‘Brad, You Haven’t Just Got a Problem with Alcohol.’

‘The most important thing that therapists can do to be helpful is to find ways of supporting, stimulating, and energizing client’s investment and involvement. The second most important thing is to stimulate and support powerful client learning and meaning-making processes.’ How Clients Make Therapy Work: The Process of Active Self-Healing by Arthur C Bohart and Karen Tallman.

I’d like to introduce to another our Storytellers, Brad Miah-Phillips. In many ways, Brad’s life couldn’t have been more different to the last Storyteller to whom I introduced you, Tim. However, they have both come back from very dark places.

I first met Brad in April 2009 when he made Mark Gilman and I breakfast at The Basement Project in Halifax, UK, or the Breakfast Club as it was known then. Mark and I were visiting Stuart Honor, the amazing man who originally set up this recovery initiative. I only met Brad in person once after that, but I came to know him well when he became a regular blogger on Wired In To Recovery. We have spent a lot of time on Skype as I have interviewed Brad about his amazing life.

Here is a synopsis of Brad’s original Story, ‘A Life Beyond My Wildest Dreams‘, which was written around 2013.

‘I left school with a GCSE in arrogance and headed into a life of crime and fighting. I was always kicking off in prison. I drank heavily when I was out of prison. I realised that I liked prison because I felt free and could find myself. On the outside, I didn’t know who I was and could never find out because I was always drunk or high. My drinking worsened to the level where I have no memory of two years of my life.

I became a cook at The Basement Project, a recovery-based initiative. I tried to stop drinking, but my desire to drink increased. A friend pointed out that I didn’t have a problem with alcohol—the problem was me!

I attended a course on the 12-steps and a few days later I awoke feeling very, very different. I put it down to having some kind of spiritual awakening. From this point, my life took off. I started to attend AA regularly and this has greatly facilitated my recovery. Over time, I started to feel an inner peace and warmth, a feeling of not being alone anymore. I am now a Recovery Coach at The Basement Project, where I help other people who have lost their way, and have a loving family.’

Here is the magical moment in Brad’s life, as told in his Story.

‘… At this time, I thought willpower is what I needed to stop drinking, but I soon found out that this wasn’t the case. I was lacking a true willingness and desire to get well. I daydreamed and dreamt about stopping drinking, but I think that’s all it was at that stage. There was no real consideration of the work that would be involved in stopping.

Anyway, I decided I needed a break from the booze. I retired to bed and began going through the terror of a full-blown ‘rattle’ (withdrawal), something I hope I never have to go through again. Five days later, I was physically dry. 

I then decided to see how long I could abstain from alcohol. After six weeks of no alcohol, I still wanted a drink. In fact, my desire for alcohol was worse than ever. I was puzzled by this continued desire and asked someone in long-term recovery why I felt this way after all this time—surely, I should have stopped craving? 

Alan, who was 16 years in recovery, simply said to me, ‘Brad, you haven’t just got a problem with alcohol.’

When he said this, I thought to myself, ‘He’s mad. What does he mean?’ 

He then proceeded to tell me that if my problem was just about alcohol, then everything in my life would have been rosy and nice when I had stopped drinking. Clearly, this wasn’t the case—everything wasn’t as perfect as I had expected.

At this point, I experienced something I remember clearly like it was yesterday. My head span and I was dizzy. I had never realised that my problems involved more than just alcohol—they involved me as a person. No one had explained this to me before. Alan also said to me that if I were to listen to him, then this would ‘fuck my drinking up’. It certainly did that.

I just wanted to add here that I spent most of my days with Alan when I was volunteering at The Basement Project. I listened to every word of wisdom that left his mouth… although I didn’t always act upon these words. This man for sure saved my life, initially through that one sentence: 

‘Brad, you haven’t just got a problem with alcohol.’

Please check out Brad’s Story on this website. Or read his full Story, with a seven-year update, in my new book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. If you think Brad’s original Story is amazing, the update goes way beyond that.

Wainhouse Tower in Halifax, as shown in the photograph above, plays a significant part in the second part of Brad’s Story.