‘Stuck not broke’ by AntiHero79

IMG_1870Hello, as this is my first entry I’ll (try to) keep it short. I am two and a half years into my recovery. I’d love to say that it’s all plain sailing, but in fact has been the darkest and most confusing time of my life up to now.

“I always knew I was different”… Well it’s true, I did. Always felt apart, weird, somehow isolated from even my closest friends. I had a rough childhood, no doubt about it, and when I found drink and drugs it was like I was liberated.

My first round of addiction (to cannabis, from age 14 – 15) saw me walking round school in a virtual coma. In retrospect, it must’ve looked like there was something severely wrong with me. There was, I know now. As a nine year old, I was molested by a family ‘friend’. It was reported to the police but stopped there. Lack of evidence.

As a teenager, I started to have flashbacks and didn’t know what was happening to me. I used cannabis every day for about a year and it made the problem worse. I was experimenting with E’s, LSD and speed. Me and a friend snorted too much speed one night causing amphetamine psychosis and that was the end of that party.

But no matter, because on finishing high school (where I messed up big time) I changed my friends and discovered alcohol! It blotted out the fear and paranoia that had accompanied me since the speed overdose and gave me a crutch now that I was unable to smoke weed anymore. All this is before I reached 16!

For the next five to six years, I wandered round in a confused, fearful state unsure of who I was and unable to stick to anything serious. I tried jobs, travelling and university, but found it hard to make meaningful relationships due to the lack of trust I had. Heavy drinking (there was never any other kind) made me aggressive and sometimes violent, but took the edge off my fear and depression.

I had a girlfriend, who I loved, but I was so insecure and jealous that I drove her away. Please don’t misunderstand. I may be painting a bleak story here, but it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I had many great times, but eventually I would mess things up either by way of my aggressiveness or my insecurity. I’ve often wondered how I looked to people on the outside, and I’m sure I must’ve looked cold and hostile sometimes. But when there was drink inside me I could get along with anyone.

Things started to unravel in the new millennium. The drinking got heavier and my behaviour got worse. I have always been scared that I may be gay due to the abuse I suffered, and if I was feeling vulnerable people would pick up on this uncertainty and use it to hurt me. This has caused me untold grief. I’m still going through a similar issue, but now it’s that I think I could be a paedophile. I’ve heard this is common to victims of abuse.

In December 2001, I got into another drunken altercation with three lads (who’d just beaten up two middle-aged men) while walking into town. I got punched and retaliated by running the 50 metres or so back to my house and picking up an air-rifle and threatening them with it. I’m cringing as I’m typing this, not because it was a stupid thing to do, but because one of them ran up behind me and dropped a 10” by 10” concrete slab on my head.

A month later, I woke up in a intensive care unit and was told that my right arm and leg were paralysed and that my speech had gone. After the drugs had worn off the full horror of what had occurred hit me.

That night, the night of the assault, I was thinking about the abuse, ruminating. I was feeling very hurt and drinking heavily to mask the pain. I can’t really say anymore about that, what else is there to say? They pleaded self-defence and got 18 months, not for my assault, but for the kicking they gave to the two middle-aged gentlemen.

I worked hard, trying to get some semblance of life back. Daily physio and speech therapy in a neuro-rehab for eight months, learning to walk and talk from scratch. Then release into the world as the new me. I was determined to get to the person I was, and I am. But physically I’ll always have a weakness in my right side. I’ll never use my arm and I’ll never run. I have problems with my speech sometimes, especially when I’m nervous.

I didn’t drink for a year after I came out of hospital, but then I saw a plateau in my recovery and I became despondent. It was no time at all until I was being taken to A + E for drinking too much. That happened a few times and eventually my ‘friends’ started to disappear.

At this point I was reapplying to university. I got a place and when I started I was that full of fear and self-consciousness (because of my disability) that I started to smoke heroin. Ah yes, heroin. The good old brown. My best friend! Until I got married to it. At first a toot every weekend – I deserved it! Then a couple of days in the week…

Again, please don’t read this as a sob story. The first year of my degree was probably the best year of my life (in active addiction)! I had mates, a new girlfriend (who just happened to be one of my lecturers), drugs on tap and the government were throwing money at me.

Butt it wasn’t long before my appetite for heroin turned into a full blown addiction and by the end of university I was injecting everyday and had a massive debt to the bank. I got my degree (2.1), but the chaos and misery I caused to myself and those around me was astonishing and completely unfair. I realised I needed help but hadn’t quite had enough yet.

I did geographicals, substituted heroin for alcohol, and did a very painful three weeks in a detox centre. But couldn’t stay away from it. I finally gave in and went to rehab in January 2009. I’ve been clean and sober since then, but it’s been a very, very tough road. In getting clean/sober I’m having to face up to my history, the abuse that I tried so desperately to paste over, and my disability which makes it a struggle for me every single day.

I am a member of my local AA fellowship (started out in NA but there’s a lack of meetings near me) and I have been welcomed and loved whole-heartedly. I know that I could never have got this far alone. I do however have problems with the 12-step program and sometimes resent having to go to meetings.

I find it hard to share because of my speech problem and I have great difficulty with the ‘G’ word. I’ve found myself asking all sorts of questions like, “If there’s a God how the f**k could all of this bad stuff have happened to me?” I’ve been going to see a psychotherapist for the last nine months and he recommended ‘mindfulness meditation’.

I’ve been practising seriously for about seven months. It’s helping, but I’m still very low, very self-conscious and still having flashbacks and delusions that I could be a dangerous sex criminal. I could laugh when I read that back, but when I’m stuck in it it’s not very funny at all. I’m completely paranoid.

