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Photo Credit: The Author adapted by Yuki Uchida

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22 January 2023

My Life As An Addict 

MOLLY FRANKEL

Content warning: This article deals with sensitive topics including drug usage, drug withdrawal, drug addiction, mental health

 

Hi, I’m Molly and I’m an addict. I have been in recovery for just over 9 months now, and I want to share a little bit about my journey through addiction and into recovery. I believe I have been an addict my entire life. I consider my addiction and mental health as one and the same. Addiction is a mental illness, more specifically, a disease.  

 

Throughout my childhood I struggled with undiagnosed mental illnesses. Two of these were ADD (attention deficit disorder) and BPD (borderline personality disorder). I was a hyper-emotional and very distracted child. I was also very reactive. Two of the addictions I have today are love and codependency. These were particularly prevalent in my childhood. My mum once told me that when I was younger, she figured out that people were my biggest source of happiness. Not being around the people that I loved most was the worst thing in the world. I also tend to hyper-fixate on people. This becomes extremely apparent when looking at my love addiction. I find it hard to tell if I have feelings for someone or if I am just hyper-fixated on them. 

 

When I was 12, I went from a primary school where I was top of every class, to a high-achieving secondary school where everyone was either as smart as, or smarter than, me. I quickly fell to the bottom of my classes. This shot my confidence and by Year 9 I had adopted the rebel role. When I was 13, I started smoking weed. At 14, I was smoking very often and had also started smoking cigarettes (which I became addicted to very quickly) and drinking alcohol. My bad mental health started to become apparent to me. I was depressed, anxious and angry all the time. I had no outlet for these emotions so they would just spill out. I was forced into therapy, which doesn’t work. It’s the same as being forced into recovery. You must make the decision yourself for these things to work. My first therapist also misdiagnosed me, which had a huge impact on my mental health. 

 

By Year 11 I had adopted the role of stoner. This label fuelled my addiction, as I felt smoking weed was a part of my personality. I was doing terribly in school, which led to an appointment with a psychiatrist to determine if I had any learning disabilities. I was diagnosed with anxiety, ADD and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). As it was so close to my GCSEs, they strongly advised me to take medication. I absolutely hated it. I stayed on this medication all throughout the rest of my time at school. This exacerbated my weed addiction, as I felt I had to smoke weed to help with the torturous comedown that came from this medication. Towards the end of  Year 11 and the beginning of summer I found myself in my first real relationship. It was also my first real experience being with a girl, so it was all very new to me. I had struggled with my sexuality since Year 8. I didn’t accept myself for a long time. But this relationship led to acceptance. However, it wasn’t the healthiest relationship. To say I was dependent on her would be a huge understatement. She was my whole life. My whole source of happiness. When we were together, it felt like all my issues in the world went away. When we broke up, I remember saying that I couldn’t do life. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I felt like I didn’t know how to live. I just wanted to exist and escape reality. Which is what I did.

 

We broke up right after I had started a new school. I was very socially anxious, so having this breakup, as well as moving to a school where I didn’t know anyone, was a very hard experience. I started smoking weed every day.  As we only had to come to school when we had lessons, I was able to smoke in all my free periods. I would also smoke at lunch and after school. I was practically always high. I made a small group of friends who I would be with almost all day, every day. We all smoked weed, so it was the perfect environment to aid my addiction. I would say we were all addicts, but none of us would’ve felt that way. Smoking weed is so socially acceptable, and, while I have no issues with it, it is important to understand that it can have real consequences. I had also entered another co-dependent relationship – this time, a friendship. This was extremely toxic and has left me with a lot of trauma. When I was on study leave for my A-levels, I had made a new group of friends, and we spent every day in the pub getting drunk and/or high. I had also tried many other drugs during my time at this new school, so I now had other options. 

 

I had stopped smoking weed after I finished school. It no longer numbed my emotions. I would panic every single time I smoked. I occasionally took other drugs, but not in the same way as before. I did, however, drink a fair amount. It was very social, but I couldn’t even have a meal out without drinking. If I went out to lunch or dinner, I would have to drink. If I was watching football, I would have to drink. If I had friends over, we would drink. It was so enmeshed in my social life that, even though I never thought of myself as a big drinker, I would drink a lot in a week. As I briefly mentioned with the weed, the using habits my friends and I had felt very socially acceptable. I was surrounded by other addicts throughout my time in 6th form and afterwards. I had no idea I was an addict as all the people around me were also using as much as me. It is hard to notice when your friends all use. This might be something worth thinking about if you feel like you are in a similar situation to the one I was in. After summer 2019, I made some new friends who I started hanging out with a lot. A few of them lived in halls in London. 2 of them shared a room, so it was much bigger and it became the place we would all hang out. The halls also had an extremely cheap bar. It was located near central London too, so we would go out clubbing from there as well. Eventually, I would go there and take ketamine all night, in their room, just listening to music and spacing out. This was the beginning of my ketamine addiction. 

