Day 23 of Recovery Month shows the journey of Tom. Tom was not with Changes for long but the time he spent here has had a meaningful impact on his life. We hope you enjoy the read!

My story with alcohol began when I was in my early 20’s, perhaps before. Like many people my age, I would go out but I would always drink more than others and wanted to keep going when everyone else wanted to stop. I worked in retail at this point and the drinking soon became an issue in a professional sense as I would often not turn up to work due to being extremely hungover.

I would lose job after job because of my drinking. Relationships with girlfriends crumbled as quickly as they were getting built. The main ambition was to work as a care worker involving individuals with mental health problems and/or learning difficulties. This was not going to be possible as I’d continue to go out and even take cocaine whilst mixing with the wrong crowds. Taking cocaine didn’t become a major issue but the drinking quite evidently was. Although I had the passion for care work, I couldn’t commit, the passion for a night out would exceed any passion for care work that I had. Nights out would then become the whole weekend and even longer. This really began to highlight the power of alcohol and how it changed my thinking when it entered my body.

As well as having a passion for care work, I’m a keen musician but have had to leave many bands due to drinking. Drinking was starting to mean that I lost more and more precious aspects of my life. My parents were always very supportive though and I went home to stay multiple times. At this time, a vicious circle appeared; I would get clean/dry at home and start to think I was ok and then would start to drink excessively again. This would lead to being homeless for months at a time. I’d isolate myself and then avoid contact with friends and family. Things were looking bleak. I started to lose my inhibitions so I would drink and take drugs more often. My mental health was at an all-time low.

I went to the Salvation Army to get help as I was constantly being admitted to hospital because of blacking out after drinking. The drinking was obviously excessive and constant, I know I needed to change. The Salvation Army referred me to Changes UK earlier this year. I didn’t think twice and went to Changes. I was hoping that I would re-build my career and take my band further. This was the moment where a flicker of hope appeared. My life was given its greatest chance to get back on track and back to having a purpose.

I never looked back since being at Changes. My experience was mixed as at the start, I was a quiet reserved individual who was struggling to make friends. Soon after being at Changes, I started to become more comfortable as I could make friends and get involved in group discussions. I jumped at the chance to get involved in the music program. I was also introduced to NA and AA meetings and it lead me to live a more fulfilling and spiritual life with an aim to share my experience and unconditionally help others to the best of my ability. I felt lots of love being at Changes, making many close friends that made me realise that all the help I received, I must give back!

The structured program and intense insight into addiction and unhealthy thought processes gave a me much more comprehensive insight into how I’d been trapped in an unhealthy cycle of self-abuse. Counseling led me to understand and accept past traumas like losing a loved one in a traffic accident and having a very ill brother from an early age to name a few. Many do not realise how trauma manifests itself in the brain and how it changes behaviours as a result. With support from peer-led groups and an understanding and open-minded, ongoing support network from Changes and the individuals I shared the journey with. This now allows me to live an honest life full of integrity and has changed my thinking and lifestyle completely.

After leaving Changes, I’ve become a mental health peer mentor at a local drink and drugs counselling service. I’m currently living a fulfilling life, I got my motorcycle back on the road and am focusing more on my fitness. I’m back in a band as planned to take my music further. I have not had a drink for 4 months if not longer and like to live in the moment and take life as it comes. The passion for life has returned and there is no need for a night out like before! I commit my life to living spiritually, dedicating it to others in need, bettering myself everyday by being teachable and working out and accepting my past.