My Story of Addiction
Hello, my name is Thomas and I’m 32 years young.
I have one hell of a resilient and wonderful mother, three remarkable brothers, a beautiful sister, a gorgeous nephew and a scrumptious newly born little baby niece who are all part of my loving but crazy family!
I’m originally from a picturesque town in Ireland called Nenagh, or 'An tAonach' by its Irish name, located in County Tipperary. When I was a child, I moved to Hackney, London with my parents and started primary school. Whilst living in London my Mother gave birth to my two brothers. Later we moved again, this time to a place called “Baaaaaaaarnsley” in South Yorkshire where I started secondary school and then college. The reason we moved to Barnsley was to escape my father’s abusive and callous ways. You see, my father was enormously tangled up in a wretched addiction and I believe to this day still sadly suffers with alcoholism.
As an adult I spent a lot of time moving around between Ireland, London and Barnsley, mostly as a way to escape grim, torturous environments. Although I appeared to portray a life of happiness and success, I was secretly hiding a whole array of deeply worrying issues which I could never find a way to address. I’ve always appeared to be an extremely confident and positive person externally but internally I was an absolute mess, suffering heavily with mental health issues, childhood trauma and personal insecurities and eventually all of these issues combined led to a serious drug addiction.
The NHS describe the term addiction as “a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences.”
According to the charity Action on Addiction, 1 in 3 people are addicted to something. My addiction was ketamine.
Now, I describe my compulsion to use drugs as a way of self-medicating; an obsession with trying to numb pain I suffered throughout my traumatic childhood and adolescence. Subconsciously I believe I was attempting to fill a void in my life with mind altering substances. Even though, whilst growing up I despised drugs and alcohol, I tried my first Class A Drug, cocaine when I was almost 18 years of age. I tried the legalised drug commonly known as alcohol at around 15 years old, that was a substance I managed to dodge pretty easily. I turned to Cocaine and Ketamine rather than alcohol as I’d seen first-hand how alcohol tore my family apart and directly caused our pain and suffering. For me, alcohol was a substance I thankfully didn’t choose to pursue, however I ended up an addict all the same.
As doom and gloom as my addiction eventually became, in the beginning taking drugs was exciting - I couldn’t get enough of them. Now, I do not wish to glorify any type of negative behaviours but initially they offered me an extremely pleasurable experience filled with euphoric emotions that I never wanted to end. I initially experimented with drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, acid, MDMA and ketamine with my friends, mostly on nights out and at social events. Like most addicts would tell you, at first I only took drugs socially and to a certain degree without harm, or so I thought anyway. However, like every Honeymoon period it would soon inevitably come to an end.
After an on-off addiction with ketamine, a ghastly substance I had an impenetrable 12-year battle with, I hit rock bottom when I accepted redundancy from a job I loved in 2018. I was a “functioning addict”, I was living a double life and this news tipped me over the edge. At that time my career was one of only a few things in my life that allowed me to hold my head up high, it gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment. My career kept me focused, at least during working hours. As an addict I wasn’t just addicted to narcotics - I was also completely addicted to my career. At a time where I was losing control of my relationship with ketamine, my job gave me a sense of structure and belonging. It gave me purpose and it made me feel desired and decent and like a respected member of society. Losing my place within an extraordinary company that I felt highly passionate about and had given so much of myself to, left me feeling that I had lost my purpose in life. In my eyes I had become a complete and utter failure, a laughingstock to my family and friends.
Around the same time, I had also ended a long-term relationship which sadly turned sour as a result of my toxic behaviours. I never felt good enough for her and towards the end I never showed her the love or respect she deserved or showed me. I became aware that my substance misuse caused her a great deal of emotional, spiritual and physical stress. I had turned a wonderful loving relationship into something dark and miserable through my selfish actions and total lack of respect for anyone and anything other than ketamine. I can honestly say that without the love and support she offered to me I would certainly not be alive today. I was in such a dark, dark place often feeling suicidal. I tried to segregate myself from society which made things so much darker but she was a light that was always present. I’ll always be thankful and indebted to her.
For someone to truly seek help, they need to do it for themselves which I thankfully eventually managed to pursue. Despite the relationship ending, I will 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.
When I hit rock bottom, I shut everyone off. I isolated myself from society and mostly hid in my apartment in the Peak District, despite the very best efforts of family and friends who tried their utmost to offer help and support. I became suicidal and sought after my own death wishing my life would end, wasting the days away fuelling my ketamine addiction and wishing that just one more bout would kill me.
I was well aware that my addiction was causing pain towards those who loved me. I knew I was losing my friends as I pushed all the people away from me who simply wanted the best for me.
I could see only two ways out from the pain and suffering - taking my own life or Rehab. Thankfully I recognised I needed to change and I made a conscious decision to seek the help I needed. I sought to secure a place in Rehab to escape to a safe and caring environment away from everything and everyone to work on my toxic behaviours and emotional traumas. Once I set my mind to this nothing could stop me.
I was anxious and petrified but ultimately I knew deep down within my soul I needed this. The people around me deserved the best version of me, but most of all I deserved this, I deserved a happy, healthy life.
I can remember the day I got the call from Phoenix Futures informing me of my admission date. I tackled my way down the stairs and ran into the kitchen to share the good news with my loving mother where we both broke down in tears together. To this day I can still recall the hope in her eyes as well as the relief in her voice as we cried together hugging.
The night before I left home to start my journey of recovery I took a set of disturbing pictures which now serve as a reminder of just how close I was to death. I weighed just 7 stones (98 pounds or just shy of 45 kilograms) and I struggled to walk and eat. I also experienced incredible challenges passing urine, often passing blood whilst screaming in excruciating pain. I suffered the nastiest of stomach cramps and was regularly rushed in and out of hospital with a whole number of illnesses caused by my addiction. Furthermore, my anxiety was so bad that I loathed any form of interaction, especially from my family. I was battling depression and suicidal thoughts daily, I just wanted to die. The only time I could function was when I used ketamine, destroying my life even further!
As embarrassed and appalled I am of these pictures, they’re a constant reminder of how far I've come and how much potential I have to achieve more. I also hope they can act as a symbol of hope and inspiration to others who find themselves in similar situations to show that even at your lowest there is hope and you can get better.
I let my destructive behaviours and thoughts not only ruin my life but the lives of those around me who truly love and care for me. This stopped the day I moved to Scotland and enrolled in my programme with Phoenix Futures and I am forever 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... My recovery journey is far from over and I’m currently pursuing a career as a “Drug Guru” within schools and further education where I hope to use my experience in a positive manner to educate young people on the dangers of substance abuse and addiction.
Addiction doesn't care who and what it destroys, it just wants to take over. Hopefully my story and these before and after pictures will inspire others who are struggling. To you, let me say this - it is possible to change your life… but first you have to accept you have a problem, and second you have to conjure every ounce of grit and determination and use it to channel positive change in your life. No matter what life throws at you, with hope and determination you can achieve anything you set your mind too.
I cannot thank my loved ones enough for the love and support they gave to me during the difficult times. I truly love and respect you all... and 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 this will serve to inspire change within someone who’s also struggling.
Peace, love & yours truly,