Matt’s story

I am 28 years old and come from Bristol, I have been involved in violent crime for many years due to my addiction to alcohol & drugs. I remember I was 7 years old the first time I had taken alcohol and the feeling it gave me, it removed all my fears I had and gave me great amounts of confidence.

Alcohol has played a big part in my life as my father was an alcoholic and is now dead due to not seeking help about the illness of addiction. I had been drinking alcohol for many years never thinking it would slowly and gradually destroy my life. Whilst growing up I always associated alcohol with manhood, the more you could drink the more of a man you would become. Looking back at my childhood now it was far from normal. I would regularly see my dad drunk and being physically violent towards my mum.

My days at junior school was not spent concentrating on school work it was spent thinking about what would be going on at home, if my dad was once again using his fists on my mum and wondering what I would be coming home to. I also have 2 sisters and we spent a lot of time together in a different room wondering what was going on in the other room, why the arguments happened between my parents and I remember saying to myself that one day I would put a stop to my dad. At aged 8 my parents separated and I lived with my dad and my sisters with my mum. I spent a lot of time in pubs where I would see violence and soon believed that was part of being a man, after a short time apart my parents got back together. Secondary school I did not attend often as I never felt I fitted in and was bullied due to the clothing I wore. I did not have the designer trainers, my dads money went on alcohol and my mums money to feed us.

I left school at fifteen and worked in a local gym where I was now earning my own money and spending it mainly in the local pubs getting drunk and fighting. At aged 19 I decided that I wanted to do something with my life and joined the army, I chose the army as I knew you could drink and fight and have a career in doing this. I did not last long, after eight weeks I was discharged for going AWOL after Christmas leave. Whilst home on leave this is where I took my first class A drug- amphetamine – and continued to do so even knowing I would be drug tested when I got back.  After being released from prison I started to deal drugs for a man who had everything I wanted money, clothes, women and the cars and so I accepted the offer and dealt amphetamine, ecstasy, cannabis and cocaine.

Within a short period of time I became a daily user of cocaine, it did not take long before I was using more cocaine and other drugs than I was selling and ended up owing my dealer a big amount of money. I ended up doing a lot of different crime to get money to cover my debt and to feed my habit. At aged 21 I had 2 women pregnant and did not want to face the responsibility of becoming a dad the only thing that mattered was the alcohol and drugs and it stayed that way for many years. I ended up completely depending on alcohol and drugs to get me through the days. I ended up with paranoia and this led me to several suicide attempts.

In March 1997 I had a son & a daughter within 12 days. My son was born 3 months early and had a hole in his heart and told he had a 50/50 chance of surviving, he spent 16 weeks in hospital and I did not spend too much time visiting him as I was always too busy drinking and using and used his illness as my excuse to continue. (If you had my problems you would drink and use drugs) that is what I would say to people who would confront me about my behaviour. Eventually I separated from my partner as I became physically violent towards her and was always in trouble with the police.  She disappeared with my son and I have not seen him now for nearly 5 years, I lost contact with my daughter soon after due to when I would have her in my care I would only take her to places I used drugs and drink and I put my daughter in a lot of dangerous situations. At the time the loss of my 2 children was no big problem, I could go along living life with out financially supporting them and that was the way I wanted it. The only people I wanted in my life was the people who lived life the same way I did. The people who loved me the most I pushed away as they was interfering with my using.

My dad died in 1998 due to his alcohol abuse and I believed at that time he died a happy man as I knew if he made it he would never be able to drink again, and imagine living life without alcohol or drugs what an unhappy life it would be. I had full insight of the damage alcohol could do but yet I still continued to drink and use drugs. Over the next 5 years my life progressively got worse and I started to become very ill mentally and physically. I became a dad for the third time and to this day I have not seen her. My violent behaviour continued especially towards my own family as when they would not give me money I would use my fist on them.

In February 2003 the best thing happened to me that saved my life. My family disowned me and I ended up in a small bed sit where another 2 alcoholics where living. Everyone had had enough of me, violent, lie after lie, no respect for anyone or anything. I was weighing under 10st and vomiting blood every day. I had lost everything, then the moment came when I knew if I continued I would die very soon or maybe if I got help I could have some kind of life back.

