Gaining an understanding

Guest Author: Joe

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

I have been riddled with shame ever since I can remember, which is as far back as six years old.

I was born with Spina Bifida, so I wore nappies up to the age of 16 and I was bullied for it all through school.

I understand that anyone would have found that unpleasant but my illness, which I only started labelling as addiction from the age of 30 onward, meant the emotions which resulted from the bullying felt so much more intense than perhaps other people might have found them to be.

One of the many symptoms of my illness is that I am a very sensitive person and I have had an innate tendency to avoid strong emotions since I was young boy.

I think I constantly felt threatened in the world that I lived in because of this sensitivity and my response to this was to put on a mask. This mask would have appeared to somebody from the outside as though I was a happy, if not a little cheeky, and quite carefree.

If anyone would have been able to see what was going on inside me then they would see that this could not have been further from the truth. I first found out that I could change the way I felt, almost instantly, using substances when I was approximately 14. Not only did it change the way I felt inside — less anxious and ashamed of myself — it also gave me a sense of belonging to a group of people that I had never had in my life as well. Unfortunately, membership of this group seemed conditional on behaving in a certain way and I did some things during my adolescent years whilst hiding under a mask, desperate to maintain this feeling of being part of something which I am not proud of.

Using substances to cut off my emotions became the only thing I knew.

Using substances to cut off my emotions became the only thing I knew, and through the progression of my illness I went on a path of destruction hurting myself and anybody else in my path desperately trying to block out the pain of the consequences of my actions with a greater amount of substances until the summer of 2016 the pain became too great to ignore.

I sat under my kitchen window in my flat on my own, having pushed anyone of any importance away from me, cutting myself with a knife just wishing I would die. I had already been on anti-depressants for quite some time by this point and in a review with my GP I admitted to my alcohol consumption and said I needed help — this was a significant moment in my recovery.

After months of using community support services to manage my drug use, I decided to go in to rehab. This was a decision which unquestionably saved my life. I went in to rehab on November 22, 2016 and I have not had any mind or mood-altering substances since.

The road to recovery has been the hardest thing I have ever done but without a doubt also the most rewarding. It was so hard because I was mentally ill, and part of my illness was telling me I had to be the way I was to protect myself (a message I had given myself since I was six). So when I went in to rehab and they told me I was the problem and I had to change, I resisted, hard. Despite having next to no self-worth, I still actually had a huge ego which I had unconsciously built over the years to compensate for the inner void I had felt growing up.

I gained an understanding of these aspects to my illness by listening to and talking to other people in rehab, and my ego slowly but surely began to crumble away. It can still crop up today if I don’t keep myself well mentally, spiritually and physically. To do that I engage in things like volunteering. I am active in Alcoholics Anonymous and go back to contribute to groups at the rehab that I did my treatment in.

Helping others is my primary purpose today.

Helping others is my primary purpose today, it really feels like I have found what I put in this world to do and I am so grateful for that. I am now studying a degree in psychology to hopefully become a counsellor one day and that is going very well. I am so grateful that I can be a father to my son now and that we can tell each other we love each other. I am grateful I can put an honest day’s work in for my employer. I know I will always have this illness. I know I will always be sick, but I will never be weak.



Thanks for sharing

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