The Lucky Addict

Ive mentioned on social media this week that I’m finding it harder to blog because it was originally set up to help me understand and share my struggles. I was coming to terms with alcohol dependency and being sectioned – two things that I ignorantly thought would never happen to me although looking back, I was prime meat for that outcome! The blog was written in diary form as I moved from hospital back into the community and followed the long path of recovery. I had a great mental health community nursing team, my wife accepted me back home to be with her (and my girls) after a short period of time at my parents (which for a 34 year old Dad with kids, a job and a mortgage, was very soul destroying) and I returned to work, who have been very supportive throughout this whole period.

I’m under no illusions this isn’t the way it works for everybody battling addiction and mental health problems. I have often struggled to voice my issues because I felt like a fraud feeling the way I did and drinking the way I did when to others I had this ‘perfect little life’. I’ve had access to a lot of support and interventions too along the way which again, many haven’t had in the UK and beyond. It’s a postcode lottery and for me my numbers came up. Maybe I was just a lucky addict.

But what you need to realise is that when you’re struggling with severe mental health conditions like I was – you can’t see beyond your own struggles (and often the bottle) so even the love of your children isn’t strong enough to make you want to continue or fight for change. It hurts to write that but it’s true. There were many times Id be pissed on my own at 1am on the couch thinking dark thoughts whilst my wife and little girls slept oblivious to it all above me. I was functioning (I hate that term actually – clearly I wasn’t functioning within myself) but to the outside looking in I was ‘Okay’ (another term I don’t like. ‘Okay’ is so beige. So nothing. So open to a swing in both directions) .

I’ve just realised I use brackets a lot in my writing. Sorry! I’m conscious of it now…

I had therapy with great addiction therapists, my employer paid for a Psycologist, I completed courses of CBT and above all I have a loving and very understanding wife – we have plenty childcare cover for our daughters and she would always encourage me to talk. Something I rebuffed. To many people reading, all of these things may have helped you not get to the point I did, maybe not. But I say this not to rub it in anybody’s faces – It’s a reminder that one size doesn’t fit all and whether you have this, that and everything in front of you – if you’re not ready or invested in getting help or starting your recovery it isn’t going to work. No matter how much money or resource is thrown at it. Just look at how many ‘celebs’ and people with money have succumbed to addiction and suicide over the years, not always as a duo but rarely they come as a stand-alone in the cocktail.

It’s only since I’ve been in long term sobriety (minus those two stand-alone days of picking up again) that I’ve realised that my life can be wonderful but only I can navigate it that way. The depression cycle I was in (aided by alcohol) meant I was only ever a drinking session away from blurring my happiness and judgement again but I no longer have that fog in front of my eyes. I’ve written loads of times about dips in mood, increased anxiety and a few bouts of mild depression since I’ve been sober but that’s part of the bigger picture of living life with a mental health condition. What I can do now is identify and manage my condition without the additional obstacle course of alcohol.

The only time I’ve wanted to harm myself in the last 17 months since entering recovery was on one of the two occasions I drank (to excess and in isolation) – For me, alcohol is clearly the loaded gun in my story.

It’s 11:40pm now and it’s been a very long week so I’m going to leave it for now and watch Ted Lasso on Apple TV before I turn in for the night. I’ll be sure to post again soon – even if it’s just to boast about how perfect my life is (joke!)

I’m keen to talk a bit more about how AVRT is working for me because it really has been a game changer so I promise to share more on this in the coming days. Take care everybody and speak soon!

Recovering Rationally

I’ve mentioned a few times lately that rather than go down the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) route I’ve embraced the aggressive self-recovery programme known as AVRT – Addictive Voice Recognition Technique. Like many (or most people) I hadn’t heard of AVRT until I was in recovery and started to see the term used quite often online. I assumed at first it was some kind of sober acronym in the same way we see ODAAT, AF, AA, etc.

It wasn’t until I started listening to the Recovery Twitter Space on a Friday evening that I understood it more as a programme, an alternative to the globally well known AA. Once I googled and got the jist that it was self-recovery via a book and not group lead I initially dismissed it as tosh. I’ve seen books over the years claiming this and that but have rarely heard of people actually achieving any long term success from the literature.

Fast forward many months later and a drip feed of AVRT into my interactions in recovery and listening to others talk about it in our Twitter Spaces I found myself agreeing with the principles and very blunt speak. It seemed to have the potential to offend and was a direct way of talking about addiction but it was different to everything else I’d experienced.

I bought the book ‘Rational Recovery’ by Jack Trimpey online and decided to put my preconceived opinion to one side.

I wasn’t blown away with the early reading and found that for the first 16 pages the author was just being a salesman for his programme and bashing AA whilst at it. He talks a lot about AA, the twelve steps and why it is flawed. I’ve only dipped in and out of AA fleetingly and read a little of their book but even that aside, I know it works for many and has saved them from destruction. I know there is a high relapse rate in AA too – but suppose you could say the relapse rate isn’t restricted to AA, there is unfortunately a high rate of relapse in any form of recovery because we are talking about highly addictive behaviours that our brains are wired to. Substance, gambling, sex, etc – it doesn’t matter.

So anyways, I put the book down and continued with my recovery but without investing time in AVRT (I didn’t read far enough into the book to get to the practical stuff) – I appreciated aspects of AVRT from what I heard in meetings online but that’s as far as it went. I didn’t attend AA either.

So as we know, I end up managing 15 months of sobriety by pretty much white knuckling my way through it before the subsequent relapse and then quickly getting back on the horse. I jumped head first into AA meetings and saw that as my way to stabilising my abstinence from alcohol and giving me a longer term protection from relapse – but whilst the people were nice in the meetings, it just didn’t feel right and I couldn’t fully get behind the whole concept of steps, one day at time, the higher power thing, etc. I’m not going to slag the programme off but I’m not going to invest my time into something that I can’t connect with. It just didn’t feel right for me.

I picked my ‘Rational Recovery’ book back up and on the advice of friends in the recovery community – was told to ride out the first few chapters. Trust us, they said. It will all start coming together.

I’m now on P.155 – I’m not rushing through it. It’s not that type of book. It’s a type of ‘read a few pages, digest, reflect and do’ kind of book.

I’m on P.155 and yes, I get it now. I really do. It has changed my whole outlook on my recovery and my future. I feel so excited about my future now. AVRT is changing my life. The book is 322 pages in total so I’m looking forward to learning more.

But how does it work? Why is it different?

Well, I guess that’s a blog for another day.