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Alex

When did you start taking drugs?

It was around 1982 at the time. I was a standard teenager, I suppose. Barbiturates were my initial drug of choice. I believe they were much more popular back then than they are now, but I didn’t care for them; they just tended to knock me out or make me look like a glazed-eyed zombie most of the time. I was hanging around with the scooter gang, and they used to rob pharmacies, so I started using other capsules, especially amphetamines. It was a weird period back then. I was running around in my Dr Martens as a skinhead, going on scooter runs and getting into fights, football hooliganism, and overall being a nasty thug who was always in trouble with the police.

When did it become a problem?

Initially, the drugs were mostly used for recreational purposes. I was always a member of a gang; we had fights, were involved in football hooliganism, and had run-ins with the cops. I began ‘screwing’ chemists for medications in the mid-1980s. I’d obtain speed pills, diconol, and other opiate-based medications. As a result, I began stealing diamorphine hydrochloride, or heroin! I was addicted as soon as I started taking it. However, you can’t expect to keep turning over chemists without being caught. I knew I was wanted by the cops, so I fled to London with nothing but my heroin stockpile and ended up sleeping on the streets near Tower Bridge.

But it wasn’t long until I missed my fiancée, so I returned north, via Kings Cross, Leeds, Bradford, Bradford to Boothtown, and Boothtown trying to avoid the police. I gave them quite a run for their money, but they eventually caught up with me and my stash. I didn’t see my girlfriend for two and a half years.

So I served my sentence and was released in 1989, having done a few drugs in prison but not much. I was homeless, but an old friend offered me a place to stay. I had no idea he had turned into a heroin dealer while I was gone.

Of course, heroin was readily available at first, and I was quickly addicted. I was a full junkie for the next couple of years. I had to resort to robbing and stealing to feed my habit when I couldn’t find the money for heroin (something that had never actually happened to me before) so I started robbing a few pharmacists. I was arrested on several occasions and received suspended sentences, fines, and community service.

A friend introduced me to methadone and it knocked me right out… Is it possible that I may receive this for free? Wow! I said, “Sign me up.” I ended up calling the hospital’s psychiatrist, who put me on a prescription for it. For a time, it kept me from doing heroin. I stopped stealing, started dating, found a place to live, she moved in, and we had two boys. For a while, for a couple of years, everything was fine. Who was I kidding? Only myself, of course. It was after the birth of my first son that I started dabbling in heroin again.

I was also addicted to pills, amphetamines, street methadone, acid, ecstasy, and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on. I’m not sure why I did it; I suppose I just wanted to. I was hammering it out, and I was still on prescription methadone as a safety net. I could still use methadone if I couldn’t acquire heroin.

By the mid-1990s, I had begun to consider the impact methadone was having on me. In my life, I didn’t appear to have any freedom. It seemed as if I was married to it, and it was in charge of my life. I attempted to stop on my own, but it made me feel terrible, and I became really ill.

A visit to my keyworker, who had been writing my script, confirmed that methadone was very addictive and difficult to stop taking without medical assistance and that I would require “detoxification.” I was committed to a psychiatric institution in Northowram, where I underwent a two-week lofexidine detox.

I came out, returned home, and felt terrible for a few weeks, but I continued to pop pills, smoke weed, and drink, among other things. After all, I’d simply gone to receive methadone assistance, right? The remaining activities were purely recreational. For a while, things felt normal again; I went to college and earned an NVQ in food and hospitality; I thought I was back to ‘normal’. As time passed, I began to wonder if I could just use a little heroin, a little “tooting,” on weekends only.

Weekends turned into weekdays, and before I knew it, I was “fixing” and back to shoplifting – they call it “the cycle of insanity.” So I went back to get help, and it was amazing how relieved I was to be put back on a methadone prescription. There will be no more shoplifting, thieving, or another trip to the mental institution! I decided to leave because I didn’t think it was working this time. Why? I’m not sure. A recovering alcoholic informed me about a recovery facility.

I had no idea what rehab was and assumed it was just another phrase for detox, but this facility was different; I had to stay longer and participate in some sort of 12-Step programme or something. I wasn’t there to perform the 12 Steps; I only had one goal in mind: to go off methadone. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was kicked out of the place with five other people for smoking weed on the premises, but I didn’t care at the time, didn’t care about anything anymore, so the Mrs kicked me out as well.

I found my second partner practically immediately, and we had a son together, but I couldn’t hide my uncontrollability and addiction any longer. She was really on my case after a couple of years, so I ran away to a caravan in the middle of North Yorkshire (and in the middle of winter, too) to try a detox, and I was doing it for her. It was always going to fail, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. After two days of ‘suffering,’ I had to return to get some methadone (I was no longer on my script at this point). It was all over within six months, I had nowhere to live, and I was back out shoplifting and leading a life of crime.

I returned to treatment, where my keyworker was able to get me back on a controlled prescription and back on track. I was taking a little heroin, a little crack, booze, and weed on top of that for the first couple of years, and I was even buying more methadone. But I was fed up, sick of it, and quit taking everything except methadone. I felt I was doing okay, which sounds similar. I started buying methadone again after doing some volunteer forestry and countryside work. My keyworker found out and put my script up, I soon went from 40ml to 140ml and still I was buying more. I had accepted the fact that I would be on methadone for the rest of my life.

I started isolating myself more and more. I’d rather switch off my phone and avoid having to talk to anyone or make plans to visit the kids. I’d rather get intoxicated by buying 500ml of methadone. When I had my son with me, I realised how many harmful people, places, and things I’d exposed him to. I bought methadone from anybody and everyone who had it.

What made you get help?

Sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was tired of being alone; there was no girlfriend, no friends, no alcohol, no drugs, and no myself. I had undergone a total transformation. My entire personality had changed, and I was no longer the ‘happy-go-lucky’ guy I used to be. I didn’t know how to laugh or enjoy myself, and I felt alone and terrified. It was the year 2020. Where had the time gone?

A friend of mine helped me reach out to Compare Rehab and they found me a place in a rehab facility. With the help of a charity, I was able to pay for my treatment and there I received all the support I needed to turn my life around.

Where would you be now?

I’ve met many people now who said they would be dead right now if it wasn’t for their recovery programme. I’m not sure that’s where I would be, I can’t say for sure. But if I wasn’t I would still be in my flat alone, probably having never met another person in recovery.

How are you now?

I feel great! The old me is back. Life is good and I’m really enjoying myself. I am very passionate about recovery and I’m a member of my local addiction support group. We call ourselves Community Recovery Organisers because it’s more than just being a champion of recovery. We organise social events, help with training and education, are there for others going through the programme. We promote recovery when and where we can. I also run some of the recovery group sessions and recently became a SMART facilitator, running sessions in Halifax and Kirklees. As I said, life is good and I’m really enjoying it. Recovery rocks – let’s rock on!

Alex

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