Thomas' Story of Addiction and Hope

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9 April 2019

My Story of Addiction

Hello, my name is Thomas; I’m 32 years young. I have one hell of a resilient and wonderful mother, three remarkable brothers, a beautiful sister and a gorgeous nephew, as well as a soon to be born nephew/niece who will be a magnificent addition to the family!

I’m originally from a beautiful town called Nenagh or 'An tAonach' by its Irish name which is located in County Tipperary. I moved to London with my parents when I was a child and started a new primary school, we then later moved from London to a place called “Baaaaaaaarnsley” where I then started secondary schools. We moved to escape my father’s callous ways, you see my father was enormously caught up in a wretched addiction with alcohol and I believe to this day still sadly suffers with alcoholism. After secondary school and college I then spent most of my days moving around between Ireland, London and Barnsley mostly as a way of escaping grim, unmanageable toxic situations. Although I appeared to portray a life that I was enjoying I had a whole array of deeply worrying issues which I could never find a way of addressing. I’ve always appeared to be extremely confident and positive externally but internally I was an absolute mess. 

The NHS describe the term addiction as “a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences. Despite the involvement of a number of psychosocial factors, a biological process – one which is induced by repeated exposure to an addictive stimulus – is the core pathology that drives the development and maintenance of an addiction. The two properties that characterise all addictive stimuli are that they are reinforcing and intrinsically rewarding.”

According to the charity Action on Addiction, 1 in 3 people are addicted to something.

I describe my compulsion to use drugs as a way of self-medicating, an obsession with trying to numb the pain I suffered throughout my traumatic childhood and adolescence. Subconsciously I believe it was an attempt to fill a void I felt was missing in my life. Eventually my behaviors ultimately drove me into abusing drugs. Even though, whilst growing up I despised drugs & alcohol, I tried my first drug, cocaine when I was almost 18 years of age. I had tried alcohol at a younger age but that was a substance I managed to avoid pretty easily. 

I took to drugs rather than alcohol as I’d seen first-hand the effects of alcohol and how it tore my family apart, this was also paramount to the underlining issues which are accountable for most of the pain and suffering I experienced during my life. Alcohol for me was a substance I thankfully didn’t choose to pursue, however surprisingly drugs were.

Now as doom and gloom are my initial thoughts and involvements around addiction, in the beginning I loved taking drugs, I couldn’t get enough of them. Now I do not wish to glorify any type of negative behaviors but at first they offered me an extremely pleasurable experience, one filled with euphoric emotions that I didn’t wish to end. I consumed drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy, acid, MDMA and ketamine with my friends, mostly on nights out and social events.

Like most addicts would tell you, in the beginning drugs were exciting, they were only used socially and to a certain degree without harm, or so I thought anyways. However like every “Honeymoon Period” we all know that it will inevitably end. After an on-off addiction with ketamine, a ghastly substance I had an impenetrable 10 year battle with. I eventually hit rock bottom when I was made redundant in 2018 from an extraordinary business which I truly loved and was so passionate about being a part of, I felt that I had no purpose in life and that I had become a complete and utter failure as an individual and also as a member of society, a laughing-stock to my friends and family.

My career was one of only a few things that could allow me to hold my head up high and gave me a sense of pride for what I had accomplished as well as a purpose. Having the career I had, kept me mostly focused and away from using but ultimately I was a “functioning addict”, I could still function and lived a double-life.

You see, being an addict doesn’t just mean having an addiction to substances, I was completely addicted to my career which I gave my all towards making a success of. It was one of the few things that made me feel like a respected member of society. It gave me a sense of structure and belonging, even if my life during this period was sometimes a double-life this side of my life made me feel desired and decent.

I had also ended a loving relationship with my partner at the time because I never felt good enough to be with. Especially when the issues I had with substance misuse caused her a great deal of emotional and physical stress and un-wellness. I had turned a wonderful relationship into a dark and miserable one through my selfish actions and total lack of respect for anyone and anything other than ketamine. My partner tried her absolute best to help me and she certainly helped to keep me alive much longer than I had wished as she had shown me some beautiful moments I will always be grateful for.

