Overcoming substance misuse: my mental health story

Posted on: 2 November, 2023

This week marks Addiction Awareness week. To raise awareness of the danger of substance misuse, Angie shares her story of how she overcame her substance addiction.

Addiction Awareness week is an annual event hosted by Action on Addiction – a UK charity that supports people affected by drug and alcohol addiction. The aim of Addiction Awareness week is to combat the stigma that surrounds addiction by raising awareness and improving our understanding of substance abuse.

To help spread the message and share her experiences, Angie has shared her story below.

Angie’s story

Hi, I’m Angie. I’m a recovered alcoholic/addict. I’m a Level 6 Chartered Surveyor Apprentice studying at UCEM.

I used to scrape through the workdays hungover, late, paranoid, not wanting anyone to get close, holding my breath in the elevator, lest they’d smell last night’s alcohol remnants. I’d vow not to drink that night. Come 3pm that vow was replaced with the thought of JUST ONE glass of wine. I deserved it, I’d get an early night and wake fresh tomorrow. Well, that rarely happened. One glass turned into another, then another, and the cycle begun all over. Always sick, tired, depressed, skint, the hideous four horsemen of the apocalypse (terror, bewilderment, frustration, despair) were regular unwelcome visitors as I battered my mind, body and spirit with alcohol and drugs.

I thought because I worked, was young-ish, not a morning drinker (actually I was – drinking to 3am – denial, don’t even notice I am lying), not on the street drinking special brew, I wasn’t alcoholic, I just needed to control my drinking. The prospect of sober life was bleak, joyless, beyond comprehension. I regularly took sickies off work. My manager and colleagues were the last people I’d want to share my issue with.

Today it’s not like that! Thankfully I found myself in a pit of misery, open to the notion I needed help. In trepidation and tears I stepped into that first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting, thinking my life was over. How wrong I was. I was met by a roomful of bright strangers, who seemed together, happy. They shared about their drinking (I related) and how they got better. I left that meeting with hope, for the first time that I didn’t need to drink again. I stayed in AA, was told if I wanted what they had to do what they did, so I did!

I learnt that I have an allergy whereby if I put one drink/drug in my system, that triggers a physical reaction (the phenomenon of craving) beyond my control which makes me want more and more. Once I have one, I have little control over how much I’ll have or when I’ll stop. For an alcoholic like me, taking just one drink is like getting into the ring with a gorilla – it’s not over till the gorilla says it’s over. Then when I do stop (swearing off for a time), I can’t stay stopped due to an overriding mental obsession that finds some rationale to have a drink/drug. The obsession defies all common sense or good reason not to do it, leading me to take that first drink and the cycle continues.

I discovered Cocaine Anonymous (CA, despite the name is not a drug specific programme) which allows me to identify and share more on other substances. A catalogue of “party drugs” are part of my story.

Thanks to AA’s 12-step recovery programme, AA and CA fellowships, my obsession to drink/drug has been removed. I’ve not had to take a single mind-altering substance in 5 years. My life has transformed, all for the better. Today I’m high on sobriety, happy, joyous and free from the shackles of addiction, a life beyond my wildest dreams! The four horsemen are gone. I’m valued, productive, responsible at work and in life, have peace within, money in the bank, healthy relationships. I’ve got my full brain power for my studies – I put the action in and the results follow. I look after myself today. NOTHING will be made any better today by me picking up any substance. Daily, most importantly, I don’t pick up that first drink/drug like my life depends upon it. The 12-steps enable me to do that and are my tools to deal with life’s troubles.

I urge anyone who’s struggling with alcohol and/or drugs to connect with a fellowship and work the 12-steps. There are millions of others like you, living their best lives through the solution of recovery. If you really want it and work for it, you’ll be rocketed into the 4th dimension of existence, like us.

Here are some of the fellowships I mentioned:

Learn more: Be Part of the Change podcast episode 3 – mental health in the built environment