As a child my older brother got into 12 step recovery, I visited him in rehab when I was 11. So I always knew about the 12 steps and part of me always knew that recovery was possible. But this information only made it even more baffling when years later I just couldn’t seem to ‘get it’. I tried so many times to clean up but always seemed to relapse. I really thought I was just too broken to recover.
Growing up I stayed away from alcohol, as I recognized some of those alcoholic tendencies I’d learned about from my brother in myself, I was scared of becoming an alcoholic like him. But I thought ‘non addictive’ drugs like weed and ecstasy would probably be ok. When I started using regularly at around 16 years old, I found they were more than ok, they seemed to be the cure for everything, including my paralyzing fear of people and my suicidal depression. For a while life was fun, I left school to work in nightclubs, and thought I’d found the secret of happiness. But it didn’t stay good for long. My drug use progressed, by 18 years old I’d started using cocaine and drinking alcoholically, and by 20 I’d started injecting heroin and crack. I became a frequent visitor to detoxes and psychiatric hospitals. There were many suicide attempts along the way. I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at age 20, but walked straight back out as it seemed to be for much older men. The rest of my 20s were filled with detoxes, rehabs, dipping into 12 step meetings, but always relapsing. Around the age of 27 I really knew I didn’t want to use anymore and I managed to stay clean for nearly a year. I went to loads of meetings, but I didn’t work any steps, I didn’t think I needed too. But one day, out of the blue, an overwhelming urge to use came over me and I couldn’t seem to fight the urge to pick up. I used again and that time I went downhill even faster. I was injecting heroin and crack multiple times a day, I ended up sleeping rough, getting arrested and was overdosing regularly. I very nearly died, I sometimes wonder how I didn’t. Despite wanting recovery more than ever, things just kept getting worse.
When I found Drug Addicts Anonymous I was in yet another rehab centre. Because of all my previous attempts I doubted that even a 12 step programme would work for me, I thought I really I must be a special type of sick. But at my first meeting I met a woman there who’d had a very similar experience to me. She spoke to me on the level, never patronized me, she was also funny; I appreciated that. I remember her saying to me “we’re sick people trying to get well, not bad people trying to get good.” I needed to hear that as I had a lot of shame and anger towards myself. Also she explained to me very clearly the exact nature of what addiction was and why I kept relapsing. She suggested I really needed a spiritual solution. I was desperate so I was willing to put my prejudices aside. Together we started to go through the steps. She was very kind but also very clear and firm at times. Along the way I learned some hard truths about myself but that was a necessary part of change.I felt I was developing a connection to something bigger than me, where previously there had been a void and my life started getting better. Last year I set up a DAA meeting near my home, I get a sense of belonging and usefulness there that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. Once I’d worked the steps myself I also started taking other women through them, which has given my life a new sense of purpose. I’m just under 3 years clean now and have had some really amazing things happen in my life, there have also been some very difficult times, but through it all I’ve stayed clean and I continue to grow. It’s all thanks to DAA, the 12 steps and the power I found through working them.
For more information on DAA, please visit: http://www.drugaddictsanonymous.org.uk/