National Recovery Month is an international observance held every September to educate as many people as possible that drug and alcohol treatment can enable those struggling with alcohol and drug problems to live a healthy and rewarding life.
Recovery Month celebrates the gains made by those in recovery, just as we celebrate health improvements made by those who are managing other health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, and heart disease. The observance reinforces the positive message that behavioural health is essential to overall health, prevention works, treatment is effective, and people can and do recover.
There are millions of people in the UK whose lives have been transformed through drug and alcohol treatment. Since these successes often go unnoticed by the broader population, Recovery Month provides a vehicle for everyone to celebrate these accomplishments.
Recovery Month enables us, as treatment providers, to speak about the gains made by those in recovery and share their success stories. In doing so, it helps to increase awareness, reduce stigma, highlight that drug and alcohol abuse issues can be beaten and furthers a greater understanding about the diseases of substance use disorders.
Each year, Recovery Month selects a new focus and theme to spread the message and share the successes of treatment and recovery. We hope these stories of recovery will work to inspire people across the UK to recognise the strength and resilience of individuals living in recovery as well as to support those struggling with alcohol and drug issues to consider seeking treatment.
The 2020 National Recovery Month theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Celebrating Connections,” reminds people in recovery and those who support them, that we all have victories to celebrate and things we may wish we had done differently. This is true of everyone and we cannot do it alone.
My name is Anne and I am an alcoholic and an addict. I think I was born that way. Alcoholism and any substance addiction are a disease and I suffered from it long before I took my first drink, my first spliff or my first line. Nothing was ever enough in for me and I was always looking for more, for bigger, for higher, further, faster, grander…. My life was a never-ending quest of adrenaline followed by periods of bitter disappointment, hangovers, paranoia, guilt-stricken self-pity.
Addiction is a progressive illness and mine did indeed progress from recreational and fun use to compulsive daily use and that was no longer fun at all. I was no longer partying with friends but became a bit of a recluse, hiding my severe consumption away from people and drinking/using on my own. Towards the end of my drinking and using I did not choose to drink or use, quite the contrary, I would wake up every day, saying to myself: “Anne, today you are not going to drink or use” and inevitably, a few hours later and despite my best intentions, I would find myself at my local supermarket in the wine aisle, going to the cash point, picking up and getting back home: groundhog day! This gruelling routine was eating my soul away, the very last bit of self-respect and self-confidence I had left until there was none. I was a broken wreck of a woman with a broken moral compass, no hopes or ambitions and the desire to put an end to the misery but not the courage to take any actions about it.
I had known that my drinking and using was a problem for years but the thought of having to give up, to be abstinent was too unachievable and unattractive for me. I spent over a decade and a few thousand pounds trying to source an alternative: electro magnetic therapies in Harley street, hypnotherapy, Transactional Analysis, addictology specialists, acupuncture. You name it, I tried it.
I also tried an NA meeting in Chelsea 10 years ago but was completely freaked out when I walked in and figured I knew half of the people in the room. I walked out, convincing myself that I was not as bad as them.
Looking back, I realise now that fear and pride were the biggest obstacles to my recovery and my asking for help. I had all sorts of pre-conceived ideas about the fellowships and rehab and was petrified at the idea of airing my dirty laundry in public. The paradox is that on the one hand my ego was telling me that I was better than that, better than them and on the other hand, I was mortified at the idea of admitting to my deep, dark embarrassing secrets, the thing I had done whilst using and drinking and was really ashamed about being found out.
Sadly, I had to come to a point of no return, a rock bottom to finally surrender and pick up the phone on a Sunday morning last October after a 3-day binge, on my knees and in tears and asked Help Me Stop to help me stop.
I came for an assessment a few days later and met with a therapist: I was done, ready to surrender and willing to do anything to end the vicious circle I found myself caught in. For the first time in my life, I was ready and willing to do what I was told.
And that’s how my recovery resumed: I came to the centre in Acton, took part in process groups, one to one therapy sessions, and workshops. Additionally, I attended regular AA and NA meetings in my neighbourhood, took a service commitment, and got back in touch with my sponsor.
At this point, I have to explain that I was not new to the fellowship and I had reached almost a year clean and sober before I relapsed in the Summer of 2019. But my first attempt at recovery, although successful on the surface (whilst it lasted) was not sincere. I can only see that now with hindsight and with the knowledge of what I have discovered this time around.