I got help and on 25th March 2003 I had my last drink and drug. On March 31st 2003 I walked through the doors of Walsingham House rehabilitation centre, I was there on a 12 week program where I would start to learn how to live life free of alcohol and drugs and introduced to a recovery program.

My stay at Walsingham House was far from easy as it is situated in the centre of Bristol and on the weekends I could see and hear all the night life that was happening. and many times wanted to leave. But the sound of police and ambulance sirens kept me there as every time I heard this I knew it was nothing to do with me and I would not wake up in a cell or hospital where I have so many times before. I met people where we shared our lives and understood what they meant and for the first time in my life I felt understood. I would have group therapy everyday and talk about my past and how I was feeling on that day, I had many good days and many bad days and went through a lot of emotional pain but never once felt judged by the people I lived with.

They understood and could identify with the things I had done and how I was feeling. Within my 12 weeks of being at Walsingham House I had learnt so much about the illness of addiction and many ways to get through day to day living without using alcohol and drugs. I also learnt to sit and listen to people advising me on things I need to change in myself, mostly my attitude towards others especially towards men.

Over the last 12 months I have had a lot of criticism put my way and not once lashed out with my fist, which believe me is a miracle. Whilst at Walsingham House my oldest daughter was introduced back into my life and I am building a healthy relationship with today. Over the 12 weeks I had changed, my life had changed, and my views on life in general had changed. I was advised to take the opportunity of a secondary treatment centre for a further 6 months which at first I   was not too keen on doing. I just wanted to go back to a normal way of living, get a job have my own accommodation again and live free from alcohol & drugs. I took the opportunity for secondary treatment due to the people who left Walsingham House before me and went back to what I called a normal way of living soon relapsed. I had made a huge improvement with my life and was willing to do anything to keep it that way.

I walked through the doors of Chandos House secondary treatment centre on 20th June 2003 and stayed there for nearly 8 months, the hardest 8 months of my life. I lived with 9 other men from all different types of background. I dealt with many issues from my past whilst I was there, the death of my dad, my situations with my 3 children, and I also learnt that I was responsible for all the bad things I had done in my life as I always blamed other people for my actions, my girlfriends, my parents, the police. It was never my fault, people looked at me funny that’s why I attacked them. I also done a lot of work around my anger and learnt different methods of releasing it instead of just lashing out with my fist. Many times I wanted to leave due to things were not going the way I wanted them to go and I could no longer get my own way as I was unable to manipulate my counsellor or the people I lived with.

Whilst at Chandos I was to do some voluntary work which was hard to accept, work without being paid. The only time I had worked before without being paid was when I was on a community service order. I started voluntary work and was doing youth work back in my area where I have caused so much destruction whilst in active addiction. It feels good to put something back into my community and I enjoy working with kids. I work with kids aged 8-11 years old and do many different activities with them. I am now looking into working with older people, teenagers, young adults, with alcohol, drug, and crime problems, and my goal in life is to work in a young offenders institution. I believe I have the experience of where alcohol & drugs will take a person and living proof of what life can be like when living it completely free from all mind altering chemicals, and believe me the last 12 months in recovery has been amazing and more enjoyable than any of the 12 years in active addiction.

I left Chandos House and then went to St James House which is a supported dry house where I can come and go as I please which is really good as for nearly 11 months I have had to be in at times set by the treatment centres.  I am living life today with not so much support as I have had in the past which sometimes can be hard but I’m starting to get back to what I call the normal way of living and with the ups and downs of life I am not using alcohol or drugs.

Since I started my recovery in Walsingham House I was advised to go to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous for extra support. This is where I have made my support network I have today. I have many friends in my life today who help me and don’t want anything back from me which was something that took time to get used to as before when someone did anything for me there would always be a price to pay and I would always want something in return if I had done something for someone. My friends will tell me the truth when I ask them something even if they have to say I am wrong and talk the issue through with me. I try and help others when needed and have just opened another Cocaine Anonymous meeting back in my local area to hopefully help the suffering addicts still out there. The best thing I have learnt in the last 12 months about my illness of addiction and the way I lived my life in the past is that I’M NOT ALONE.

Matt   April 2004