I had an opiate habit for many years, but I have been addiction free for near as long.
I started drinking and using pills of various sorts when I was eleven years old, and began injecting drugs four years later.
Over the following fifteen years I roller coasted through good, and increasingly more frequently, horrific times.
My thirtieth year saw me homeless, beaten up and unconscious, and being hospital stretchered into a detox unit in Dartford, Kent.
After my detox I spent seven months in a women’s only treatment facility; then another five months in a secondary unit. I then spent another year and a half living in what is known as a ‘dry house’.
Thus far it is a relatively normal, contextually speaking, tale of addiction albeit a privileged one as the laws of the land at that time meant that there were government funded treatment centres and related recovery facilities available, to coax me into a semblance of mainstream normal living.
Eventually I achieved the laurels of a flat and a job, and could be considered to be a clean and sober, contributing member of society.
Perhaps I was, as I knew how to perform according a regime I had been indoctrinated to work within. I was institutionalised and completely fear ridden about taking risks and pushing beyond the parameters of the rules that had been laid down for me, about how a non addicted member of society must operate.
My first six months in my own home, I lived in one room as I couldn’t cope with the concept of having a living room and a bedroom; let alone a key and freedom of movement.
I drew up lists of how each day should be run, worked hard, did courses, went to N.A meetings and tried to gently push my boundaries outwards.
I also had long depressions and anxiety attacks and stayed in situations which were abusive because I was frightened of taking risks and spiralling back to the horror of my years as a homeless street addict.
I had attended daily one to one and group counselling sessions and meetings for nearly three years that constantly reiterated I should not mix with certain people, do certain things or live in a certain way; if I did, those terrible things (and worse) would happen to me again.
I realise that many of my drug using peers died, and perhaps my addiction was such that I did need such intense conditioning and indoctrination. God knows I was lucky that I was able to receive such comprehensive help; but now seventeen years on (I have been clean almost the same amount of time as I was an active addict) I feel as if I am recovering from another, albeit more subtle form of entrapment, recovery.