There seems to be no common thread as to why people become drug addicts. They come from all walks of life, all upbringings and all dimensions of the demographic spectrum.
Each person’s story is different.
Kev was born in the early 1970s into a quiet, insular Christian community, ‘waiting for the end of the world all the time’ – he was a good Jehovah’s Witness boy. He was different, he felt uncomfortable in his own skin, and was often bullied in public. At 16 he was offered some hash in the local video shop – this was the opportunity to be ‘cool’ and to be accepted. That put him in a bad environment; he started mixing with the wrong people, stopped going to church. He then progressed onto harder drugs. And so the spiral began…
“When I didn’t have drugs in me I was very uncomfortable but then a lot of the drugs made me paranoid so I spent a lot of time hiding from my feelings and hiding in general. I struggled to remain employed, and had mini breakdowns. I had a partner and small children at this time….I’d go out the house, and be gone for 2 weeks, and then come back with some ridiculous story. That was my life for years”
“I never got up in the morning and decided I’d become a drug addict and I’m going to manipulate and lie to every one I love…..I just became possessed by it. It was more powerful than me, It was like it was a hole I was falling down and I couldn’t stop”
“I ended up on the streets a few times, literally sleeping on the streets and begging and there were times when I was running my own business. There were times when apparently, outwardly, I was quite successful and respectable…”
I could never see past the next fix, you don’t think about the consequences.
Some things I did, still haunt me and which I feel huge regret for…but in my head when I’m doing it, I’m telling myself that tomorrow, just tomorrow, what I’m going to do….is …say, rob a post office. Something I was never going to do, but something big that was going to put it all right and pay back people. I would use, and then get up next morning , feel awful, and I just needed more drugs..that would lead to the next rubbish and nasty thing.
You then end up carrying the pain of what you’ve done to others and so you want even less to be left in your own skin the next day.
If you’re in a position where you’re really hungry , and your body is desperate for food you very quickly live in a world where “can I eat it” is what it comes down to. It’s the only thing you can think about, it’s an obsession – everything else only exists in relation to that thing. That’s the same with drug addiction.
On my own I was incapable of breaking those cycles of behaviour, I was incapable of stopping that. It was just taking me down. I got to the point where I could no longer tell myself a story of how I could make it better that I believed. And that was why I felt ultimately broken ….at that point the opportunity for re-hab came up.
Kev was living in Leicester at the time and went along to the drug service. The route to getting a place on a scheme was long and complicated and he needed support immediately. He avoided the faith based options given his anxiety over his religious upbringing. The option of going to Jericho House was raised and he went for his 1st assessment on 14th February 2009. 4 months later he became a resident and his programme of abstinence and withdrawl started.
“I was a bit afraid of coming off heroin, but I had done it before.
Previously when I’d tried I was so physically ill I couldn’t score but when I’d withdrawn I would go and use again. So I wasn’t afraid that I couldn’t get through the withdrawls – it is built up to a huge thing and I already knew that a big part of it was psychological. It was going through that process of dealing with your feelings.
I’d made my mind up that I wanted to stop and coming here made it easier. These guys have been through what I’d been through and lived in the places I’d lived.
I knew I was going to start putting it right and that seemed like a good thing. I knew I was in a deep and bad hole and this was the beginning of getting out of that hole. It didn’t feel that overwhelming.
I spent about a week sleeping – it was like a bad case of flu. I used to kick out when I was younger but that was usually as a way to get people to give me money. Once I knew I wasn’t going to use again it wasn’t hell. It’s not pleasant but it’s certainly not that worst thing I’ve experienced.”
After going through withdrawl he started working around the house, becoming involved in group sessions and benefited from hearing about other people’s experiences.
“I used drugs based on my feelings. You feel something, you take drugs, you take some numbness for a while , you’ll be comfortable and then you’ll repeat the cycle. Actually I had to learn that it was my feelings that were the driving force behind this and you need to manage your feelings …I didn’t get it originally but it was something I came to learn in time. And then I learnt some basic lessons on how “ordinary” people manage their feelings
They taught me how to handle myself in life without using drugs to cope”
“So, let’s say I was going to an interview, or to the Job centre, most people would probably feel anxious and have some uncomfortable feelings and go along and come out ok. My feelings would be overwhelming before I’d get there. I would try and imagine every conceivable way that the discussion would go. I would only feel comfortable in the interview if it followed my script and ….my insecurities would overwhelm me and, given the choice I would rather not go.
I would avoid situations, or agree to things I shouldn’t have agreed to, and become aggressive as a way of putting an end to the situation and walk away. Inappropriate ways of handling my feelings, not dealing with them properly, not perceiving the truth of a situation was quite often a problem. I was paranoid. My mental health was poor, for years I ran away from my feelings – and I hadn’t allowed myself to feel anything, for years. I literally had no experience of handling feelings.
I’ve learnt that normal people allow themselves to have feelings, experience the pain associated with them, and grow and develop from that as human beings. They emotionally grow. I avoided that pain, I avoided the experience, ..I didn’t go through the learning experience that I should have so I didn’t have a good emotional register.”
Kev went through the 12 step programme which encouraged him to think deeply about many aspects of his life, the people he had affected, how to cope better, and to consider ways in which he could make amends.
After 6 months he went into After care with Riverside and started getting out into the community, to re-integrate and to try to learn to function normally. After a year Kev started to volunteer at Jericho – just a few days a week, which built up over time. They supported him with Maths and English, then Level 3 in Social Care – Adult, and a certificate in University.
“I’ve now done stuff that makes me comfortable about me, being me.
Because I feel comfortable being me, I don’t have the same issues with the power of drugs in my life. They look unattractive to me – they look like a path to destroying what is quite a good life. I’m married, I’ve got a step son, I have a job, I’m reliable, I do things for charity.
Through the process of being able to forgive another human being I was able to see myself as a human being and forgive myself. I allow myself to be a human being who comes up short occasionally. That uncomfortableness , in large part, has gone”
“I was broken, and I really was – I was on the street, lied and cheated, I’d become a person I really hated…I couldn’t get out of the hole, losing hope, wishing to die. Feeling like the least wanted, the least happy, and the least needed member of society. People were there, in Jericho, to give me love….I now have a full and happy life.
Learning to live with yourself is not a quick thing.”
After being clean for 10 years, Kev is very matter of fact about his past. His ability to reflect so lucidly, and openly, is a testament to the support of others, and his commitment to changing his life. Sadly, not all are as successful, and Kev has been to too many funerals.
He has no answers as to what, specifically, caused him to become an addict
“I believe that I was an insecure person early on and the way I addressed it….I fell out of the bottom of society, for lots of reasons.
I know people who have had much the same upbringing as me who didn’t become drug addicts. I can’t put my finger on it, I don’t think it’s important that I do, I just know that drugs helped me manage my feelings and that was the beginning of this huge out of control spiral that ended up by me committing crime, drug dealing, stealing and lying, and being involved in violence.”
But the future for Kev is positive, he knows he is well-equipped to cope with the ups and downs of life.
We covered a lot of ground in the interview, and Kev had been very candid about his past, and bared his soul. Towards the end of the conversation, he paused, thought carefully, and said…
The richness in my life is amazing
The quality of my life…
The Joy I feel with life…
The pleasure I can take…
The part of, I feel…
What I have become I can’t even imagine…
I couldn’t have imagined back then how good it feels, and
What I had, and I didn’t want, I was still scared of losing, but
What I got in return was just… so good,
The Life of a recovering Addict is amazing!
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