Life When life got tough I turned to alcohol and drugs By Jamie, 27 from London Imagine being stuck in a hole that you cannot get out of, and then out of nowhere this hand appears. You take hold of it and it pulls you to the light. That hole was my abyss, somewhere I chose to hide, thinking that nothing could touch me or affect me. It didn’t work. Trying to hide from your problems never works. Eventually they catch up with you, and make matters worse. There are many reasons why I turned to drugs and alcohol on and off over a 10-year period. From parents divorcing, to handling my own break-ups, and not being able to keep a hold of my friendships without driving people away. It wasn’t any one thing that put me on the path of addiction; it was a build-up of many things. Having to keep a happy face on all the time was starting to become harder. Like a drug itself, the feeling of bottling up emotions became addictive; not talking about them became second nature, something I didn’t think about. Whenever life got too much to handle it was easier just to grab a bottle and start to push everything aside, and drugs made it easier to just forget and believe that life was absolutely fine. Turning to drugs and alcohol to hide behind seemed like a good idea at first and for a while it worked. I didn’t realise that I was quickly becoming more and more addicted. Without knowing, I was building up my tolerance levels to substances, which led me to having to take more and more every time I needed my fix. Eventually nothing was going to get in my way of reaching that next high. From leaving work early or turning up with no sleep, straight from the nightclub as high as a kite, or turning up to my cousin’s wedding four hours late. It didn’t matter to me. I needed to get that fix and after that fix had run low, it was time to chase the next. It was time to get dealers to meet me at the reception to drop off! At the time I didn’t realise what I was doing, to me it was fine and natural. Spending all night running in and out or the toilet for a hit, staying up all night for days on end. That was life and it was great! No matter how many people told me that I had a problem and I needed to calm down, to me I was doing just fine. Ringing up bar tabs of £70 in a matter of hours by myself, I knew how to party. I could go on for years enjoying myself night after night. I spent just under £7,000 in six weeks. It didn’t affect me to begin with. It feels worth every penny, until you realise that you are still trying to pay off this debt. Money was not the only issue that drink and drugs had led me to. Getting extremely high for long periods of time, caused me to put myself in dangerous situations – not knowing where I was or with whom, not knowing what I was doing and getting stuck in compromising sexual encounters. Some of which still haunt me to this day. It takes a lot to put these feelings and fears behind me, even these days, but unfortunately it has become part of my history, and I have to deal with it. The only way to do this was to get clean and work on my problems one at a time. The first step I had to reach was to acknowledge I had a problem with drink and drugs. I sought out the help to begin my journey of sobriety. For me that helping hand was my work manager. Without his help I would still be stuck in the eternal abyss with no escape. His own experience of going through drug and alcohol addiction helped me. His stories and guidance helped me through the process and to stay clean. He took me to my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting and made sure I went every week. There is also the support from my current management team, allowing me to have set time off work to go to meetings and counselling. When times get tough working behind the bar, knowing I have people who care and that I can talk to, helps me get through. Coping without drugs or alcohol today is still hard to handle, having been used to just grabbing a bottle or calling up the dealer, but it does gets easier. Attending Narcotic Anonymous meetings every week, being around other people the same as myself has proven to be a great help, alongside counselling. I keep asking myself what I would do if I could change things – turn back time and redo parts of my life. I always come up with the same two answers. The first would be to never use drink and drugs as a way of avoiding my problems and actually try to deal with them in a better way. The second is to realise that I can’t change what has happened and deal with the fact that it has made me who I am today, and move on in this better way of living. The feeling of fighting the addiction is a curse; it’s something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But it is something that has to become part of my past so I can find a new path for the future. The thought of getting over such an addiction seemed impossible but, with the help that I found and building up a good network around myself, it became easier. There is help out there, you just have to look for it and accept it. It is available to anyone who is ready to take the first step. If I can do it, anyone can! If you are affected by Jamie’s story and would like support ‘Antidote @ London Friend’ offers support and counselling for gay men dealing with alcohol and drug problems. For more information, visit www.londonfriend.org.uk or call 020 7833 1674. Lines are open 10am – 6pm, Monday to Friday. If you have a story to tell and would like to share it with FS readers then email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.