I grew up in a typical upper middle class background. On the surface I had everything you would consider the essential building blocks of life. But I never felt connected, never felt loved and felt lonely all the time. There was a reason for that. My family was dysfunctional, unloving and throughout my early life and at boarding school was sexually abused by various people. This just added to me sense of being unworthy and unwanted.
As soon as I left school I started taking drugs. I wanted to. Nobody forced me. As soon as that first drug changed my thinking, silenced the voices inside my head, I was hooked. I wanted that feeling every day. Every hour. So that’s what I did. I made sure I was under the influence of something as often as I possibly could be. To begin with it was fun. There were no consequences, nothing negative was happening and I was surrounded, for the first time in my life my people who related to me and behaved like me. I felt I had a family. As far as I was concerned I had found the answer to life. Take substances, fool around and generally have a great time. I did. For about 18 months. Then things started to go a little off centre.
There were warning signs. Things I can see now that normal people would probably have paid attention to. An arrest for some petty crime. Not been able to afford the monthly rent. Some friends drifting away. Losing jobs much quicker than other people seemed to. Beginning to feel lonely more and more often. But nothing seemed to register and if it did, I had an easy solution, take more substances, drink more, and magically all the stress and strains went away.
At the lowest point I had been homeless for several years, the police eventually tired of me and I was sent to prison for 3 years. Even that didn’t stop me using but it made me reflect. On release I was lucky enough to bump in to someone I had known while on the streets. He looked amazing, clean in all respects and I was intrigued as to how he had achieved this. He told me simply. “I stopped using!” I had to take some months to digest the simplicity of this remark but it made me go back to him and ask more questions. Gradually I came to see that hard as it was going to be I was obviously going to have to make changes. The first piece of advice he gave me was simple - “Get help!” This had always been hard for me but I managed to go to a rehab that made me feel comfortable. I have never looked back from that moment.
Whilst in the rehab I began to feel that I had a knack for talking sense and as soon as I graduated I started the process of trying to make working with people with substance problems my career. I went back to college, graduated after two years, working my way through the course by helping out at a crisis centre. From there I was able to get a job in the same rehab I had originally being a client in and within 4 years was running a 23 bed unit for men in recovery. What I learnt was that I able to make clients feel relaxed, safe and enthusiastic and we developed a place that had life and laughter at its core.
I loved the work, the ability to help people change and many years later started my own rehab in rural England. A rehab that helped people who did not have funding, a rehab for anyone who wanted to get better. It grew and became successful. But most of all it had ‘heart’. Everyone who came in to visit, as a client or just to see what we did, commented on the fact that Focus12 had a life to it that was special. I ran that unit for nearly 20 years. It is the proudest achievement of my life. It was something that I felt was so removed from anything I was capable of. But in recovery I found that I was much more capable than I had ever thought.
4 years ago I decided that I needed to slow down a little. Age was creeping up and I opened my clinic in London. Here I see people on a one to one basis. I get to spend quality time with clients from a wide variety of backgrounds. I'm also Clinical Adviser at Help Me Stop, where I am dedicated to bringing affordable intensive treatment to everyone that needs it.
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