60th Birthday Greeting to a Remarkable Man: Kevan Martin

Kevan Martin is sixty today. Coincidentally, the day that I launch my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. Kevan’s Story, ‘He’s a Loser and Will Never Be Any Good‘ is one of 15 stories in the book. It’s an impressive and moving story about the overcoming of adversity… and a commitment to helping other people overcome addiction.

Kevan is one of the most remarkable people I have met. Actually, I better change that. I’ve never met Kevan in person, only on Skype. And yet I feel as if I have known Kevan for years. It feels as if we are best mates.

I want to celebrate Kevan’s birthday by relating a summary of his original Story written in 2013, just to highlight what he has come through.

‘I developed a fascination for alcohol at an early age (nine), but didn’t realise that it would rule my life for over twenty years. I drank throughout my teenage years as if it was a normal thing to do, often with building site work mates or colleagues from my judo squad. Sadly, the promise I showed in judo was never realised because I shattered my right knee. Whilst I gave up the sport, I continued drinking.

My first wife and I separated because she didn’t like my drinking. After the divorce, I spent most of the money I made from the house sale on booze. Some guys at work said that I needed help for a drinking problem, but I told them to get stuffed with their job. I was doing what all men were entitled to do. I now spent most of my time in the pub.

I met Julie and we worked together with a circus touring around the UK and Europe. We spent a lot of time drinking heavily. After we gave up our jobs and settled back down in the UK, Julie gave birth to our daughter Sarah. I gave up going to the pub because I doted on Sarah. Our family seemed to have a settled life.

However, I came home from work early one night to find another bloke on my side of the bed. Not long after that, I came home to have Julie tell me, ‘Take a long last look at your daughter, because this is the last time you will ever see her.’ She walked out and despite all my efforts through the courts I could not get to see Sarah.

I pushed the self-destruct button. Alcohol became my best friend. It was my way of coping and sleeping. Nothing else mattered. I lost my job and then another… and another. I stopped drinking in pubs, just buying alcohol from supermarkets and off-licenses to drink alone.

I didn’t realise how rapidly I was going downhill, but a friend did. He helped me get admitted to a psychiatric hospital where I was diagnosed as having experienced a nervous breakdown.

I spent the next eight years in and out of this psychiatric hospital. After being detoxed and starting to feel better, I was discharged back into an environment where nothing had changed, at least in a positive manner.

I would continue my isolated existence, drinking heavily and experiencing mood swings until I had finally had enough, at which time I would go to see my GP again. I would be diagnosed as depressed and sent back to the hospital. Anyone would have been depressed living the life I was living!

I was homeless for some time. I used to get warm in an A&E department, before spending the night in a telephone box, bus shelter, or car in a car yard. Eventually, I started to exhibit symptoms of alcohol psychosis, one time trying to charge someone £5 for standing across a crack in a paving stone.

During a nine-month stint in the psychiatric hospital, I finally accepted that I had a drinking problem. No one in the hospital had ever told me this in the years I had been there! After I asked for help, a drug and alcohol counselor told me that I had an alcohol problem and needed to do something about it! When I asked him how to stop drinking, he suggested that I take a walk or a hot bath when I had the urge to drink.

When I left the hospital, I started drinking again. I was sent to a rehab, a house containing eight people like myself, which was like a holiday camp. The only things we had to do were a daily household chore, and attend one house meeting and two one-to-one sessions each week. I stayed the full six months, but refused an additional stay!

I relapsed on and off for three years. I didn’t want to live like this any more and literally begged my psychiatrist to do something. She started me on Antabuse, a drug that gives you a massive adverse reaction if you drink alcohol.

Whilst I knew that Antabuse was not the answer in itself for my drinking problems, I thought it would put me in a sort of life-and-death situation where I would have to stop drinking, at least long enough to sort out the other shit in my life.

I was scared of dying if I drank alcohol on Antabuse. My cravings for alcohol increased and I couldn’t sleep at nights. I was agitated and bored, and had difficulties interacting with people. I spent hours walking each day with the hope of being able to sleep. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I knew that I couldn’t be with my friend, so why wasn’t my brain accepting it? This state of affairs continued for six months.

One day, I decided to enter a church (I am not a religious person). I fell asleep and was woken by the vicar. I began crying like I’ve never cried before and the vicar talked to me. He explained how as part of his job he had to help distraught families come to terms with the loss of a loved one. I began to realise that I was going through a mourning process. I was missing my best mate so much, even though it was still alive!

