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I am doing fairly well in life at the minute but things have not always been this way. Through my own stupidity, I have become rich in the wisdom of hard lessons and I would like to start giving back what so many have previously given to me. I started a mental health service because it is very close to my heart and I feel that depression is the one thing that connects every human being out there. The more I learn the more I see that everyone has a battle to fight and no one is alone. First things first; I would like to tell you my story and why this is so important to me.
I grew up in a small country town and have always valued the idea of community. I never felt like I fitted in at school and it was never an easy place for me, due to the fact that I struggle with listening and sitting still. Out of school, I found a group of friends; a mismatch of rebels and misfits that were united by a love of skating and other outgoing activities. From the age of 13, my life was a hunt for adrenaline and our community never lacked excitement.
After watching a lot of the iconic stoner movies in the 90’s, I started smoking weed at the young age of 13. Now with a better understanding of addiction, I realised that I was a social addict. I would buy small amounts and enjoy smoking with my friends and socialising, but I never felt any desire to do it when I was on my own. At that age, there wasn’t much chance that I would be able to afford to use too much but everything was fun and harmless under the umbrella of ignorance. I was quite content with my life, as it consisted of skating, messing around and getting stoned with my friends with almost zero responsibility.
At the age of 17, my friends started using harder drugs, I remember having no interest and being quite scared of them. My parents were always very anti-drugs and through their relatively sheltered life had not come into contact with them. All of my close friends started to try drugs like MDMA, Ketamine, Cocaine and LSD. At this point, any sensible person would tell you to just find some new friends or say no, but as a 17-year-old boy who is highly susceptible to peer pressure and values the close connection with his friends, it is extremely unlikely that he is going to say no.
I tried Ketamine for the first time. I remember thinking how crazy it was, it was like being on the moon in slow motion or like you had drunk half a bottle of vodka but it only lasted for half an hour. It would seem unlikely that you would be wanting to do it on a regular basis.
Slowly but surely every weekend we would be taking drugs and going on adventures. What I experienced was a deep level of connection to all the people around me and the vast variety of human being that came together through this was magical. It didn’t seem to matter what background you came from no matter the class, race or interests seemed to matter. Everybody came together to enjoy themselves and for the most part egos aside. There was so much love. There was an even mix of guys and girls on what I look back now as beautiful but lost souls. I also remember thinking how good it was to see males being able to bond and show their love and support for each other without having to worry about toxic masculinity. People were so open and free to share their thoughts and be creative. I think that made this place a much more appealing place to be than in a testosterone-fueled pub watching football or boxing worrying about whether you were wearing the right shoes or whether your hair looked good. I genuinely believe that it would be healthy for everyone to experience, whether it be through drugs or not.
For a while this was a weekend wonderland, but as time went on and I got more involved I found that I could no longer afford to fund them. I no longer had an interest in school. I left 6th form and college and began to do an apprenticeship as a mechanic. This must have been the easiest option because my focus was not or the real world anymore. As an apprentice, I didn’t make much money. I was presented with an opportunity. Being raised as a businessman I realised that if I sold some to my friends it made weekends free. Looking back I now see how dangerous this choice is for anyone who decides to make this decision – harmless as it may have seemed. Once making this choice you enter into the world of what I call the ‘big bagger’. Much like alcohol using drug makes you incredibly high and as a consequence of being high at some point, you are going to come crashing down to a place so low that you might think that Satan himself may be there. Much like alcohol, you realise that if you have more the next day you can actually feel quite good again. I believe that this is a pivotal moment where an addict is born (at least to the specific substance in question). The problem with the big bag is that it appears to be almost limitless and free. This, however, is not the case. What happens now is two things. You are enjoying the free supply and you find that you are needing a lot more because your tolerance is building up and you are not prepared to come down and feel like shit, you are also not prepared to face the responsibility that you have left behind. The longer you pretend that reality is not there, the harder it is to deal with when you finally have to face it. Once you have realized that you can make some money out of selling drugs it gets increasingly harder to stop and you start to push to limit. The money may seem like it comes easily but it comes tinged with a paranoid and unhealthy company. In every case of someone who I have witnessed this happen to, over time has become incredibly greedy and selfish no matter what their nature. One thing that you don’t take into account when you’re on your delusional cash and popularity fueled ego trip is that you are making a profit directly from your own friend’s addiction and misfortune.
When I was 18 years old I was this guy. I was on the way into a club to play a DJ set, when I was stopped by two policemen who asked to search me. I panicked. I ran in the opposite direction through a car park which was full of my friends who were attending the event. They were cheering and laughing as the Usain Bolt of the police force chased me no more than a meter behind me at any time, despite my chemical advantage. I ran as fast as I could for maybe 500 meters, I had been cornered in by Usain and his partner in the police car. I did what felt like at the time a Hollywood style slide over the bonnet where I came to a sheer drop. I considered jumping, but it was around 6 meters high and I didn’t fancy my chances. Usain grabbed my wrists and slammed my face on the bonnet. They cuffed me tightly and took me to the police station. On the journey, I may or may not have been sick on the policeman’s feet in the back of the car. At that age, I can’t recall what if anything went through my head. After all, I was a complete idiot. I was released the next day and taken home by someone from my school’s father who worked there. Pretty awkward.