However for someone to truly seek help, they need to do it for themselves which is something I managed to pursue. Despite the relationship ending, I will always be forever in her debt for the times she saved my life without her even knowing. She will always have a very special place in my heart. I have only ever been in love twice and with the two partners I had I truly owe them both a huge thank you, for all the magical moments we shared which gave me joy and happiness.

When I hit rock bottom I shut everyone off and despite friends and family trying their upmost best to support me I wanted my life to end, I sought after my own death. I came to be suicidal, shut off from society and mostly hid in my apartment in the Peak District and wasted the days away by fueling my ketamine addiction and wishing that just one more bout would kill me.

I was well aware of what my addiction was doing to everyone around me, those that loved me and most of all the pain I caused. On top of this I knew that I was losing my friends as I pushed all the people away from me that simply wanted the best for me.

I knew I needed to change, I made a conscious decision to seek the help I needed, I recognised I needed to escape to a safe and caring environment away from everything and everyone to work on my toxic behaviors and emotional traumas. There was nothing that was going to stop me from doing this and I had it in my mind that if I didn’t get into Rehab I couldn’t see any way out from the pain and suffering other than taking my own life.

All the pain I had kept locked and hidden away for so long needed to be addressed, I knew I needed to send myself to Rehab, I was anxious and petrified but ultimately I knew deep down within my soul I needed this, I knew everyone around me deserved the best version of me, but most of all I deserved this, I deserved a good life filled with happiness and excitement.

I can remember the day I got the call from Phoenix Futures informing me of my admission date. I can remember trying to tackle my way down the stairs, running into the kitchen to share the good news with my loving mother, we both broke down in tears and to this day I can still remember the glimmer of hope she had in her eyes as well as the relief in her voice as we cried together hugging.

The disturbing picture you see displayed at the end of this story was taken by myself the night before I started my journey of recovery with the incredible team at Phoenix Futures, I am truly grateful for this opportunity. Here in Phoenix I can work on myself in a safe and loving environment and battle my addiction one day at a time..!

I weighed just less than 8 stone, I struggled to walk, eat, I struggled to pass urine stood up and I often passed blood whilst screaming with excruciating anguish, until I eventually passed urine, I suffered the nastiest of stomach cramps, being rushed in and out of hospital all the time with a whole number of illnesses caused from my addiction. My anxiety was so bad that I loathed any form of interaction with human beings especially my family. I was battling depression and suicidal thoughts daily, I just wanted to die!

The only time I could function was when it meant picking up ketamine, utterly destroying my life even further!

As embarrassed and appalled I am of this picture, it's a clear reminder of how far I've already come and how much potential I have to offer still. It’s also a very deep and meaningful message that I hope will help inspire others who are also sadly in the same predicament as I was. No matter what life can throw at you as long as you find hope and determination you can achieve anything you set your mind too.

I let my destructive behaviors and thoughts not only ruin my life but all those around me who really love and care for me. This stopped the day I moved to Scotland and enrolled on my programme with Phoenix Futures.

My journey is far from over, I will be pursuing a career as a Drug Guru within Schools & Colleges and anyone else that I can also help along the way. Using my experience as a foundation to educate children on the terrible dangers that drugs have to offer.

Addiction doesn't care who and what it destroys, it just wants to take over. Hopefully these pictures will inspire any else who is struggling... let me say this to you, it is possible to change your life… but firstly you have to accept the fact you have a problem, then secondly you have to conjure up every ounce of grit and determination and use it to change your miserable addictive life. If I can change my life then so can anyone else that's struggling from any form of addiction!

I cannot thank everyone enough, for the love & support that’s been there for me during the difficult times. I truly love and respect you all... I want you all to know that with each day that passes I learn to love and respect myself that little bit more.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story and please feel free to like and share it. Hopefully my story will serve to inspire change within someone else who’s also struggling.

Peace & Love & Yours Truly,

Thomas

 

Phoenix Futures is a registered charity in England and Wales (No 284880) and in Scotland (No SCO39008); Company Limited by Guarantee Number 1626869; Registered Provider of Social Housing with Homes England (H3795).