It’s funny, I got unexpectedly nervous about writing this despite having done it countless times. Most people who know me now have met me at a time of my life where the following story can be hard to marry up. That’s a good thing, it’s shows that people CAN change; they CAN succeed and they CAN beat something that feels unbeatable to them.
I am currently in my 10th year of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. 8 of those completely abstinent. One of my proudest achievements. I am a qualified Addiction Nurse Therapist, registered Mental Health Nurse, founder of ARC Fitness, father and husband. 10 years ago I had none of this.
My 15 year battle started young. I always drank and used drugs even from a young age, and my immediate relationship with it was destructive. I used substances to feel confident, accepted, calm and ‘cool’. Because these reasons were so important to me at that time, I jumped straight into my drug and alcohol use with both feet. I was using substances to feel different.
I was a nervous kid. Overweight. Bullied in school. This all affected my attitude as I grew. I carried so many insecurities from adolescence to my adult life. The purpose of this testimony is not to go into the fine details of my addiction – it took me to some dark places and I also make some very poor decisions. What I will say though is that my experience of alcohol abuse, heroin use, cannabis and prescription medication use was NOT positive- but highly destructive.
My first marriage failed. I lost jobs; collected convictions; broke my back; lost some fingers; was hospitalised; had various community detox’s; spent time in 2 Residential Treatment centers. That was MY experience.
Am I selling it yet??
Now, I know you are all thinking “that Gaz fella is wile dead on”…. (Joke). However there was a time when this wasn’t the case, I was bitter, frustrated, angry and scared. Addiction changes a person, they act in ways we can’t understand, however recovery can restore them again.
This recovery business is hard. It took me two years of relapsing on and off before I finally managed to gain consistent sobriety. There were many factors leading to this consistency my faith; my fiends; my community and myself. I wanted to be better.
I looked at my recovery practically. I broke the problem areas of my life in which I was struggling down and focused on how to address them. I volunteered with a local charity – this increased my self worth, I went back to college – addressing my sense of purpose, all the people I chose to be around had a positive influence in my life and added value.
The introduction to exercise and physical activity played a massive part in my recovery. I joined a running club 1 month after getting clean with encouragement from a good friend. I hated it! It was hard, cold, muddy and I was so unfit. But I stuck at it and was consistent, I grew to love running and the positive effects it had on both my mental and my physical health. I followed this up with CrossFit and for the next 5 years enjoyed the benefit of strength based training in a community setting.
Through the application of exercise I became increasingly confident, more resilient, felt healthier and found improvements in self-esteem and self worth. When you willingly enter into something difficult (marathons, CrossFit workouts) regularly, you develop resilience and this then transfers into other areas of you life.
Exercise became my passion, my vent, my outlet my positive coping mechanism. People used to say to me “Have you not just swapped an addiction to another one with exercise?”. Maybe I did, but all I know was that one was killing me the other was building me up. So I will take that. I have however, learn’t balance over the years, and the importance of self care.
I always wanted to use fitness as a vehicle for helping others. ARC started as a conversation, which led to an idea that has turned into what you all know today. What started as a mere Facebook signposting service is now actively changing lives thought its positive, strength focused and compassionate approach to recovery. Providing structure, physical activity, support and hope, I am seeing people owning their recovery and changing their mindsets. I love it.
I am established long enough now in my recovery to understand the pit falls and dangers – I have experienced them. I have a tendency to learn from mistakes, that learning then informs my interactions with people and the advice I give. Sometimes you just need someone to listen.
I have been blessed with an understanding and encouragingly supportive wife, a beautiful daughter, excellent family, good friends and I job I love. My addiction had disconnected me from all these wonderful possibilities, yet my recovery reconnected it!
Life changing recovery IS possible. I’m not just talking about being sober, I’m talking about a life where you can thrive, succeed and encourage others. This takes some work on your part.
If I can. You can. Be Encouraged