I first joined AA on 4th August 2018 after my ex-husband had returned from rehab and I realised I could not stop drinking daily: I was obsessed with it and using all sorts of ruses and subterfuges to drink without him noticing until he found out and I surrendered for him, not for me. I went through the steps with a Sponsor but my first step was wonky: I admitted I was powerless over alcohol: I knew that, anyone could see that but deep inside of me I did not admit that my life was unmanageable. I thought I was a functioning alcoholic, and had it not been for my husband at the time, I would have carried out drinking being fully ready to accept the diabolical consequences.
Nevertheless, I carried on working through the remaining 11 steps like a good student preparing a master’s degree in alcoholism recovery and ticked all the boxes, took some service and attended meetings. But I was on the outside looking in, I was not experiencing the psychic change required for any lasting recovery. I was working the programme with my head, not with my heart and whilst I was feeling better sober, I started to have the nagging feeling that one drink would be all right, that I was different than the other fellows and as my marriage crumble, so did my recovery. This led to me picking up a glass of Champagne one evening late June 2019. That one glass took me on a destructive path involving copious amount of cocaine, sleepless nights, blood and tears and ended on Thanksgiving at Help Me Stop as described above.
And I am very glad I did. This time, I needed more than the rooms to help me pick myself up, regain some form of self-worth, self-belief and instil some confidence in my broken head and body.
Recovery is a progressive process and slowly but surely, day after day, I regained a little bit of self-worth, my confidence grew, my head cleared. I became more and more willing to accept my illness; I became teachable and I began to grow. The group sessions at Help Me Stop, also called process groups, were a great time for me to offload and receive feedback from my peers and I took a lot from those. I was going through a divorce at the time and my regular visits at the centre allowed me to deal my addiction issues but also and more importantly to deal with real life on life’s terms, talk about my fears, my resentments, anger issues with my therapist and my peers. I would leave each evening, with a clear head and a warm heart, ready for the next challenge.
Today, I am 8 months clean and sober and life is very different to what it used to be. I still have challenges but no more dramas, no more self-induced complications, and embarrassments. I can trust myself. Life is beautiful and simple. I do not seek highs anymore as I have now understood that happiness is best found in small pleasures. I am present in my life and my children.
I am working the 12-step programme of recovery at my own pace, with a new sponsor. I have sponsees who keep me sane and sober, I attend 5 meetings a week and have a service commitment at my home group. I pray and I meditate every day and take a nightly inventory at night.
It may sound like a lot but trust me it is nothing compared to the amount of time and energy I used to deploy to keep pedalling in quick sands when I was in active addiction. The routine I have described in the paragraph above is now part of my life and if I skip a bit, I find myself unbalanced, out of sorts. I need to keep my head in check daily as I go to bed sober every night, I wake up as an alcoholic the next day. This programme offers a daily reprieve from alcoholism and addiction and it works.
The meetings of AA and NA although mostly on Zoom at the moment have allowed me to meet and interact with like-minded people, find a place where I truly feel I belong and build relationships with women who share the same ambitions and struggles. It is empowering. I never feel alone again, and I never need to take another drink or drug ever again.
So What Can You Do?
As we have said before “If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes”. If your drink and drug use is increasing or you are finding that you can't stop and stay stopped then please don’t kid yourself that your drinking or drug using is not creating problems. As your use of drugs and alcohol worsens, important areas of your lives will steadily drop as dependence takes hold, be they psychological or physical.
As Anne story indicates this cycle can be broken and a better life can be achieved through embracing the help and support from professionals, people that care about you and people that understand what you are going through. The cycle will not be broken by keeping it to yourself or trying to solve it on your own.
The reality is if you partner, husband, wife, friend, boss etc. is telling you that they are worried about your drinking or drug taking they are not saying this because they hate you and want to watch you destroy your life!
The staff at Help Me Stop have all had problems with drugs or alcohol in the past, so they know first-hand how easy it is for your drinking and use of drugs to get out of hand. Equally they know, as psychotherapists, and through life experience how to beat it. As Anne says we have a programme that helps you deal with your drug and alcohol issues and "deal with real life on life’s terms".
We have a range of face to face and online programmes to address problematic alcohol and drug use. Call us now on 0208 191 9174 or jump onto Live Chat/email us directly at https://helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us
N.B. If you would like to share your own story of recovery please feel free to post it on our social media platforms under this article or send it to email@example.com and we will discuss with you how you would like us to share it on your behalf.
Chris Cordell is Help Me Stop's General Manager and is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine and a member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals.
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