My name is John and I am an addict. I start with that because that’s what and who I am. If I don’t remind myself of this very simple fact each day, then I am in trouble. I am humble enough today to admit and accept it.
I grew up on a modest council estate in central Scotland. My earliest memories are watching my Dad physically and mentally abuse my Mother. Life at home as a child was chaotic and painful. I remember going to school and painting this picture of John that wasn’t true or real. Based solely on fantasy. Based on trying to fit in with the other children I went to school with and based on how I thought the world would accept me. I used to tell white lies, exaggerate the truth or in some cases make up some quite extreme stories. Just to fit in. Just to feel apart of. Just to feel accepted. I was never comfortable with who I was or where I came from. I told stories of going to watch my beloved Rangers playing all over Europe. I once told some school friends I had a tumour in my lung. You can imagine their surprise when I was at school the day after I’d had the tumour removed.
Life was a lie. From a young age every interaction with another human being was false.
I had been searching all of my early years for that something I felt was missing. I loved playing football, but that never quite fulfilled me. I was good in a classroom but school seriously bored me. Nothing filled the void I had inside of me.
When I was 12, my mates from my street who I hung around with knocked on my door one Friday evening. They asked me if I had my pocket money and paper round wages. I didn’t have any clue that this would be the first time I would end an evening drunk. I was hooked. The feeling alcohol gave me was unique. It blocked out all of the internal chaos I had going on. I finally felt part of something. My mates always were up to no good and the drinking amplified this. I found it all quite attractive. I continued to drink every weekend for the next few years.
I stopped enjoying football. I stopped doing well at school. I stopped going to school. My mother, who was chronically ill by this time with multiple sclerosis, was worried about me. When she spoke to me about alcohol, it was the only time she never really shouted at me for doing something wrong. She could see even at this age that I didn’t drink normally. I didn’t drink like a “normal” person would. And she was right. Wether it was drink, pills or weed, I always went that little bit extra over my mates. I always went a bit to far. Was it because I wanted to be seen as hard? That I could handle it? Was it because I wanted my mates to think I was good enough to be in there company? Was it because by putting outrageous volumes of substances in my body blocked out all the other feelings and emotions I had? Probably a combination of them all really.
By 14 I had developed the taste for gambling. Me and my mate from school would often go into the betting shop with our school bags on and be allowed to place bets and play on the FOBTs (roulette machines) I was making a bit of money and my mindset was, I didn’t really need to do anything else, I could just earn money by gambling. See how my fantasy based mind worked? I couldn’t accept any form of reality, even at this young age.
Even at this stage of my life I had started to manipulate friends and family in order to get what I wanted. To drink, to take some recreational drugs and to gamble.
By the age of 17 my mother had had enough. She had threatened me so many times to boot me into the streets because of my drinking and gambling behaviours. I knew something had to change but I was scared of getting out of my comfort zone. Scared of walking into the unknown. All I really need was the streets, how to drink and how to run away in a bookmaker.
I walked into an armed forces careers office in Edinburgh one day. I knew little about either of the three services but I applied to join the Royal Navy. I hadn’t even been to sea before. A few months later I was in Plymouth partaking in basic training. I thought by moving location and away from all that turmoil that home life brought I’d maybe change. I’d stop acting the way I had always acted. I would start to take responsibility for my life and actions. Stop drinking so heavily and put the gambling down. I continued the same patterns. Same behaviours. Lied to fit in. Drank to fit in and to remove the internal pain I was always in. I gambled to fund the lavish lifestyle I always dreamed of having. Nothing changed really. All that changed was I now had a uniform and some status which done wonders for my ego.
I drank and gambled my way through most of my 12 year career. I often put my life and others in danger by doing my job while heavily under the influence. I drove speed boats for a living. The more I got away with being pissed while driving, the more it fuelled my ego. My false ego. I didn’t want to be John. I wanted to play a character. And the alcoholic hero was how I thought of my self. Sad really.
During my time in the Navy I developed a relationship with a young woman who I almost married (her dad finally pulled the plug when I was found out being who I really was) we spent 7 years together and I bled her dry of every resource she had. I lied to her and took her money and eventually her soul. She loved me very much and just wanted to help me. My experience of relationships in addiction however was seeing what I could get out of every single person. Mates, family, girls. I only took from those relationship. Barley gave and if I did have something to give it always had a condition attached, I never gave nothing for free.
By the age of 25, alcohol was no longer enough. It stopped working. Yet I kept drinking. I started to use class A drugs. Mainly cocaine. It was progressive very quickly and in no time at all I was completely hooked and addicted. My “normal” start to a day would be a few grams of cocaine washed down with a bottle of Rum. That was how it started most days and naturally continued like this during the day. Drugs are zero tolerance in the armed forces. I was aware of the consequences should I be caught, but I never thought I would be. I continued to use disregarding all thoughts for consequence.
I maintained I would never commit “crime” to fund my lifestyle. Truth is, I had been committing crime from the very early days. Just because I used words like “borrow” when I was asking for money, doesn’t mean I wasn’t stealing. I was. In 2017 I started to do things I always said I’d never ever do. Things I convinced myself I wasn’t even capable of. I started to con innocent people to fund my addiction. My wage couldn’t maintain my drinking, cocaine and gambling. I’d exhausted all legal options to gain money trough banks and various loan companies. (I had 25 payday loans at one point) my friends and family stopped lending after 15 years of abuse. But I had to use. I had to gamble.
I went online and used my status in the military to gain people’s trust. I sold them a product which didn’t exist. I conned them. And I continued to con people for 5 months. I knew I’d be caught. But I was so far gone that I didn’t care about the consequences anymore.
I was eventually sent down for 12 months. Lost my career. I’d already lost everything else materialistic leading up to that point. The house. The car. The fiancé. My family. My friends. I’d now lost my mind. I was insane. I tried numerous times to end my life. Genuine life ending attempts. But I was spared. My using alone should have killed me but again I was spared.
Whilst in Prison I was offered the chance to do a programme. An introduction to the 12 steps. I had been given a chance to work on myself and try get some clarity back. It was the chance I needed and wanted. I no longer wanted to live the way I had done. Prison was the start of a new life for me. A new way of life. I got clean and stayed sober and started working the programme. Going to 12 step fellowship meetings that were put on for us in the prison. I could see other people who thought and acted the way I did, get clean and start to live a better life. I didn’t think it was possible.
After prison I went to a treatment centre and done more work on myself. I started to work the 12 step programme daily. I surrendered. I had had enough of that lifestyle. Working a 12 step programme has changed everything. I have had to put the work in and the effort but it’s kept me sober. It’s kept me clean and I no longer gamble. It’s a miracle really.
I have a new flat. A new job. My family are slowly starting to speak to m again. I have friends who are not using and who I connect with. I have a new life. I have peace of mind, and my family do to.
I hope you find a new way to live just like I have done and so many others before and after me. It’s there for us all. God Bless.