Alumni Update: My Recovery Story
I started using drugs and alcohol recreationally when I was 15 years old. Drugs and alcohol seemed to give me a sense of relief from life. I grew up with a father who was and still is an active alcoholic, there was a lot of chaos in our household, constant fighting between my parents and it was quite impossible for them to be present in my and my sibling’s lives. Looking back I realise that I’ve always had this sense of profound emptiness deep within – and drugs and alcohol seemed to fill that void. As the years progressed so did my partying and using – I graduated from recreational drugs to hard drugs and soon found myself shooting up heroin on a daily basis just to feel normal. I finally came clean with my mother about my drug problem and that started my long journey of seeking a solution to my addiction and madness. It only came to light how much I needed my drugs to survive when I started trying to stop using them. I went in and out of countless detoxes always thinking that if I could just get my body clean everything will be good – but boy was I wrong. Time and time again I would relapse – I was convinced that there was no hope for me and that I should just accept that I would be an addict forever. The shame and guilt I felt about all the things I’d done to get my drugs plagued me – all the lying, stealing, manipulating – I would say anything to anyone without a second thought just to get my way to get my drugs. I put myself in extremely risky situations without a sweat and have committed crimes which have landed me in prison twice. My family stopped talking to me, I was kicked out of my house and homeless, I had very few friends who would talk to me and the only people I interacted with were addicts and dealers – people who could aid me in procuring my drugs. My life shrunk and all my aspirations and dreams were in the gutter. There were small moments of clarity where I would try to stay clean but I always failed miserably – but in these brief moments I was introduced to the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) program and it was a friend from NA who mentioned a rehabilitation centre called The Cabin. The program at The Cabin seemed to be unlike anything available in my home country and so I took a leap of faith, and a lot of pleading with my mother to help finance me, I jumped on a plane to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and little did I know that would be the last day I used drugs and alcohol. I did not know what to expect walking into The Cabin, all I knew was I wanted out of active addiction and I was desperate for a solution that would work. Through my using I had tried countless psychiatrists, prescription medications, anti-depressants, opiate blockers, opiate substitutes, locking myself up in hospitals, countless detoxes, controlling my using, and all this to no avail – it got to the point where I contemplated suicide on a regular basis feeling that there was no other way. What was the point of me being alive when I was using against my own will, I was just a burden to everyone around me. I was not the person I wanted to be. I feel quite emotional thinking about my time at The Cabin because they saved my life, they gave me hope and a solution to my addiction. The program at The Cabin helped me to cut through all the bullshit and denial I was in and they shined a light on how my life was unmanageable and there was a way out of active using and all the behaviours that came along with it. Learning about the disease of addiction and how drugs affect my brain gave me such relief in knowing that it was not a moral failing I kept relapsing and using, but there was actually something wrong in how my brain operates. Through the counselling and group therapies I gained an immense amount of awareness around my emotions and thinking, and how I had no skills on regulating how I felt or what I was thinking. Understanding and learning about how to manage my thoughts and emotions through CBT and meditation were invaluable for me as these were always the reasons why I would relapse on drugs and alcohol. Using and drinking was how I managed a feeling or a thought and it was just not working for me anymore, and after putting the drugs down I realised I just didn’t know how to live life or communicate at all. It was really important for me to strip away everything I thought that defined me – the beliefs I had about myself, the roles that I played with my family and friends, and the way I looked at and operated in life. The Cabin provided such a safe and beautiful place for me to do that. With the help of the counsellors, I slowly learnt new ways of thinking and started practicing new behaviours, many of these skills I still practice today. Today I am over 4 years clean and sober; I spent 3 months at The Cabin and went to a halfway house for another 2 months. The halfway house was a great place to help slowly transition and integrate me back into life. I spent my first year of recovery doing AA and or NA meetings everyday sometimes twice a day, I got a sponsor and formally worked the 12 steps and have stayed close to the fellowship ever since. Life is hard sometimes, and today I have support around me from my friends in recovery and the skills I have learnt at The Cabin to help me get by one day at a time. Life today is completely different, there are days where I am in disbelief and I don’t recognise myself. From an addict who could not go a day without using or an hour without thinking about using, today my life is full of the gifts of recovery. I have meaningful relationships, my family and I have reconnected, I have recently completed a degree and will be starting work in a job I am very passionate about. The 12 step fellowships and The Cabin have given me a new lease on life and today I have learnt that I have a choice, I do not have to use or act out in high emotion there are options. I will end with a quote which has been key in my recovery and growth. “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.”Life today is completely different, there are days where I am in disbelief and I don’t recognise myself. From an addict who could not go a day without using or an hour without thinking about using, today my life is full of the gifts of recovery. I have meaningful relationships, my family and I have reconnected, I have recently completed a degree and will be starting work in a job I am very passionate about.
Viktor Frankl (1905 – 1997)