a thing exists. I've simply been given a set of tools and principles to live by that allows me to hold the illness of drug addiction at bay with relative ease.
I'm also not the 'odd one out' by far - since being in DAA, I have seen many, many people come into the rooms in exactly the same condition as me (or worse) and successfully rebuild their lives and maintain long-term recovery. This is an amazing thing to see and to be a part of, and would recommend anybody struggling with drug use to give DAA a chance and have the same experience.