I’m Nathan and I’m an addict.
Wow. I never in a million years thought I’d be saying those words in NA meetings multiple times a week. I realize now, having looked back at my life, that the disease of addiction was lurking in the shadows for a while, waiting for me to activate it and give it permission to run riot. I started self-harming in simple ways to handle difficult emotions when I was eleven, and I had progressed to cutting myself by age thirteen. When I was fifteen, I was sneaking and hoarding food that I would save to binge on when things got too much. The guilt and shame of shovelling food in my face in excess became too much and I began purging to alleviate the uncomfortable feelings that came with the binges. I tried many things to combat Bulimia over the years that followed but nothing really worked. The disease of addiction is relentless and what works to “fix your feelings” one day, won’t even touch the sides the next.
I went into treatment for my Bulimia in October 2012; things had reached crisis point when I began resorting to using inanimate objects like toothbrushes, pens and forks to trigger throwing up because my fingers were no longer able to stimulate my gag reflex from the frequent self induced vomiting.
I continued to Self-Harm when things were unbearable. I would manage to refrain from the behaviours for months at a time but then the build up and emotional instability would become too much and I always ended up cutting. It would always start with ‘just one’ relatively superficial cut, but it always ended up leading to another and another. The relief that I got as I felt the pain, only lasted for as long as it bled. It was never truly enough and with every relapse it got worse, that first cut would be deeper.
As an addict in active addiction all I cared about was the quick fix, whatever was effective in dissipating or relieving me of my inner self in an instant. My entire focus was on getting and using Oxycodone, I even found comfort and security in the habitual process of preparing my substances to snort. When you get so fixated on what you can do to escape reality because it’s too much, too uncomfortable, too painful or too scary, you inevitably end up overlooking the roots of our addiction that cause this persistent need to run. We’re not just physically and mentally unwell as addicts, we also suffer from a spiritual malady; a disease of the soul, the result of a restless and neglected soul which is at the core of our inner being. This feeds our addiction and for me, the malady itself was caused by childhood abuse and trauma, ill mental health throughout my life and more recently, in early 2021, becoming the survivor of brutal sexual abuse, that resulted in me needing several surgical procedures. Although, I learnt there is hope, because, “when the spiritual malady is overcome, we straighten out mentally and physically” and I now know just how true this is thanks to Steps Together, my time at Chestnuts and the remarkable prodigious aftercare I’ve received.
My efforts to stop using and find triple wellness on my own- and with the pathetic options the NHS offered- were futile, so I’m incredibly blessed that I found Steps Together and I’m so thankful that they exist. I arrived at The Chestnuts on September 28th, 2021 after six months of insidious drug addiction. The unit, which is situated in a charming, friendly and remote village in Leicestershire is such an amazing place to be. I was scared, insecure and vulnerable but I instantly felt safe in the supportive and caring environment Steps fosters. My room was clean, perfectly minimalistic, with an en-suite that meant I had complete privacy. The program itself took some getting used to, engaging in a daily therapeutic program was quite a shock to the system, because after all, I was barely surviving in active addiction! It was a hard process, the getting clean, the readjusting, the reset… I wanted to recover. As I began to readjust to life without using drugs and resorting to self-harm to handle the internal infirmity and spiritual deprivation I’d been suffering from, and learnt how to reframe things, I began to realize that maybe I was worthy of a better life than I’d been living, and that, maybe I was capable of recovery.
My recovery process so far as not been an easy one but my greatest moments didn’t come from the moments that were great; they have come from my greatest defeats and the wins that came from fighting back when I found myself broken and defeated. I somehow managed to always find the fortitude to endure what life threw at me, however, I know undoubtedly that I would be dead if I haven’t had gotten clean when I did; I know that I couldn’t have done it, nor would I have the skills to maintain recovery like I have without the expertise, guidance and compassion from the support workers, nurses and therapy team at Steps Together.
Steps Together gave me a secure and sound foundation, one that my recovery will flourish from, but only for as long as I continue to tend to it and water it. Recovery isn’t a one decision and then you’re done thing. Instead, it’s the daily decision to choose life, one where what matters comes before drugs, alcohol or anything else that’s detrimental to our wellbeing, where we are willing to do whatever it takes to be the best version of ourselves. As I worked my way through each step of the 12 Step Program, with Steps Together, I learnt so much about myself and my disease. In my opinion the steps themselves have been the solution I’ve needed since the first time I self harmed at 11 years old, they have given me an insight into my internal being and self awareness at a level I never thought was possible. I learnt that this whole trying to fix things alone was never going to work, self-will isn’t sufficient. You also can’t just wait for things to get better someday, you have to put the work in today; surrender, ask for help from those around you and find and trust in a power greater than yourself, and for me, finding that higher power and aligning my strength with that force gave me a strength and belief in myself I never saw coming. That freedom and that new found fortitude is everything.
I am thankful for so much. Steps Together were an integral part of my journey to recovery, and as I continue to work with my therapist as an outpatient, they still are. I make use of their complimentary aftercare program and I remain intentional, I work my program daily as best I can, like they taught me and when I struggle I remember I’m not alone. You’re not alone. The staff at Steps know where you’re at and where you’ve been, and if you let them, if you can find the brave, choose to walk through that door- if you want this, if you want a better version of life than the one you’re living right now, if you want recovery, a freedom and a future? Steps Together is where you want to start your journey. If you’re intentional and you put as much effort into your recovery as you did your addiction, you can change your life, and they’ll help you, but it starts with YOU and YOU are worth it.