Stories

Acceptance

I never expected to end up a cocaine addict or alcoholic. It has taken me time to identify myself as one and have acceptance around it. I had a privileged upbringing, attending private schools and surrounded by a loving family. I first started to drink at parties when I was 15, I was generally fairly shy and awkward in social situations but with alcohol I became louder, funnier, more confident, I was able to talk to boys. I was able to be the ‘real’ me.

From the start I would continually drink to blackout, I didn’t seem to have the ability to stop. I would become verbally and sometimes physically aggressive. I could never remember what I’d done but would wake up with a feeling of dread and know it was bad. People would tell me what had happened and I would be filled with a sense of shame and disgust, but the next weekend without fail I would do the same thing. Everyone was binge drinking at the time and I just thought it was normal.

I bought my first bag of cocaine at 18 years old and I still remember that night, feeling absolutely invincible – I could drink as much as I liked and not black out! Not behave in a ridiculous way! My use was always a little excessive but I put it down to being a teenager, having a good time.

Fast forward a few years and occasionally I could admit my use of cocaine scared me, that I couldn’t have fun without it, that once I had one drink, I had no idea where my night would take me. I found myself entering dodgy relationships with dealers and having a bill to pay each week from what I’d ticked up. I’d be able to stop for periods of time, to prove to myself I could, but would always eventually return to old habits.

At 26 I went back to university fulltime, while working a full time job in events management. I could manage all this while partying at least 4 or 5 nights a week, so I rationalised I did not have a problem. Once I finished university I lost purpose and slipped further, the cracks were really starting to show at work and in my relationships.

All the things I said I’d never do, became reality. I was using and drinking every day, dying of a hangover at work, then pressing repeat. I found I couldn’t be alone without a bag and a bottle. Worse, it had stopped working, my head wasn’t shutting up, I wasn’t able to socialise, I would slip into paranoia easily and cry about things. I couldn’t block out myself anymore, my oblivion had gone.

Eventually I became suicidal and decided to seek help. I learnt about my disease, that being an addict meant once I started, I couldn’t stop and most of my time sober was consumed with obsessing about my next high. I finally found Cocaine Anonymous, however, in the meetings there were people talking about crack, heroin and homelessness and I balked. I am NOT like these people I thought. Fear of going back to my using hell kept me in the rooms and eventually I stopped hearing about the substances and started hearing the solution in Cocaine Anonymous. I could live a clean and sober life and I could actually be happy – I couldn’t deny it as I was surrounded by people who were doing just that.

The word addict is often associated with needles, homelessness, crime or jail. That is not my story. As an addict, I managed to hold down a full time job, complete a degree with distinction and maintain a home. I was able to hide the seriousness of my addiction from my family, friends and colleagues. I no longer have to live that lie and the last six months have been the most beautiful of my life.

Through Cocaine Anonymous and the 12 step program I am getting to know myself again, not as the party girl, but the real me. I no longer hate myself and am truly starting to believe I am a good person, with value to offer beyond what I’ve realised. I am so grateful that I was brave enough to ask for help and have an opportunity to get my life back.

The Promise

I had a good childhood but despite this I always felt “different”. I started stealing money from my dad to buy either sweets or sports equipment. I was bullied physically and mentally throughout school and for years that would take the blame for me being the way I was. I later found out how wrong my thinking was.

I started drinking and smoking cannabis as a teenager. All I wanted to do was drink and smoke and it became daily over time. I almost lost my job, family and health. One evening I was at a party where people were sniffing coke. I had always said no to it but that night it looked like fun so I decided to try it. When I sniffed that first line the feeling was amazing and for the first time I felt invincible. I started using on weekends but a daily habit quickly developed and soon enough all I could think about was the next line. I was obsessed, every minute of every day, my first and last thought.

It took up all of my energy and I knew that something was very wrong. Eventually in August 2015 from desperation and maybe a cry for help, I attempted to end my own life. I just needed a way out. At the hospital, I was told about Cocaine Anonymous where addicts would get together and have meetings. Grudgingly and for my family, I went to give it a try. When I arrived I was terrified, I walked in and the only chair I could see was right at the front. All I remember was talk about God and steps and I thought to myself “how is this supposed to keep me clean?” I stuck with it and got a thing called a sponsor, did what he suggested and started going through the steps. However, I wasn’t honest and thorough so eventually, after getting 5 months clean and sober I decided I was sorted and started dropping out meetings, talking with my sponsor and living a ‘normal’ life again putting family and work first. After 5 months I relapsed. Alcohol at first as I thought I only had a problem with cocaine but after 2 weeks drinking it eventually led me back to cocaine. The relapse lasted 7 months and I caused much more damage than I did in the 15 years of using before.

