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