Day 29 of Recovery Month. You’ve heard Jacqui’s perspective as a partner so here is the journey from Daniel’s point of view. We hope you enjoy the read!
My story with drinking started in my early teens. I grew up in Walsall and as I have always been a tall guy it meant that I was able to get served in pubs and off-licenses at the age of the 13. They would have never have guessed my real age. At the age of 18, I tried cannabis and within 6 months I was taking acid, speed, MDMA, mushrooms and cocaine. As well as the drugs, I rapidly increased my alcohol consumption.
During the next 15 years or so, my drug and alcohol use was primarily social, however, at the time I worked in pubs and hotels and there was free access to alcohol every day. I also met many more people in the drug scene which meant that I could acquire drugs cheaply or freely.
My resilience to mind-altering substances went through the roof, it was quickly becoming uncontrollable. Many people commented to me that I did not looked ‘off my head’ but actually I had consumed about double the quantity of drugs and alcohol that everyone around me had. I then progressed to taking harder substances such as heroin and crack but I didn’t particularly enjoy the effects of these drugs so I stuck with my favourites; booze, weed and coke.
I managed to settle down at one point in my life as I got married and produced 2 beautiful children. This did not stop me drinking and smoking every day and on top of that cocaine at the weekends. More importantly, I never at that point admitted to others or myself that I had a problem.
In 2010, I suffered several bereavements within a short period of time. My closest friend died of bowel cancer aged 32, my father died of pancreatic cancer aged 59 and my nan and aunt also passed away in that period. My wife miscarried our third child and shortly after informed me that our marriage was over and wanted a divorce. Over the next 6 years I went completely off the rails as I was drinking and ‘sniffing’ daily, and self-harming regularly when the pressure got too much.
I met and fell in love with my current partner Jacqui, but even with this love I could not get a handle of my addictions or disgusting behaviour. Jacqui did nothing but try and help me to get better. Psychologists, therapists, bereavement councillors and drug services could not help me get off the path to destruction. I wasn’t ready to stop. A shock was needed for me to realise that if I did not stop what I was doing that I would lose everyone I loved and, in due course, lose my life.
In January 2016 while looking after my partners autistic son, while she was at work, without her knowledge I took a large quantity of cocaine as well as drinking a whole bottle of vodka. Upon her return from work because I was behaving erratically she confronted me and told me to leave. Totally out of character I hit her and then I stabbed myself with a kitchen knife. Enough was enough, she was done with me. I drove away and was reduced to sleeping in my van. This van would become my home for next 6 months.
The reality of sleeping rough and desperately wanting to stop my drinking and drug taking became my wake-up call. Washing in puddles, constantly vomiting blood, soiling and wetting myself and crying into my bottle of vodka all day every day. I realised I had lost everything. I was a hateful, despicable, drunken tramp that nobody wanted anything to do with.
In November 2016, Jacqui had to have an operation. She had no other option other than ask me for help. All her family were on holiday or unavailable for other reasons. I was asked to stay in the house for a fortnight, sleep on the sofa whilst she recovered. There were of course conditions to me staying. I could not drink or take drugs into the house. I cared for her and looked after her son. Ironically, I had then discovered I had a stress fracture in my foot and was put in a cast for the next 4 months. I continued to stay with Jacqui and sleep on the settee and became sober at which my relationship with Jacqui became close again.
One day, after having a nightmare, she discovered Changes UK whilst reading articles on the Birmingham Mail. The following day I spent 2 hours glued to this website and became so engrossed in Changes and what they do; I automatically filled in the application form.
Just before Christmas when I was visiting my father’s grave, I found myself on my knees begging for help. At this exact moment my phone rang. Steve Hatch from Changes invited me for an assessment in the new year.
I entered stage 2 of Changes UK in January, after successfully completing the Recovery Academy in March 2017 I then moved into stage 3 supported housing. The help I received and continue to receive from the services at Changes are unparalleled. Changes UK has literally saved my life.
I learnt more about myself in the short time I was at the Recovery Academy than I did in my 42 years of life previously. Group therapy sessions, psychotherapy sessions, one to one sessions with my committed key worker Steve Costello, meditation and preparation for step-work all combined to ground me, motivate me and allow me to be the man I always wanted to be. I started volunteering for Changes Gardening and within 6 months I was offered permitted work.
I now currently work 3 days a week with Changes Gardening and come into Recovery Central the other 2 days for meetings. I still attend both narcotics and alcoholics anonymous and have a fantastic sponsor who is supporting me through step work and helping me through the issues I will face in the reality of sobriety. I have started training again while in recovery and attend the gym with one of my housemates at least 4 days a week. Because of Jacqui’s involvement in a local performing arts group, I have been going to acting development classes and even appeared in short films and stage performances.
My relationship with my family is finally blossoming and my relationship with Jacqui continues to go from strength to strength. My turnaround has been radical and rapid, so much so that I am approaching one year clean and sober.
I am now someone that people want to be around rather than avoid. Changes taught me to love myself which is something Jacqui had been trying to do for 5 years without success. I now realise that I am worthwhile and a decent person and in fact my life is worth living.