Every night I was drinking to black out or I was taking some sort of drug.

Joanne, sober since April 2020

Hi, my name is Joanne and I’m an alcoholic and addict it’s a problem I’ve had for a very, very long time but it went unrecognised for also a very long time.

For a long time I was able to deny my addiction problems, because, in my mind, I was still working, I was still contributing, I had a house, I had the, the pet, I was an auntie, I was a partner; I was a sister when I was daughter. But throughout that whole time, my life was split into on the one hand, there was this responsible member of society with a high-powered, well-paid job. And on the other hand, every night I was drinking, to blackout, or I was taking some sort of drug, or I was partying when I was younger.

I also started to change. When life happens really so life dealt me a couple of blows. And I stopped working for a little while. And when I stopped working, the substance use, really kicked in. And very quickly, I realised that I had a much, much bigger problem than I understood myself to have before. So that was probably around a decade ago now. And what then happened from then, was a course of detox centres, rehab, then I’d have a period of sobriety for a little while, and then I’d relapse and then, eventually I’d go back into another treatment centre. And again, relapse later, after sometimes a bit of sobriety or clean time. And then I’ll be back in another Rehab Centre.

Until finally in 2020, as the lockdown started, I was travelling and my partner and our two dogs, and we were, we were living in a motorhome travelling through Europe. And I guess I was not paying attention to my own problems again, and I picked up alcohol for a little while, it was okay, for a little while I could hide amongst the holiday makers. I could come out at night and drink with people at night, little did they know that during the day, in the mornings, I’d be drinking as well. Until finally, it got worse and worse and worse until I was literally eyes open. And I’d be drinking too when my eyes closed again. And it became a very, very small existence, I was locked into a motor home. I couldn’t go anywhere, I couldn’t do anything, except for get supplies. I was convinced, and I convinced my partner that if I didn’t have alcohol, that I would fit, possibly die. So, I was having to ask him to supply me to the point where I became so physically unwell that I lost the use of my legs. And apart from that, that the all the other awful things that go along with some horrific, alcohol abuse, not being able to personal hygiene is no self-care at all, often not even being able to make it to the toilet on time and things like that. I mean, it’s a really undignified existence. And it was as bad as it was ever going to get for me, I think really, so, finally my family got together and, kind of an intervention was decided that I will be brought back to England and taken to a rehab and at that time steps together was one of the only ones that was taking on people during the lockdown.

So that’s where I had to go. In my mind, I wouldn’t mind that if I’d never woken up again. I had lost everything I was completely broken. I had no idea where to turn what to do. And I was literally just existing for the next drink. So when I was finally taken two steps together, I was wheeled in, in a wheelchair. It took nearly a week for me to recover physically enough to be able to start to go to groups and to do the things that I needed to do in order to try and get better. And what I loved about steps compared to other rehabs that I’ve been in, was that I felt that I was given the time for some of that healing, that it wasn’t quite as paternal as I’ve experienced in the past, I felt respected as an adult. I felt that staff who are all insanely qualified for what they do, were there to really help and they actually really cared. And it wasn’t about being punitive, which, as I say, I’ve experienced in other rehabs in the past. So in that short, what I also went into steps with, was the knowledge that I didn’t know anything, even with all the experiences I’ve had, in different treatment centres, and different ways of trying to combat my addictions,

I really felt like I knew nothing. And I do believe to this day that that was kind of where I had to get to, in order to be able to listen to what people were trying to help me with, to try and make the suggestions that they were making that I needed to do. And it was actually one of the therapists, on the first day that I was in there said, I said, I’m the hopeless case, you’re not gonna, you’re not gonna get me, you’re not gonna help me because people have tried so many people have tried, and I’m beyond help. I know, I’m beyond help. No one can help me. And she said to me, I guarantee if you do what we asked you to do, you will get better. And for some reason, I heard her and I heard that sentence, and I, and I reflected on it. And I thought, well, what, what else can I do? There is no other option. And there was a relief in that there was a way of saying right, okay, it’s not up to me anymore. I don’t have to make these decisions anymore, I can just do as I’m told. And that’s not something that I would do normally, I’m, I always considered myself to be quite fiercely independent and strong woman and all those things. So being sort of told what to do, literally, from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to bed, essentially, the structure is such that, you are kept busy.

