Dealing with an addiction or addictive behaviours are some of the most difficult to process, accept and work through. Our guest, Kevin Repass is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic and has written many articles to help others. Here, he briefly shares his journey through treatment and recovery in the hopes to encourage others who are experiencing a struggle with drugs and/or alcohol to seek support.
From the age of 14 until 30, I struggled with drinking and drug use – for half my life basically! A lot of people tried to tell me I had a problem, but I always failed to listen and regardless of the consequences, I didn’t care. Ultimately, it was an idling and failed three-year relationship, a battle with severe depression, suicidal thoughts, my family watching me drink myself to death, an overdose of pills and a trip to the emergency room that led me to agreeing to go into a detox and treatment centre. My drinking and drug use had already ruined half my life and it almost ended me for good.
I battled heavy drinking and a heroin addiction at the age of 22 and eventually, I was able to break free from my heroin addiction, but still had an addictive personality and alcoholism to deal with. Poor choice of friends, low self-esteem, depression, wanting to be accepted and self-medication all played a part in my struggle. Looking back, I wish I had gone into treatment and recovery at a younger age, especially knowing what I know now. So, at the age of 29, a few months before my 30th birthday, I finally went into treatment and recovery. I’m glad to say that have been clean and sober since but am still have a lot of weight on my shoulders.
I don’t think anyone chooses to be an addict or alcoholic as there are always underlying factors or circumstances that lead us to make these poor decisions.
Unless a person experiences this, I believe they are incapable of understanding this. Going into recovery wasn’t easy especially as everyone, except my family, gave up on me and I still struggle with the idea that my life will get any better even though I know it has improved and will get better. My addictions cost me every good thing in my life and one of the hardest parts is knowing that the past can’t be undone; something that I contend with regularly.
The next most difficult part, besides wanting to change the past, is accepting it. As I become more aware of just how much my drinking and drugging cost me, it hurt – and it still hurts. I liken it to being battle-tested and battle-scarred. As any addict knows, we fight so hard to overcome but there’s always the fear of relapse – all it takes is one little spark to reignite our drinking or drug use.
While I was in treatment, I learned a lot about myself and was given the tools and ammunition I needed to succeed.
Group therapy sessions allowed me to hear stories from others who had gone through very similar and it gave me the chance to get their personal advice for any issues I was facing at the time. This was something I always wanted but never seemed to have and was given a voice with people who were willing to listen. One-on-one therapy sessions also allowed me to spill my demons and seek guidance. I felt it possible to heal from the wreckage of my past and regain the confidence I desperately needed. Whilst in treatment, I also made extra effort to get physically active – I went to yoga, played volleyball, went on nature walks and even went kayaking. All this helped me discover that I can enjoy life – sober – and in a sense gave me a whole new lease on life.
Then post treatment, I started going to the gym which greatly helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. I’ve found it an outlet for stress and it has helped me to stay sober.
At first, going into recovery was overwhelming and nerve-wracking. I was afraid to step back out into the real world sober after living in my own alcohol and drug-induced world for so long. When you live life addicted, your brain and body chemistry is having to heal and adjust without chemical dependency. It was difficult to walk into a store and not purchase alcohol for the first time in a long time or being in areas that could trigger my drug use. It was also very difficult to cut the people out of my life who were toxic to my sobriety and recovery. So, once I got over my initial overwhelming feelings starting treatment, was finding people I connected with who were going through the same thing. It made a huge difference, finding people who I felt comfortable sharing my story with and who could relate. It was also surprised to meet so many people who had been through similar situations in life. I came to realise how important it was to surround myself with people who were serious about their sobriety and recovery too.
While going through recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous were also vital. I attended local meetings to hear other people’s stories and gain their knowledge and advice. I made a lot of connections that I desperately needed through these meetings. Going through the 12 steps at AA and finding a sponsor was a big game-changer for me. My sponsor provided the guidance and support I needed and were just a phone call away when I needed them. They were there for me at any time I thought about drink or drugs or went through any other difficulty in life. I could turn to them and rely on them for advice in any situation and it helped even when things weren’t so difficult as I had someone I could relate to even for a chat. So, working the 12 steps played a key role in my recovery, as it teaches principles that even non-addicts or non-alcoholics should follow.
Another thing that greatly helped in my recovery was finding spirituality. Growing up, my parents allowed me and my brothers to form our own ideas, values and beliefs. They never pushed any religious or political ideals onto me and my brothers. At a time where I was at rock bottom- lost, hopeless, faithless, alone and depressed – I decided that I had to find something to believe in. The beauty of it is I didn’t have to find it – it found me. I prefer not to go into detail, but I saw all the signs I needed to see that everything was going to be okay. Everything I had been through and was going through happened for a reason. I was exactly where I was meant to be. I had a reason to believe in myself and have faith that I was on the right path I was meant to be on. I continue to follow and believe this. Prayer and mindful meditation is popular for people in recovery and while it is something that I believe helps, it is something that I personally didn’t practice. I will agree that there were times in recovery where I should have and there are still times where I should. It just never appealed to me as much as it did to others.
Breaking addiction is possible but, it’s breaking it for good that becomes the most daunting task.
It takes so much self-awareness and self-control to stay clean and sober to the point to where it’s almost draining. Being in recovery, you must believe that all the work you put in for staying clean and sober will pay off, it just might take a lot more time and patience than anything ever has. It can feel like an eternity. You don’t want to relapse and make it all for nothing and I know my family and a lot of other people are proud of me for what I have accomplished so far. I won’t deny that it’s a great feeling.
The reality of it all though is that even in recovery and beyond, the scars will always remain – but it’s worth it and does feel good.
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Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).