Facebook/internet has become my newest addiction and is causing me problems. I am halfway through a part-time MA in Screenwriting but at times feel very immature. Feelings of guilt, shame and resentment haunt me. I’m being treated for depression/anxiety disorder and at times ask myself if it’s all worth it. I hate feeling sorry for myself, I really do. I can see that my life now is so much better than when I first came into recovery, but I constantly ask myself if this is it.

When I go to meetings everybody else seems to be so much more content than me, they share and they say that they’re living a “life beyond their wildest dreams” which makes me feel worse. It gets worse still when I get the advice to pray and ask my higher power for help!

All my issues and I’m supposed to rely on something that I’m not sure if I believe in! I’m sure that you can see my dilemma. I know that sticking around this recovery community can only be beneficial, but I’m having severe doubts as to whether 12-step recovery is for me.

Maybe someone else could shed some light on this…? I just want peace!

Thanks for reading, and I hope that everyone ceases to suffer and gets well. Because after all, that’s all anyone wants. Tom.

This blog appeared on Wired In To Recovery in May 2011. It was followed by an interesting discussion.

Michaela: Tom, first of all a very warm welcome to Wired In. I for one am really glad you are here and have written this blog. I recognise that, whatever I write, there could be a danger of sounding full of crap, so forgive me if I do.

In a funny way it almost sounds as though you are not in recovery yet. Bear with me! Yes, you are clean and sober, but to be honest if that is all recovery was I am not sure it would be the attractive proposition that it is to me.

Reading what you write it is almost as if all the crap is still there just minus the substances. More of a white knuckle ride than a sense of freedom. Making suggestions for others is always a minefield but I do feel that there is power in recovery communities. The trick lies in finding the community (or communities) that meet your needs at this moment in time.

I can’t see where you are from so am not sure what there is in your area. If you let us know maybe we can pass some ideas on.

Tom: Hi Michaela, thanks for the welcome and reply. I know what you mean about not really being in recovery yet. Sometimes, I feel like I’m moving forward and then BANG something happens, a thought, a feeling a reaction and it flaws me again.

I had a kind of breakdown last year which forced me to go and get medical help. I’d call that my emotional rock bottom. And when things get bad I feel as if I’m going back there. It was really, really dark and sitting around meetings only made (makes) it worse. I seem to have developed a phobia to meetings and anything 12-step. Not all the time, but if I’m feeling unwell the last place I want to be is in a meeting. I hope that makes sense.

Although I also find that if I get to a meeting despite feeling crappy, by the end of the meeting I usually feel good.

What am I actually recovering from? Trauma or substance abuse? Or both? Do I have to rely on a power that I’m not sure exists to relieve my pain and suffering? These are the types of questions I ask myself regularly. Although I’ve got a good sponsor in AA and have had a good crack at the steps, I’m still feeling an awful lot of depression and fear. And as I mentioned, the abuse has left it’s mark and I’m only just coming to terms with that, and the fact that I’ll have a disability for life. It’s a lot huh?

So, I’d agree with you, the drugs and drink are down, the obsession has gone, but I’m left with a load of crap. Not really a sense of freedom. It’s more like Groundhog Day and I’m constantly castigating myself for the things I think and feel. On the plus side Michaela, I’m doing well academically and socially. I have developed a lot more trust and have far greater relationships than at any time in my life.

I welcome your advice, thanks. By the way I’m in the Liverpool area. Tom.

Plato’s Cave: Welcome, Tom. Powerful story. For me the drugs and alcohol were used to treat my fear of life. Removing them leaves me feeling raw and vulnerable. I believe I need them to survive unless something changes within me. They were all about avoiding pain, which you have in buckets.

I tried it my own way for years and resisted the 12 step programme. However, I got to the place where I gave up. I just accepted that I didn’t know much about anything and was willing to try another way with complete commitment.

I have the experience now to know that I will start using drugs again or I will be miserable for the rest of my life, if I try and do it my way .

I haven’t experienced all the same traumas that you have been through. I have heard others share similar things and have seen them get better. You need to heal from the pain in your past. You are clean and sober which is the first massive step. I believe the 12 step programme can offer you the help you need.

However, there are other sources of help available. I found in-patient treatment amazing, and you don’t need to be using to benefit. Grief counselling, CBT, other forms of psychotherapy, or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) can be helpful in dealing with post traumatic stress. SMART Recovery also could help as it removes the “GOD” issue. However, as long as I know I’m not God I’ll be ok.

You may well have tried all these things before. I hope things continue to get better for you and keep on blogging. Best wishes, Ian

Tom: Thanks very much for your reply, Ian. Having read a few of your blogs I think I know you well enough to say, without much doubt, we are of the same ilk. I’m sorry that you lost your job. I hope you find something else quickly and that you continue to grow in your sobriety.

Things look a lot different tonight. I went to my home meeting, had a brief chat with my sponsor and saw some friends that I’d not seen since my very early recovery. It was a good meeting and I feel more hopeful. I’m in no doubt about the peril of this ‘disease’, but I nevertheless sometimes find myself fighting and struggling with the way recovery works (why are their 12 steps, why can’t I just have lots of therapy, why do I still need meetings etc?)

It drives me NUTS. It’s like my brain wants to fuck things up for me. Rationally, I know I still need fellowship and this is the way people get better and they do it this way because it’s proven to be the most effective method. Seems almost too easy? If that makes sense.

Anyway I’m off to bed, thanks again and see you around.