Jake’s story

Image via Pinterest artist unknown

Image via Pinterest artist unknown

My name is Jake, I’m 26 and I have just reached one year clean and sober! Reaching this milestone is something I never thought I would be capable of doing. For years I drank and used drugs as a coping mechanism, until a year ago when my world fell apart and I knew it was time to change. 

Part of my story is sadly not unusual, in that I was drinking and using whilst hiding in plain sight. I had a job, I dressed well and to many that knew me, it looked like I was living a great life. The truth is that this was far from the case; I was battling with my mental health, but I felt unable to talk about it and so I drank and used to suppress the issues that I actually needed to face. Ironically my ‘rock bottom’ eventually led me to my authentic self. I have become someone that can both feel and accept the difficult emotions that we all face from time to time, no longer pressing the self-destruct button to escape. 

The signs of what was to come are rooted in my youth. From an early age I used to suffer terribly with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and I would repeat certain behaviours which made me feel safe. It was only as I began to get older that I knew something was up. I had a real thing with perfection and to make things worse, at age 15 I found out that I had an undeveloped pituitary gland in my brain, which meant that I was not going through puberty at the rate of everybody else my age and that I would have to begin a human growth hormone treatment for close to three years. 

I am so happy that I did this treatment, because it has made a massive positive impact on my life today. The problem at the time was that my mind could not accept the idea that I was not perfect and as a result I used to overcompensate in other areas, for example my appearance, to try and be as perfect as I could be and it was at this time that I began to experience the anxiety that I would try to escape from in later years.

When I was younger I enjoyed drinking, I had fun with my friends and at family lunches I would always turn down the option of one pint and go for a diet coke or something similar instead. I could never understand why you would just drink one, or maybe two pints- in my mind if I was going to drink, I was going to do it properly. I have now learned through my recovery process that this could have been early signs of the illness of addiction.

I had dabbled in drugs from time to time while I was a teenager, but it was when I started working and had my own flat and my own income that my binge drinking turned into drug taking too. At that time, I was a once a week binger, but those ‘one nights’ were huge enough to blow out my weekend. I would wait for Monday to come and then normal service would resume again.

A few years into my working life, I got a job as a broker in the City, this is when a binge once, or maybe twice a week eventually turned into four, maybe five times a week. I loved working in the City, slicking back my hair, wearing a suit, heading onto the trading floor and socialising with clients in the evening, but the good times did not last. The stakes are high in the City- days at work are intense and adrenaline fuelled and matched with opportunities to let off steam, this formed the perfect storm for my addiction to take hold.

There came a time when I could not go for drinks without wanting drugs. I was completely powerless. The “I will start my life again on Monday” cycle eventually became something I felt every day of my life. I knew I was no longer happy, but I never said anything and I let things get so bad that I ended up in A & E and with that my career in the City was over. I asked for help at this stage and managed 30 days clean and sober, but I relapsed and a year later I finally hit my rock bottom. 

Although it seemed like everything in my life was going wrong, I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had never really wanted to do what I was doing when it came to my drinking. I’d look at people who didn’t drink and be envious. However, I never knew how to stop. I could never imagine a good, fun life without drinking and using and this thinking had kept me trapped. At rock bottom, for once I felt like I had a real chance to break free of the cycle I had been in that had taken so much from me.

Thanks to the work that I have done to heal myself, I recognise that I simply cannot drink in moderation. I have accepted that and therefore no longer do it. I still attend AA and CA meetings. Completing The Twelve Steps gave me the tools I needed to move into a life of sobriety and to live a life full of serenity, by keeping my focus on the present day. Therapy is helping me to do the same with my mental health and I am now able to find an amazing feeling of calm when I focus only on what I can change and leave what I can’t.

I now devote as much time as I can to talking about my mental health issues and drug and alcohol addiction in order to share what I have learned. I know what it feels like to be trapped and I know what it feels like thinking there is nothing you can do about it. I had to finally surrender to the fear of the unknown and I worried about how people might judge me, but I had to do it to get better.

Only you can know your motives for drinking, but I hope that by sharing this piece, I may offer just a glimmer of hope to just one person who feels stuck. Things can change. Recovery works for you if you work for it.

Jake x

 Jake is the creator of YouTube channel Mentally Sober and you cab find him @jacob_hazell on Instagram

Emma Mainoo