Tom – Expert Citizen
I will take you back to the date of 10th February 2017, the date I completed my course of treatment in a drug and alcohol addiction centre.
It was a joyous day, with my family attending my graduation ceremony.
18 weeks of hard work was coming to a close; how much I had achieved in those weeks, how far I had come… It hardly seemed real. Me, clean and sober for over four months? I could hardly go four hours prior to my entering treatment. Yet here I was, graduating and ready for the next phase of my life.
On 13th February 2017, I moved to supported housing in Stoke-on-Trent. Following the initial high produced by the novelty and increased freedoms, life began to feel rather strange. Adult life, with all its complexities, both emotional and practical, was and still is all very new to me.
After years of habitual drug use, I realised that the simplest parts of life could seem very daunting.
I had gotten a certain amount of practice at coping with my feelings whilst in treatment, but only in a very controlled environment. Now there were numerous and untold variables that could cause any number of feelings, and I began to realise my emotional reactions could be rather childlike; negative emotions could spin me out into a whirl of fear, full of questioning and analysis as to why I felt that way, leaning towards the most dramatic answer found in the deepest recesses of my mind.
Positive emotions made me feel pessimistic: this won’t last, good things never work out for me, and so on. Life also felt rather dull. Everything on a bit too of an even keel; where was the constant drama, I thought; the sky highs and crushing lows that are just routine to the using drug addict. Despite all warnings regarding the hard work starting when leaving treatment, I had not really listened. I guess I thought I had it cracked.
Reality removed this incorrect assumption rather quickly. Over time, a realisation began to solidify within me that had first sprouted throughout treatment. Drugs were not my problem. Life is my problem; I am the problem. Drugs were my solution. They fixed me, for however short a period. They allowed me a mechanism to stop the world; to leave reality for a period of time. They solved the spiritual pain I was in, the pain I can still be in from time to time. Now when I say spiritual, I mean matters relating to truth, values and beliefs, three matters of vital importance when being connected to who you really are. This disconnection causes pain and feelings of emptiness. And I just poured as much drugs into the gap as I could manage. However, over time, the drugs ability to mitigate my pain lessened, and with it brought a whole heap of anguish and trouble. In the end I was using on the pain caused by using, in a vicious, downward spiral. But once the drugs were removed, I remained. My solution had been removed, and to progress forward, to fulfil my potential, I must find another solution.
I am still working on finding that solution. Every day is progress and the emotional whirlwind calms with time.
But I must find my purpose; I must find what I can do for the world. A unique and vital purpose can help shine light in times of struggle, to make continuing forward the only option.
As Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.”