 

I started using ket much more often when the first lockdown hit. I was so bored and ket and alcohol made it a fun time. When the second lockdown happened, it became very dark. It was winter so we couldn’t lounge around outside like the first lockdown. I didn’t leave the house for 3 months. I became so isolated I rarely left my bedroom. I created a web of lies and manipulations to get away with using. Eventually my parents saw through me. But I didn’t care or even realise that I was hurting them. I only cared about myself and getting that next hit. My life was incredibly dull. I was either in my bedroom high, at work withdrawing, or out partying. I was in constant physical and emotional pain. It was no longer serving the purpose of numbing my emotions as well as it did before. But of course, by this point, I couldn’t stop.

 

In the summer of 2021, I went on a 2-week holiday where I couldn’t use ket. Ket withdrawals are almost entirely mental, not physical. So, I couldn’t even bring myself to drink to help with the withdrawals. I was far too anxious. Once I returned home, I decided to cut down on my using, as this withdrawal period had been so miserable. This failed instantly. I was completely powerless to my addiction. Around a month later, I brought the subject of rehab up to my mum. I don’t think either of us really knew where to go from there. So, after 7 months of getting everything sorted out, I finally went to rehab. But the main thing to take away from this is the importance of telling someone that you need help. That, in itself, was a burden taken off my shoulders, and the first step towards a life in recovery.

 

I was in rehab for 4 months in South Africa. It was completely incredible. It was also one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. They split me open and brought all the emotions I was suppressing out of me. But I was held so tightly and lovingly through it all. I am so incredibly lucky and grateful that my parents were able to send me there. I met the most amazing people and made life-long friends. When I left South Africa, I went into a secondary care treatment centre in London. This, for me, was to ease me back into London life, while still having the support and accountability from an entire team of people. I was in there for 2 months and have been out of there for just over 3 months. 

 

Now, at 9 months sober, my life is astoundingly different. I was completely miserable for so many years. I had no healthy relationships. I was very physically unwell. My mental health was uncontrollable. I had no accountability. I blamed the world for my problems and never myself. I also hated myself. I was a manipulative liar. I was full of rage that I only let out on my loved ones. I was very broken. But my life doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Recovery is a learning process. My past experiences that I have mentioned are deeply ingrained into my brain. Old behaviour patterns come as second nature to me. But I now have the tools to combat that. 

 

The support I have around me is incredible. I have 2 therapists and a sponsor. I go to support groups almost every day. My family and friends are all incredible. I write a lot, not only reflecting on my past behaviours, but just writing down my feelings as a healthy outlet. One of the sayings I’ve heard, being in recovery, is “honesty, open-mindedness and willingness”. If you are willing to do the suggested things to stay clean, open-minded to what you are suggested to do, and entirely honest about your past and present feelings and behaviours, life will become easier and more enjoyable. I have experienced both sides of this. Throughout my time in recovery, I have dipped in and out of trusting the process. I am full of self-will, meaning that I like to do things my own way. Addicts tend to believe they know best, myself included. But we don’t. You must be willing to surrender, and accept that you are powerless over your addiction, for things to change. 

 

When I am being stubborn and self-willed, my life quickly becomes unmanageable. Most recently, I was doing very well in my recovery. I got a bit too cocky and stopped going to all my support groups. I also stopped writing. Very quickly my mood declined. I ended up in a depression that I couldn’t escape. I lost all motivation and had slipped back into old behaviours. I was slowly isolating myself more and more. The only reason I am doing better as I write this, is because I have, once again, surrendered to the process. Recovery is not something you just get. It takes time. It ebbs and flows. But the key is to not beat yourself up about it. It is not an easy thing to do. No one is perfect and you might not always do the right thing. I certainly don’t. But I try to catch myself when I am slipping and pull myself back on track. That is what counts. It’s not about failing, but about trying again.

 

As I have already said, recovery is really fucking hard. It’s also very scary. Using is much easier. But it is also much lonelier. Connection is the opposite of addiction, and recovery is all about connection. I could not do this without the support from the people around me. To stop using is also an incredibly brave thing to do. Even if you don’t use for just one day, you have already made huge progress. The key is to keep coming back. Take it one day at a time. I was incredibly fortunate to have been able to go to rehab. Many people do not have that option. But you do not have to go to rehab to get clean. There is a shed load of support out there. But you must be willing to find and accept it. I am proud of myself for getting clean and continuing to do the work to stay clean. I am also proud of every single person who is trying to stay clean, whether you are 1 day or 1 year clean. If anyone reading this is struggling with addiction, or even if you just relate to some of what I’ve said, reach out to someone you trust. Even just telling one person how you’re feeling is a huge step in the right direction. I thought there was no way out, but I have found my will to live again. You can too. 

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If you are struggling, or know someone else who is struggling, with the themes discussed in this article here are some resources you can use: 

 

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/addiction-support/drug-addiction-getting-help/ 

 

https://www.talktofrank.com/ - This is an extremely informative website about drugs. They also offer help and advice if you are concerned about yourself, or a friend or family member who may be struggling.

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