Recovery from addiction: How I found that new thrill

Posted on June 3, 2015

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Talking to Blackheath, my friend in recovery who was feeling sorry for himself the other day after relapsing, I suggested he needs to do whatever it takes to understand where the need to self destruct from, and then do everything in his power to find a new thing that makes him feel those thrills.

He thought it was the need for thrills that made him fall off the wagon last week. And he said that what was hard was changing a lifetime of habit. Of living a life he’d never lived before.

I’m no expert – so I felt like I wasn’t in a position to give him advice. He wasn’t asking for it either. But I wanted to give him some encouragement, understanding a little about how he was feeling. Actually, quite a lot. I was desperately scrabbling around in my brain for the words that could make him feel better. I don’t know if I did it any justice but I suggested he pulls himself away from his current situation for a bit. Maybe go and see his kids in Italy. But I can’t escape myself, he said.

It made me feel sad. I wanted to be able to say the right thing, and didn’t know what that right thing was. Equally I knew that I couldn’t change his situation, that nothing I could say or do would pull him out of the way he was feeling. So I did the one thing I had wished on many an occasion i’d been given in my 20s when I was feeling low – and I squeezed him really really tight with a humungous bear hug and took ages to let go.

I don’t know if I was holding him – or my former self.

Being drawn to thrills is something I can relate to.

From the age of 13/14 I was taking speed in the back of older boys cars and smoking weeds in the woods planning my escape route from my life.

It was like, a life awakening for me – the first moment I started rebelling. I felt alive. And then getting into trouble became seductive, it drew me in, I felt like I belonged, no longer an outsider. I started to realise like there were other’s like me. It was less lonely. Seeking adventures together was bonding, and whether it was just for a night or a lifetime, those friendships were life defining. And I don’t regret any of it. It’s made me me.

But I first said I wanted to give up that lifestyle – the drugs and partying that is – when I was 18. Eighteen! I’d seen the dark side of drugs, the overdosing, the scary part that involves hospitals and stomach pumps, the driving round people’s houses the next day feverishly searching for my missing fucked up friends.

And it took until I was 31. Maybe 32, to finally kick the habit.

For 14 years, sometimes in phases, sometimes with gaps of six months or a year in between phases, I would party hard. It was addictive because it was fun. Plain and simple. I knew if I got high, I would have an incredible experience and you never knew who you could meet – and it was that anticipation and excitement of the unknown that used to draw me in. For one night only ladies and gentleman, I knew I would or could feel love(d).

But then there were no guarantees and in time the fun became less fun. My nights out always ended with a darker edge to them, my behaviour more degrading, my comedowns lonelier and more isolating. I would often spend days on my own in tears, mourning a life that could have been, wondering why the hell I felt so low and alone. I struggled to hold down jobs that were making me even more miserable. I used to fantasise about death all the time, wondering who would come to my funeral, if anyone. I would imagine all the people who’d hurt me and see them devastated at my passing, wishing they’d appreciated me more.

I lost my soul on the dance floor – raving to me was just as much about losing myself in the moment, a meditative experience, feeling the music flow through me and thinking of nothing. Literally nothing. Which is an elation. Its beautiful. So when I stopped getting high, those moments were hard to reclaim and I didn’t know who I was anymore. I didn’t want to be a part of that world, it was drawing out all my darkness and the other pillars of my life – relationships, family and work – were falling apart. I was angry. I was getting into drunken fights. A girl went to prison off the back of assaulting me. Many years later I started mentoring offenders to seek some kind of retribution.

People didn’t seem to care enough to help either, they only seemed to leave me or resist me. I was becoming a liability – that annoying mate everyone has, the one who is hard work, argumentative, always challenging. The one who has a pop at you if you blow them out, throwing tantrums and generally being aggressive and irritable. And as people fade from your life and can’t be arsed to even apply an intervention you sail through it on a paranoid ship in choppy dark waters, wondering what the fuck you did to be abandoned so repeatedly in this way.

When I gave it all up, it was a more of a slow phase out than a straight up cold turkey. I replaced getting high with falling in love. I spent 18 months distracting myself from it through that, and I still smoked weed occasionally but then when the love ended, whilst it was rational and a caring goodbye, a gaping hole opened up and the loneliness was so great I knew that something needed to be done. It still took me another 18 months to find it. But therapy definitely helped bridge that gap along the way.

My new thrill? 

I don’t like roller coasters, said Blackheath.

I wasn’t sure if he was ready to have this conversation, even though I know he was only trying to be funny.  So I kept my thoughts to myself. This is his adventure to explore and discover and the outcome of that could look very different to my own.

Mindfulness. 

But I don’t think its about meditating per se. It’s more about being present in the moment, generally. In more of a naturalistic way.

It’s like being back on that dance floor, pure in that space and time – connected. Not thinking about anything. It calms the mind. It banishes negative thoughts. My mind was so woven with negativity for years that being calm in the mind now IS THRILLING.

And it’s weird because for about a year or two now I’ve struggled with listening to music. Instead I would spend days vegetating in bed watching box sets or movies (and secretly wander if I was okay). But I felt okay, so long as I was doing that – it was indulgent, escaping myself. Running into the dramas of other people’s lives, instead of being consumed by my own. In fact, by avoiding people and places so there were no dramas in my life. For a really long time I just distanced myself. I knew it was what was needed.

Recently i’ve gotten back into listening to music.

It’s like my pleasure hormones have re-awakened. My senses are alive again. I hardly watch TV or films now. I spend my time reflecting, pondering, or just being – whilst all kinds of music cocoons me. Heavy bass, dubby, melodic, moody or uplifting. It feels great to have gotten back there.

The music flows through me and I feel connected to life and the universe again. And I don’t need drugs to get me there.

I’ve written lots about this journey, and I hope some of it might help at least one person some day. Perhaps where I have struggled to say the right thing at the right moment with someone who could have used some friendly advice. 

This blog is pretty anonymous, I don’t seek many readers but I appreciate those who do find something in it. Writing it, has also been a new thrill.

It’s not just a release, but its a place to validate the way I feel about things – its a way of sharing experiences, thoughts and emotions on a neutral platform that gives hope to so many who are lost or wondering where to turn. I’ve read other people’s posts in my darkest hours and found a way out through their writing.

These things are less THRILLING perhaps, more nurturing.

Perhaps Blackheath’s new ‘thrills’ needs to be personal to him, reclaiming the things he loved doing as a child, finding his true self again. He said he wants to write a novel some day, but he’s never written a thing. He said he would need to spend some time gathering his thoughts first.

He has so much love to give, I can feel it when he holds me. Love flows through him, and I think that’s where our connection is – and we both feel it. Which could be dangerous in itself, and is why I keep him a bit at arms length. And he does me.

But then he spends the majority of his time looking for it in all the wrong places. Like I used to. Like all addicts do. Because that’s what he knows. Temporary, fleeting, one-night-only love. Its a fix. But it only serves to leave you with a gaping hole afterwards.

Hopefully he will figure out how to un-learn that way of being.

If nothing else, I hope i’ve been a small catalyst to helping him on that long old road. I haven’t had the guts yet to tell him long it can be. I don’t know if he would be quite ready to hear that.

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Posted in: The Truth