Back on Track: Recovering from Mental Illness and Addiction
Listen to Executive Director Gabriel Nathan read this post aloud:
I now know that I was troubled from a very young age. My early life experience, which included the influence of a narcissistic stepfather, had unwittingly and efficiently programmed me for self-destruction.
I was the black sheep of the family and relentlessly teased by other children for being poor, for being intelligent, and (worst of all) for the unutterable offence of being ginger!
Rather than fight back, I withdrew into my protective Cancerian crab shell and didn’t say much. I observed society around me and I didn’t like what I saw any more than anyone in that society appeared to like me.
There was no doubt I had depression but I regarded it as a symptom not an illness and resented being put on medication.
I remember quite clearly telling the psychiatrist I was not mentally ill; my melancholy was a natural reaction to the circumstances in which I found myself. I would have been mentally ill had I not been situationally depressed!
Drink and drugs began to creep into my life. They say weed is a gateway drug and indeed it appears that way for me, its seemingly mellow and innocuous enough charm offered escape from the reality around me.
It wasn’t long before I began to experiment with other substances, each with their own unique flavor of escapism, each taking me a step closer to my downfall, heroin.
I had been reluctant to take pharmaceutical grade drugs, yet failed to see the maladaptive coping strategy I had employed as an alternative in using street drugs.
Trainspotting was a popular film in my town, though I don’t think it’s quite what Irvine Welsh intended but my generation took it as an aspirational film and set their career paths on a dubious course to be just like Spud and Renton.
My older cousin had been a heroin addict, I had always wondered what it was that pulled people in. What was it about heroin that made people disregard the rest of their life in pursuit of that dragon? I found out.
First it lures you in, like that good-looking, charismatic player who knows just the right things to say and, when they’ve got you: boom!
Before I knew it I was losing weight, losing friends, looking awful, and feeling worse.
I will never forget the first time I came off it. I decided to go cold turkey and ended up getting re-hydrated in hospital after spewing my stomach lining out my nose at 80 miles-an-hour.
Every cell in my body screaming at me in pain, I was awake for sixteen days as if all the periods of sedation had to be paid for in one lump sum wide awake period at the end.
I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t keep water down, all I could do was replay again and again the choices that had brought me to that point and swear, as so many addicts do, that I would never do it again.
Of course, I did it again, and again, and again.
In fact, it took me the best part of a decade to break the cycle of binging on heroin and putting myself through horrendous withdrawals just to rebuild myself physically and go another round.
Reiki was what finally made the difference for me. I had a healing session at a recovery center and the experience moved me to want to learn Reiki myself.
Everything seemed to fall into place and soon the center had found a volunteer Reiki Master willing to teach an unlikely bunch of recovering addicts about energy healing.
Like I said, the problem started early in life and Reiki is a gentle, energetic way to get to the root of the problem and work through the underlying issues. Having a group of us on the journey together made all the difference.
Part of the reason for my alienation in the first place stemmed from my highly sensitive intuitive nature, I was always more spiritually inclined than those around me and it is hard to communicate to those who are not receptive to spiritual ideas.
Reiki seemed to create a safe space for people to share their deepest traumas, it was more than just talk, the energy healing helped initiate a deep release at a soul level, my desire to use drugs was fading fast.
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Before long I was developing a keen intuition as a healer and holding a drop-in clinic where I offered free Reiki sessions to recovering addicts and doing for others what that kind lady had first done for me.
Within a year to eighteen months, I had a completely new lease on life. It’s strange to think that a person could reach their thirties and not yet have a clear understanding of who they are but that seemed to be the case.
Years of chasing my tail in addiction had compounded trauma upon trauma which had just been suppressed and never properly addressed.
My journey had reached a point where I realized I could not live any kind of normal life without addressing those issues.
Being given the tools to do that had been a game changer for me.
Reiki had helped me explore the emotional root of the problem and recognize how I had developed ‘coping strategies’ which had compounded the issue.
I began to recognize my life had been built on an emotionally unstable foundation as a result of the narcissistic environment I grew up in.
Aware of how my childhood had created patterns of low self-esteem which had led to my depression, I began to consciously make healthier choices.
I began to speak up for myself, I found the courage to express my feelings and to break away from the mentally and emotionally abusive relationships in my life.
I found a sense of self-worth.
Serendipity is one of life’s most marvelous phenomenon, when destiny conspires to create circumstances which just perfectly demonstrate the wonder of the universe in a way words never could.
I found myself at an open casting event at a local theatre after a social media ad had announced a casting company was looking for extras in the area. I relished the thought of the experience and I was excited to attend.
Some time passed and I had almost forgotten about signing up when I received a message asking if I was available for a filming shoot to be held in an office building around fifteen minutes’ walk away, perfect!
Now, I had no idea what production I was attending, I was only told that I had been hired for a scene where I would be a “gym bunny”.
Fitness has been an integral part of my recovery; I replaced my addiction for heroin with an addiction for training and I have to say I was looking good for it.
Low and behold when I turned up to filming, I found out I was on set of Trainspotting 2.
The irony! After over a decade practically living the real live Trainspotting experience, there I was, looking and feeling better than I had in years, playing a “gym bunny” in the sequel, if that’s not an example of god working his magic, I don’t know what is.
My mum and I went to see it when it first launched in the cinema and there I was in the opening scene, holding on to my treadmill for dear life so I didn’t do a Renton and go flying off the thing at high speed.
There was a sense of coming full circle, marking a significant turning point where I could actually see where it had all been leading me. I’d taken many detours and got lost more than once on the long road home but I got there.
My fifteen seconds of fame had given me just a taste and inspired me to return to study drama as a mature student, a choice which brought more challenges into my life but challenges I was better equipped to deal with having first dealt with myself.
I graduated in 2020 shortly before my mother passed away. She suffered from addiction herself and I am glad she lived to see me break that cycle and begin to turn my life around.
Now, at the age of forty-one I am just beginning my journey as a writer. I can’t get the lost years back but I can use that experience to better my life moving forward and maybe help guide others on their journey.
There is no shame in facing challenges, ignoring problems is like sticking a plaster on a stab wound, it takes more strength to face the darkest facets of ourselves than to pretend they do not exist.
That for me is the beauty of energy healing, the process of transmutation, taking what was meant to destroy us and turning it into a source of power to propel us forward and provide an example of what is possible so others may do the same.