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we are With You

Recovery looks different for everyone

Celebrating stories of recovery

Recovery looks different for everyone. The people who access drug, alcohol and mental health support come from a range of backgrounds, and all have their own unique relationship with these issues, and experience of accessing support.

September is Recovery Month and we’re highlighting some of the stories of the people we support and their experience of recovery.

Sammi: “I can finally say that I’m proud of myself and that I like who I am.”

I can’t pinpoint one specific catalyst for my lifelong battle with drugs and alcohol. However, I did have a difficult childhood, struggled with the death of friends and family, suicide, abuse, mental health issues, and most recently a horrific incident that left me with a physical disability. From a young age, alcohol and drug use were normalised to me. Each time I suffered any kind of trauma, I delved deeper into that world. I thought that was normal because it was to me.

Over the years I ruined relationships, lost jobs, even lost my house. I repeated this cycle over and over. I knew I could survive the worst and for a long time I thought I was enjoying it on some level. I tried therapy lots of times, I tried detoxes, but I just didn’t care. I felt like I had no point or purpose in life.

Then, almost 2 years ago, I looked around me and realised I was going to lose everything again. Except this time was different. I’d put so much hard work into learning how to walk again — I’d been in therapy for PTSD and for abusive relationships — I was finally learning how to like myself again. So why was I back here?

I decided to pick myself up and sort myself out. I asked for help. I didn’t want to be stuck alone in my house feeling more lonely, desperate and unhappy.

My nurse got in touch with With You for me, and since then I’ve been getting support at meetings and groups. I can finally say that I’m proud of myself and that I like who I am. With You have helped me to maintain my recovery and stay motivated through training opportunities, courses, volunteering and various projects within the charity.

Rob: “It gave me confidence, self-worth and self-belief that I could do it.”

When I was 13, my little sister died. That tragic event really affected me. When I was 16 I moved from Glasgow to England and discovered alcohol. It became an issue really quickly and would stay an issue for the next few decades of my life.

After moving to England, ​​I had kids, got married, and was headhunted for a good job in London. I felt like I’d arrived, but at the same time, I hated it. I’d realise later that it was the alcohol that I hated, how it dictated my life.

Eventually, my alcohol issues led to my marriage ending, and I ended up homeless for a while before moving back to Glasgow. This all culminated in March 2020 when I tried to take my own life. I sat in my flat just thinking about how I couldn’t get away from alcohol. I couldn’t live with it, I couldn’t live without it. I just saw no way out.

I’d got support a couple of different times, but nothing really stuck. I didn’t even really understand what I was suffering from. Eventually, a crisis psychiatrist referred me to With You.

Maggie was my With You support worker, and I credit her with saving my life. I went in feeling broken, but as soon as I met her I felt comfortable. We sat in a room, and I broke down and I cried, for the first time in a long time. Maggie really gave me the confidence to say “I can do this”.

Eventually, I began to volunteer at With You, helping to run online groups during the pandemic. This really empowered me. It gave me confidence, self-worth and self-belief.

It’s been a journey and a half from this little boy losing his sister, to sleeping on the streets for two years, to losing everything, to finding the right support and feeling like I could do this.

Steven: “Accessing support was scary, but it was the best decision I ever made”

I joined the army as soon as I could. I didn’t have the happiest childhood and wanted an escape. My Grandad has always been my hero. I used to love hearing his stories from the second world war, so from an early age I’d dreamt of being a soldier.

I loved it. It was my life. The structure, the camaraderie — it suited me perfectly. I did three tours of Northern Ireland and happily signed my life away to do the full 22 years. But, at the age of 25, I shattered my pelvis in a car accident. My injury was so severe that I was medically discharged. In a flash, I was a civilian again.

When you’re in the army you don’t have to worry about what you are doing tomorrow, what to have for dinner or where your next paycheck is coming from. I relished that focus. Then, suddenly, there was this expanse of unfilled time ahead of me. It was a massive readjustment. I felt anxious and depressed and drugs became my way of escaping. Overall I self medicated with alcohol and drugs for the best part of 25 years.

As I entered my 40s, I knew if I continued down the same path I’d be dead in the not too distant future. Coming forward and accessing support was scary, but it was the best decision I ever made. Some people think asking for help is a sign of weakness but it takes real courage to admit you have an issue.

I haven’t touched alcohol for 6 and a half years and or drugs for two and a half years now.

Veterans often find it easier to talk to other veterans, someone who’s been through similar things and knows the lingo. That’s why I’ve set up a veterans group at With You in Redcar. It’s a space for people with a military past who have issues with alcohol and/or drugs to come together and support one another. We’ve had a few sessions now and they’ve gone really well. It’s more than just having that old military banter back, it’s about letting people know they aren’t alone.

Fathima*: “My biggest step forward was being completely honest and asking for help”

At 42 years old I feel incredibly lucky to say that I haven’t had a drink or a drug for nearly 20 years. One day at a time.

I have a Sri Lankan background and my parents had quite a traditional focus on academic achievements. My siblings were high achievers but I always felt very different. From a young age, I thought that the ball of anxiety in my stomach was just part of life.

When I first started drinking in my teens, I immediately loved the feeling of not being able to remember and blacking out. Soon I would drink to oblivion at every opportunity I had. I experienced my first panic attack when I was 17, and from there my anxiety just got worse. By this point, I was drinking and using cannabis every day.

I entered a 12 step rehab facility when I was 19. I remember thinking, ‘I’m not like these people. If things were different, I could drink like a normal person. ‘ Unfortunately at that stage, I wasn’t ready to be honest to myself. I left before completing the program. The following few years were a nightmare. My substance use got worse. I was a young Asian female in London, and the situations I put myself in were incredibly dangerous. I feel lucky to be alive today.

I eventually attended a day program with counsellors, therapists and group work. I started to open up to my peers and got support from others who could identify with me. Through the support I received, I was able to identify how I could change certain patterns, thoughts and behaviours.

I thought that stopping drinking was a life sentence of being boring and glum. I would never laugh, dance and be comfortable in my own skin. But with all the support I’ve received, I can truly say I am happy. I went back to education and received a first-class degree, got married, and had three beautiful children. I have danced, spent time with my family, feasted on lovely food, the list goes on. These things I thought would be impossible to do and enjoy without alcohol.

My biggest step forward was being completely honest and asking for help. I am not ‘cured’. But however hard life gets, no matter what challenges get thrown at me, I take it one day at a time.

*Name changed to protect the person’s identity

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These are tough times for everyone. With You services are open and we’re here to work alongside you during this difficult time. Visit our website for information and advice, to chat to a trained advisor or to find your local service.

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With You

With You

We are one of the UK’s leading mental health, drug and alcohol charities. We provide free, confidential support with drugs, alcohol and mental health.