The damage and harm I caused completely devastated my family. I stole thousands from them. My fiancée was on the brink of a nervous breakdown caused by me making out that she had lost or spent the money, which I had stolen. I stole my parent’s credit cards and spent thousands. It didn’t matter how much drugs I had it was never enough. I knew then I had a real problem. When I tried to stop all I could think about was getting my next fix. When I couldn’t get that I would start sniffing the medication I was prescribed, I just didn’t care what it was as long as it would change the way I felt. Soon it all got very out of hand. On the 4th of February 2017 I got to a point where I was physically and mentally at my rock bottom. I had lost everything I had; my fiancée, the house, my parents, my child and myself. On that Saturday I was in hospital. The doctors told me that if I carried on using the way I was, I was going to die as my body was starting to shut down.

When I got home I picked up the phone and asked someone for help, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I said I was willing to do anything, even move into supported living in a dry-house. Thankfully I got some help, I got a room in a dry house and started going to meetings again. My support worker at the dry house helped me to safely reduce my medication and even stop completely. I knew the steps had worked for me before so I found a sponsor that I trusted and started working through the steps again.

This time around my thinking has changed, I go to my peers for advice and guidance. I did all of my step work. I looked at my past, even before all the drink and drugs. I’m making amends for all the money I stole and the pain and hurt I caused. I’ve dug really deep and have been open and honest about every last detail especially the things I swore I would never tell. Before I even finished the steps I had a feeling I had never experienced before. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt peace and relief like never before.

Life is so very different now. It’s so nice not being in the madness! My addiction is dormant at the moment. I look at it like this, my addiction has been put in a box, the lid for this box is the 12 step program and I know I have to do what’s been suggested to me because if I don’t, the box will slowly open and I will relapse again.

Now I do believe in a Higher Power. I couldn’t keep myself clean and sober. I wasn’t happy in my own skin. Everyday my belief gets stronger. It was promised to me that I was going to know a new freedom and a new happiness and to me that is the freedom of not craving and obsessing over a drink or drug again and being clean and sober another day. The happiness of being free from addiction. If you identify with my story please don’t be afraid to ask for help as you’ve got nothing to lose and so much to gain. The promise came true and you can have it too. It works if you work it!

Dual Diagnosis

Hello, I am a recovered addict – recovered from a hopeless state of mind and body. In July 2017, I will celebrate my 11th year of sobriety. It just goes to show that if you practice a program, you too can recover.

In my first year of sobriety, I was involved with H&I (Hospitals & Institutions) where C.A. carry the message to newcomers who can’t get out to a meeting. From the start, although I didn’t fully understand how to sponsor newcomers, I was thinking of others. Step 12 is at the heart of my recovery, passing onto newcomers a solution of permanent recovery. Not just one day at a time holding on by our fingernails and in pain, but as it states in the Big Book – living happy, joyous, free and walking with a Higher Power (GOD) at the centre of my life. When I am connected to that power, I can do anything.

I also suffer from a long term mental health condition, from which I am also in recovery.  I am by far NOT the finished product. I am growing through the journey of recovery and there have been many ups and downs with humility. I don’t have all the answers, I just know what works for me and what the 12 steps have done for me. They have given me a life beyond the needle and pipe. Although I am powerless, today I have a power in my life – I am restored to sanity from taking the first drink or drug.

I look forward, never backward. My experience is, I was a hopeless addict who thought the solution was suicide which I tried many times. I ended up in a psychiatric ward suffering with drug induced psychosis for 11 months, hallucinating and hearing voices.  Fear and paranoia were my constant companions and it can still be like that today but it’s not as acute as it once was.  The last time I tried to commit suicide I climbed a tree, put a rope around my neck and jumped. I survived by God’s grace – that was my first spiritual experience.

God saved me that fateful day and here I am sharing a message of hope with you, the reader, no matter what’s going on for you. If you’re willing and can identify with the Big Book, there is a fellowship that needs you.

I won’t lie to you, a life of recovery is hard but it’s easier than the alternative – using against my will, in constant pain and suffering. Working a 12-step program, I hand my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him. I am no longer a slave to a substance. God is the power on which I live. ‘Life on life’s terms’ is not always easy but it’s easier than chasing that next £10 bag or rock.

I am far from cured but I do have peace of mind most of the time. If I could bottle the feeling I get from Cocaine Anonymous it would be the best legal high!!  I don’t drink or do drugs anymore, instead I focus on prayer and meditation to feed my spirit.

I am present for my recovery today. I help other addicts get into recovery. I am but one in a large cog.  C.A. is not just in my home town but worldwide. Through Step 1, I admit I cannot do this on my own – I need help. Previously, I could not stop relapsing. I had no power to stop me using and drinking.  The problem centres in my mind, the way I think about a substance is insane and obsessional. I know full well it’s going to kill me but I can’t stop the insanity – doing the same thing again and again but expecting different results. Overdoses, abscesses, trouble with the law, homelessness, grafting for a living, debt, mental health problems –  the list increases.  If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, why not try something different?  Come with an open mind, what have you got to lose? I need you newcomers to help me stay sober – I only keep what I have by giving it away.

I hope that you too gain the trust in God (a Higher Power of your own understanding) which keeps many addicts sober. God bless you on your journey.

Cocaine Anonymous is a program for addicts and alcoholics to help them into recovery. If you want to live but the needle, pipe or bottle is killing you, come to a meeting and see that you’re not alone.

I am a very grateful recovered addict.