My name is Mark. I live on the Isle of Wight in England, and am an addict in recovery for four years now. My upbringing was fairly normal, apart from being told at an early age that it was okay to drink alcohol, as long as I didn’t drink it alone. My relationship with alcohol began there. It soon morphed into smoking dope and dabbling in many other drugs. Before I knew it, I was drinking and using drugs daily.
I was a mess for 25 years, hooked on booze and other drugs, before I began my recovery journey. I spent many weeks, months and years in prison. Several times, going to prison saved my life. On a number of occasions, things were so bad that I tried to end my life. Thankfully, it was not my time to leave this planet.
My family didn’t want anything to do with me. Who could blame them? I was full of madness and anger, and I was a raging addict. I lost friends to drug overdoses and alcohol-related deaths, yet still my addiction went on. Addiction had control of me.
On more than one occasion, I found myself in the hospital. At one point, I was told if I continued to carry on the way I was going, I would be dead in six months or less. Guess what? I phoned a friend and asked him to bring alcohol to the hospital, which he did.
When I left the hospital, I had no hope at all; well, actually, just one. I was hopeful that I would last longer than six months so I could drink some more; I did. I surpassed six months, so I continued to drink. Soon, I was back in the hospital with tubes coming out of me and in such extreme pain that I felt like I was in hell.
By this time, I had stopped taking drugs; it was just the booze. After all, it was legal and wouldn’t kill me, right? My life went on like this for another 18 months, until I overdosed. Luckily, I was found and put in a psychiatric hospital for my own safety.
During my time there, I began learning about and working on myself. Upon my release, however, my addiction kicked in and said, “Hey, Mark, you’re cured! Have a drink. You’ll be fine.” Off I went again. It wasn’t long before I was in a big, dark, lonely hole, waiting for death.
Life in active addiction is the worst nightmare. On the morning of May 1, 2013, I was just about to drink a can of beer when a friend’s son said to me, “If you drink that, you’ll never stop, and you’ll end up dead.” To this day, I’m not sure what happened. Something finally clicked in my head. I asked my friends if they wanted my beers. Of course, they said yes. I picked up a phone and called for help.
When I was discharged from the hospital the last time, it was suggested that I stay at a dry house called Butler Gardens, here on the Isle of Wight. The support worker on the end of the phone told me there was a temporary bed available, so off I went. From that day forward, with the help of the staff at Butler Gardens, I began working on myself and building my recovery. I soon became an official resident at Butler Gardens (real world ‘trust’) and began attending meetings: AA, acceptance commitment therapy and relapse prevention. I wanted to do it all; I wanted to stay clean and sober.
I also wanted to give other people hope so they, too, could change their lives. The Isle of Wight is a small place with a big addiction problem, and I am a strong believer that in order to keep what you’ve got, you’ve got to give it away.
Currently, I run a weekend support group that I co-founded called Clean Breaks. I have also facilitated acceptance commitment therapy groups for recovering addicts. I have passed many qualifications, from the Sports Leadership Award to level two teacher training. Connecting with nature has helped me get stronger. I have helped a nature therapy group run the kindness programs in schools and have been a part of delivering the Wolf Medicine Course, the first of its kind in England for people in recovery. This guided and creative work includes interacting with a pack of wolves (no physical contact), working with horses, using ancient knowledge, creative art and being outside in nature. It helps addicts find their own power by connecting with their inner self.
My next step is to find employment as a support worker so that I can help other addicts realize they are not alone and help them to grow. I believe that everyone can change with the right support.
Forgiveness is a big part of my recovery, as is learning that it is okay not to attempt to control every situation. I have also learned that I don’t have to act on my every thought. Life in recovery is a life full of hope, dreams, love and fun; a life filled with new people and new skills. Since I have been in recovery, most of my family members have come back into my life.
Life does have ups and downs, and that’s okay with me; one day at a time is just fine. If my story can touch even one person and help to save their life, then, as we say in England, “Job done.”