I considered all the detrimental things that alcohol had brought to my life. I then had the stark realisation that I had allowed this. My excessive behaviours suggested that I was an addict. All my addictions had been down to how I lived my life. I realised that I was not only responsible for my addiction, but also for overcoming it and getting better.

After nine months of not drinking, I was thinking more clearly and coping with things better. I now considered alcohol my worst enemy. I still felt very alone, and missed Sarah and my family (who had given up on me) badly. The only people I knew were those people I had met in treatment and they were all drinking again.

I was feeling more confident after a year’s abstinence from alcohol. I had put on two stone in weight. I felt much better about myself, but still lacked support. I tried AA but was rebuked for being on Antabuse. AA was not for me!

I started working out daily in a gym and this helped my sleeping, as I wasn’t closing my eyes thinking about the past. My thoughts were more positive, about getting back into the gym the following day and about my whole future. Life wasn’t just life anymore.

I started walking a lot by the sea. I watched the waves for hours, sending my thoughts and feelings out with them. Every wave that came back in brought me reassurance that things would be good. I realised that the best things in life are free of charge. You couldn’t beat the peace and tranquility I got by watching the sea and listening to the noise of the waves.

My mother was in a serious accident and I spent three weeks in the hospital with her whilst she recovered. I felt so proud that I had been there for her when she needed me most. It also brought our family back together again, as they didn’t see me as a piss-head anymore. There was no way that I would risk losing these newfound feelings.

I went to college for a couple of years and qualified as Health & Fitness instructor. I also became involved in the local drug and alcohol user forum. After two years abstinence, I stopped using Antabuse.

About nine years ago, I decided to set up a support service that would help people with their personal needs whilst they tried to give up alcohol. I wanted to build something that wasn’t there for me or for other people in the situation I had been. I started an alcohol support group in my living room and within a month there were six people. Soon after, we had to use other premises as so many people had joined.

I set up and registered NERAF (Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction) as a charity. A network of support groups evolved. The common factors for the majority of people joining our support groups was that they were needed assistance with social-related issues and they had not found AA to be to their liking.

Over the years, NERAF grew into a 1-2-1 peer support/mentoring service and network of support groups, which operated throughout the north-east of England, and employed 44 full-time staff, supported by 50 volunteers. We provided over 50 support groups every week across the patch. We ran a family service, a women’s only service, and SMART Recovery groups as well… and much more.

I now have a wonderful relationship with my family. Three years ago, my Admin at work told me that someone wanted to see me. It was my daughter Sarah! I ran out of the office and there she was in front of me. We cuddled and cried together. It had taken 16 years, but there she was.

Sarah had seen me on the local news a few days earlier and found out that I was actually alive. We have a great relationship now, making up for lost time and just recently she gave birth to my first grandchild, Benjamin David.

The last part of my ‘recovery jigsaw’ fell into place when I accepted a Facebook friend request from Ann, a lady I had dated many times in my early 20’s. When I met Ann again, I knew straight away that she was the lady with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my life. She has a son, Aidan, of whom I think the world. We are working so that they can move up to the North East and then we will set a wedding date.

I have now been abstinent from alcohol for 12 years. It is fantastic to know that I set up NERAF from nothing, starting as a support group in my flat and employing people that wouldn’t usually been given the opportunity. Knowing that we have made a difference to so many lives puts a big smile on my face.

I’m now the happiest man in the world! If I can find Recovery, YOU CAN!’

Our Recovery Stories BookThat’s a summary of Kevan’s Story that we wrote in 2013. And it wasn’t the end of the adversity that he faced. You can read how professionals linked to NERAF tried to take over the organisation from Kevan, and how he fought back, in Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

For now, I can tell you this. Kevan is now living an amazing life with Ann and Aidan. And he certainly deserves such a life.

Happy Birthday, Kevan.

‘Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction’ is available from today via Apple, Amazon or Kobo (price: £4.99, A$8.99, US$6.99, €5.99). Please note, that you must purchase and download the book from the supplier’s store in your country or region. The Amazon and Kobo links above are for the UK stores. There is no link for Apple, as their system works differently through the Apple Books app. Further information about purchasing, downloading and reading the book is provided at the bottom of this page.