It was my birthday the following week. We went out for a meal, at which my entire family sat staring at me like I must have put a puppy in a blender. It was foul.
I was charged with possession with intent to supply ketamine, a class C controlled drug and a small number of personal drugs. Magistrates deemed it as too serious for them so I was sent to Crown court. This may have been a blessing being as they have to deal with rapists and murderers so some 18-year-old selling something usually used to sedate a horse would have seemed quite odd yet trivial. After getting looked at very strangely I came out with a fine and 200 hours of community service. As punishment, this didn’t phase me, I actually have fond memories of it, but the real lessons were yet to come.
A good few years after that I realised that my experience being through shaming our family business in the local newspaper and the traumatic experience of taking me to court was more than likely the catalyst that sent my mother into a nearly 10-year depression. (You only get one of those and when you value yours as I do it is not something you want on your conscience). Less importantly but wildly frustrating is my criminal record. Every time I apply for a visa I have to fill out an obscene amount of paperwork, pay fee’s and deal with a painful back and forth that lasts a lifetime. These things are regretful but I see them as some of my greatest teachings.
This didn’t stop me from using drugs. My problems didn’t disappear and my surrounding remained the same. This continued for another 5 years. I remember thinking on many occasions: what, if anything, would have an impact on me big enough to make me stop? It seemed like the threat of death itself was not a big enough motivator. It is safe to say that my hands were not on the steering wheel. I am somewhat lucky that I have a built-in self-protection mechanism that ensures that I do survive, but it could have kicked in sooner. I had used drugs heavily for 6 years: I was depressed, I was destroying my relationships with friends and family around me left, right and centre and I was having pains in my body that I knew were signs that were telling me that I needed to stop or soon the damage would be irreversible.
At this point, I had already lost two friends to suicide but the final straw was when one of my dearest and closest friends took their own life. Not long after at I decided that, I decided something had to change. I booked a flight to Australia with the intention of self-rehabilitating myself. Over the past 5 years, I have been on a progressive road of self-improvement, consciously trying to be better. Making sure that I stay open-minded and trying to break habitual behaviour. Often two steps forward and one step back but it doesn’t matter so long as you keep doing your best. I believe that your intent is always noted and your effort is always rewarded.
I have been home a few times since then. I have not always done well but I always do better and I intend to keep doing so. This battle is an ongoing one and I feel the demons in my head drawing me back even though I have not been in that environment for nearly two years. I have been searching for the driving forces that underlie my addiction, because I do not believe that it has anything to do with a drug. There must be a reason why I feel the need to self medicate myself as are the majority of humanity. I believe there is a reason why we are all addicted to something whether it be coffee, diet coke, moaning, washing your hands, working too hard, buying clothes or crack; there is a reason that we don’t want to sit with the silence and look deep inside ourselves. We live in a society that encourages distraction and addiction, where children are given distractions to keep them quiet and given drinks like coca cola or worse energy drinks. I used to run riot when I was given that as a kid, that stuff got me higher than any cocaine did. If I was going to look for the start of a pattern I’d start there. I would like to find the ‘Why’, because, if I find the ‘Why’ the ‘How’ will come naturally. I am anxious to return home. An illness in the family has put things into perspective recently and given me a great call to responsibility. After all, life is very short and even shorter for some of those who didn’t make it further than they should.
At home my wonderland has turned to chaos, some made it out and some manage to live a life that has some balance, but many friends that I grew up with are using heroin. It is a logical progression if you want to keep pushing the limit or want to push harder to cover up the pain. Since 2013 many more have taken their lives. Deciding to leave was a big decision and some said I was running from my problems, whilst that may have been true, if I did not then I may not be here now. If you are in that situation then you may want to consider it or at least completely change your situation. I have a handful of friends that have completely changed their lives whilst staying in the area but it has meant completely changing the people around them, maybe this is an option for you but it requires a serious test of character and mental grit. If you can do that then you are stronger than me. I like my friends too much to disconnect myself from them and if you want to change then it is essential that you surround yourself with what you want to be.
If you are at rock bottom don’t give up. The fight is not easy and some days you need to put on your armour, pick up your sword and charge at it head first. You won’t be able to do this every day, some days it is hard to get out of bed. But when the time is right and your keep your faith, you will be given the strength to fight your way out. Do what you can to improve your situation, no matter how small the step. The bad times always pass.
If you are depressed or are thinking of taking your life the best thing to do is to tell someone. We love you and you are not a burden. The only burden is the words that are not said, this weight is too heavy to carry alone.
There is help so never give up hope!
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