Born in the north east of England to a family that worked in the local coal mines it seemed my life was pretty much marked out from the start. Go the school, get a job, find a wife and set about producing a fleet of children who would when there time come, mine the land. Simple enough eh? But this was not the case.
The mid seventies were a turbulent time and one by one the local coal mines began to close down. As the prospect of work got less and less my parents made the decision to move away in search of greener pastures.
We moved to the Cotswolds where in my opinion, everyone spoke with a funny accent and where there were far too many trees. I was about five years old and can well remember feeling very different to the children around me. Of course the fact I sounded so different only added to this.
It felt like my early childhood was spent desperately trying to fit in, but never quite getting there. I was probably about eight years old when I discovered every other local farm sold a thing called rough cider.
I soon realised the awkwardness I felt from day to day seemed to lift every time I took a drink, and even though I would almost always be sick, the relief outweighed the consequences. This was a trend that would follow me for many years to come.
As I grew through my teens the alcohol started to work less and less. Because of this I began to focus on other things in the hope I could feel a little bit better about myself. Of course it was always about me and as a result I would take advantage of anyone I got near. Lying, cheating and steeling became second nature. Almost anyone who got near me suffered as a result.
My family would say again and again “what’s wrong with you, why won’t you just behave?” The truth was that at the time I didn’t have a clue, I just knew I always wanted to be someone else.
As I came to the end of my teens I decided that the thing to fix me was a wife and a family. The results were disastrous. I didn’t have the ability to commit to anything by then (not sure I ever did). Around this time my mum died. I remember thinking how unfair it all was, even though I missed most of her funeral and was only really interested in getting people to feel sorry for me.
I went back to my then ex-wife that night looking for sympathy, had some food then as soon as she left the room I went through her purse to see what money I could steel. I would visit my two young children on Sunday afternoons all the time waiting for the chance to search for anything of value that might have been left where I could get to it. No body was safe.
By this time I had discovered a little relief from my self could be found in drugs, I always liked the ones that brought me down, and bring me down they did. Over the next few years I spiralled totally out of control. Move home, go to jail, lose access to my children, more prison, no friends, disowned by my family, move again. My life had become totally dominated by the constant thought of how can I get my next hit and what they had all done to poor old me.
I moved away from the Cotswolds and found myself living in a town on the south cost. At first I stayed with my sister steeling from both her and her twin 3 year olds. Then I moved to a tent in the local grave yard and then to a car park stair well. I would wake every day thinking I need to score. Armed with my trusty penny whistle I would play the one tune I knew until I made a tenner, score then do it all again.
Then one night I got in to a fight and ended up in prison yet again. They told me that if I stayed clean and got involved in some sort of recovery, I might, and only might get out a bit sooner. I did it, not because I wanted to stay clean but because I wanted to get out and use.
While I was in prison two members of Cocaine Anonymous came in and shared what it was like for them. They said things like “you don’t ever need to use again” and talked about a feeling of peace I had only dreamed of. It got me. Problem was I hardly ever took cocaine how could I be a member of Cocaine Anonymous.
I soon discovered the CA is not all about cocaine addiction; it is a fellowship of men and women practising a programme of recovery from all mind altering substances. I had been presented with a solution and all I needed to do was follow a few simple directions. I was told that CA use the twelve steps as laid out in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, why, simply because it works so well and has done for many years.
I started to get more and more active in my recovery listening to the advice of other people in the fellowship. When I got out of jail I found some one who could take me through the twelve steps and show me how to find some sort of peace in my life clean and sober.
I became very active in service both to CA and also to my fellow man. For someone as selfish and self-centred as me, that’s quite a thing. I have not taken a mind altering drug for over seven years now and although I would love to take the credit I can’t.
My life today is so different. I have a wonderful wife, an amazing two year old son, a job, a home, great friends and lots of other cool stuff. More then this I have peace. I no longer wake up thinking how will I score and what I can get from you.
The solution turned out to be so simple I almost missed it. I had to reach a point in my life where I had enough. Today I'm grateful I eventually did.