How getting substance abuse treatment changed my life
Back in my day, the minute someone approached the subject of substance abuse treatment, or counselling of any kind we would sort-of brush them off as a kook, a witch-doctor, someone that dabbles with that mind-spookery which no-one really wants to deal with. In my time asking for help of any kind was akin to social suicide. I can remember at the beginning, after being first diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, being naive, and telling most of my friends, openly, some of the challenges that I had undergone and the places I had been. They hadn’t spoken to me for a while because I had spent the large part of a year in a psychiatric hospital; I can remember as I laid out some of the obstacles I had faced and one by one they would edge away from me with their thumbs raised and smiles faked, only to disappear into the shadows never to be seen again. Well, until Facebook that is. I soon learned to shut up.
I was one of the unlucky ones. Today we’re far more aware of mental health issues and we’re far easier going on someone that has say, bipolar, than we ever have been. Celebrities have stood up and talked openly about their bipolar and how it can make them feel brilliant and creative one week and like the world is ending the next. I come from an age where me and my kind were cornered off into the dark corners of society and isolated from cultural acceptance. You see, it was tough to stand out and tell people who you really were. People didn’t understand. There was no information like there is now. Getting substance abuse treatment was like a serious leap; I had to admit to myself that I had a problem; which was a problem in itself because if I did then the others that I socialised with too would have to do so and they didn’t like that.
My name is Raymond and I’m an addict
If you’re a substance addict like I was then a stay in a psychiatric unit was more like rest bite. They’d take you in, feed you up, work on your problems and then send you away again, they just didn’t have the staffing to cope with individual treatment. Think of a psychiatric ward like the intervention and then the real work is done after that — I’m not saying they are perfect and not open to abuse either because I’ve heard of horrific accounts of some stays. This sounds all negative so far but hear me out, I have an amazing story to tell.
When I started my substance abuse treatment it was after three spells in Psychiatric hospital, many CPN meetings, and one wild night out that plummeted my social reputation down the toilet. You see, I was a drinker. I was a drinker to numb the pain. There was a darkness in me that I absolutely had to fight; I knew I had it, it was there, sitting, awaiting to strike. It was all the things that I had thought that were wrong but I felt like doing anyway. They were the instances when I would feel like headbutting my boss the next time she blamed me for being shit at my job but let the other staff off Scott free. It was me wanting to punch my Dad in the face for leaving me. It was me wanting to stamp on my roommate’s head. It was all the things that I wanted to do but didn’t think it was proper to do because I would have been siding with the dark side, and the dark side led to the path of my Dad.
I drank to numb it. I drank so I couldn’t feel the dark claws of anger clutching at my belly, tempting me to lash out. I couldn’t, I wouldn’t.
When I drank that shit went away. I was at peace with myself.
I learned to understand my problems through substance abuse treatment
But alongside the bliss came its own set of problems. See, addictions to any sort of mind altering drug isn’t healthy. Alcohol, cannabis, Heroin, Coke, Speed, whatever. If you’re an addict and use them daily long term then they are going do have some detrimental long term effects on you, like they did me. My biggest one was anxiety and depression. I couldn’t see it at the time but alcohol was a catalyst for many a wild nights and regretting them afterwards. You know the cycle right? Doing stupid things then hating yourself afterwards for it. I would forget about most in time but it’s surprising what I held onto, and what was controlling my fear, anger and anxiety; it all came out during my substance abuse treatment. Very insightful.
I’m a great believer in that what you give out in life then you are going to receive it back. In the beginning I was a lost soul; a nobody that wanted to be somebody, a person that hated himself but at the same time thought he was better than everyone else around him. I made friends that chewed me up and spat me out, friends that used me, friends that abused me. Most of the people that I connected with couldn’t have cared if I lived or died. It was like a negative downward spiral. The hating myself would get worse because of the people that I would associate with, and the people that I associated myself would make me hate myself. They were controllers, manipulators. It was fun to get the obedient one to do things he didn’t want to do because he was so scared of conflict he’d just about do anything to avoid it. Yeah, I did have one or two friends that capitalised on that I tell you.
But the most alarming thing for me during my realisations through my substance abuse treatment wasn’t that people would use me, and abuse me; it was that I realised I was allowing them to do this. I chose my friends, I allowed them to walk all over me, I was the one making 100% of the decisions 100% of the time. My suffocating fear of conflict had driven my anger down a rabbit hole that I had suppressed with the drink for years. I was full of anger, hatred, regret, fear… helplessness. Through my helplessness glasses I was attracting other people like this. I had never been shown how to properly deal with my emotions. From the beginning I was told that I wasn’t okay being me. My Dad would strike me for anything that didn’t suit the way he was feeling on any specific day, and Mum, well, she was too afraid of conflict herself. Mum didn’t like arguing.
Letting anger out is healthy
So I let the anger out eventually. I smashed my house up when I was alone. Like literally. I took a pyrex oven dish and launched it through my kitchen window, then I proceeded to get a large broom handle and swipe it at everything I could see. The cooker, the drawers, the sofa, the TV, my bed, my computer; I put my foot through my monitor screen actually, and then I collapsed in a bawling wreck, sobbing, whimpering for what seemed like forever. It’s something I haven’t done since, but fuuuuuuuuck, did it feel good afterwards. I felt like a humongous weight had been lifted from my back, it was a calling, a new start.
Through my sobriety I began distancing myself from old friends. See, I had a problem, and to be around me would be to admit to yourself that you had a problem too. My friends didn’t like that and I sure as hell didn’t find sitting around in bars with them fun either. It was eye opening to see how they acted on a typical night out. So I spent at least two years almost friendless apart from the occasional visit from one or two good long-term will-never let-go friends. But it was such an enlightening time. The longer I was away from alcohol the quicker and eager my mind was to take in new information. Learning, which had been difficult for me in the past was becoming super easy for me again. Then as I trundled through time I began to meet amazing and new people that I didn’t think were even a thing. Good, honest and trustworthy people. People that wanted to see me do well, people that would cheer me on when I’m empowering myself and helping others; yet would have something to say if I was tempting the dark path again.
My word, I stand by it
I stand by my word. Hopeless addicts meet hopeless addicts and we’re toxic for one another. The trick is to work at yourself, not try and change other people. I have zero power to change and inspire other people, but I have all the power in the world to change and inspire myself. Friends come and go, habits die and new ones are forged.
Well now I no longer do 9-5. This is my website with an amazing team behind it. My last job was in Project lead in a multi-disciplinary technological project that served an entire area. I spoke to hundreds of people, I created focus groups, I lead a team, I inspired others to do great things; people won national awards under me. And I have great plans for this site.
The world is my oyster.
It could be yours too.