There was a relief in it for me. And I happily did it. In fact, as time went on, I mean, with steps together, they, they work with the 12 steps of recovery programme. And they give you a really good foundation in what those steps are. But the three important things that going into any kind of recovery programme of 12 steps nature is the three things that you need to be which is open minded, willing, and honest. None of which I am very good at none of which is my default setting. I’m renowned for my closed mindedness in some aspects. Certainly, when it came to myself and my addictions. Willingness was there, was there because of the kindness I was shown. And the honesty took practice, because the life of an addict is full of such deceit, continuous deceit, whether you’re lying to your loved ones, your lying to strangers, and most of all you’re lying to yourself such a lot. So learning how to open up and be honest. And open minded, were fundamentally key in me being able to take on board what I needed to take on board. So that’s kind of the best aspects of what I learned. I mean, there are the technicalities of the steps and you do some paperwork around that, which is, for some people is difficult, I find that I don’t mind doing paperwork, so I was okay with that. But those three things open mindedness, willingness and honesty, were really the things that I was able to hold on to, and take out with me when I left.

So the other good thing I found about steps was that they weren’t just around 12 steps, they had the acceptance Commitment Therapy, they was smart therapy which is another type of recovery tool that that can be used. And I found that the combination of the three things actually really helped me. So when I left, I was very keen to make sure I continued, because it is a beginning. It’s not, it’s not a cure in its total. It’s the beginning of a journey that is a lifelong one. And you have to accept that. You have to accept that this is something that you have to tackle throughout for the rest of your life. Now I say that and it sounds scary, but actually, it gets better and better as time goes on.

I’m 14 months clean and sober today. And in that time, I’ve continued to do my steps. I’m part of the fellowship. I still have contact with Steps Together Rehab, I go to their aftercare meetings on a Saturday. So I feel like I’m giving back a little bit what was given to me when I was in there. And but then outside of that my own recovery is based around the fellowship that I work with.

I help people within that fellowship as well, um, we have sponsors and sponsees, I have both my sponsor. And I also have, I’m also sponsee. And there are things that we do like, for example, this year, we’re hoping to get into music festivals, and provide a space for people that are having problems with drug and alcohol, that they want to talk to us about how we’ve got over our addictions, or we continue to, on a daily basis, combat our addictions. And we’re putting on a convention in September, so that people like me, can all come together. Now, the beauty of it is, is that although we are all so different in our stories, and one of the things that if we’re not careful keeps us away from recovery is that we look at those differences in time. I look at the drunk who sits on a park bench with a brown paper bag, or the opiate addict who’s sticking needles in their arms two of things I’ve never done. But I did drink from morning till night, and I have taken prescription opiates, over the counter opiates, in vast amounts is as much as any heroin or, heroin addicts has taken.

So in essence, whilst we might have done things differently, and we have access to things differently, the bottom line is, the one thing that keeps us all together is at some point, in our addiction and active addiction, we became broken, and we became desperate. And we became to realise that it’s not something we can do on our own. And that is so important to be part of a group of people that will understand because nobody else kind of understands now that like an addict does. And so you’d like to have so much explaining to do. And, as much as your family can love you and accept you if you’re lucky enough, and I have been lucky enough to keep my family and be able to look them in the eye now and give them peace of mind is the biggest blessing that I’ve had for my recovery. But being able also to be around people that know what it’s like, and that some days are still a struggle, there’s some days I will want to wake up and change the way I feel.

But as time goes on, and as I practice more, and as I do a few very simple things daily. I know that each night when I put my head on the pillow, that there is no day that it’s been as bad as those days were in the final stages of my addiction before went into Steps.

So I’d say thank you to Steps Together, I think it’s a brilliant rehab. You don’t want to do what I’ve done and had to compare as many as I had, I hope to goodness is my last one I ever need to go to. And yeah, so thank you Steps for everything you’ve done for me. And I know that you continue to do for others because I see it in aftercare all the time. So yeah, I’ll leave it there.

Thanks very much