How did addiction impact the trust and communication between yourself and your loved ones?
Matt, who underwent addiction treatment at Oasis Recovery, explains how easy it is to hide addiction from others:
“I started using drugs from a very early age – cannabis recreationally – but turned to class A drugs when I was groomed by an older crowd to take them. From age eighteen, I self-medicated at the pub. Then I received £100,000 inheritance and blew the lot in six months. I was hiding my addiction so well that I had to convince my mum that I was ill enough to go to rehab and that she had to pay. A few years before rehab, I told my mum about cocaine. I had some counselling a couple of times a week then got bored, so I told them I was clean so they wouldn’t contact me anymore. My mum believed me.”
Simon, our client who attended Oasis Bradford, tells us how he also learned to lie, even to himself, so that he wouldn’t need to face the reality of his situation:
“Addiction has a stigma attached to it, so it’s easy to think it’s this big bad thing. I went into denial and became a proficient liar and learned how to hide things simply because I didn’t want to communicate.”
This is a typical story that we hear from clients, but unfortunately, when the truth does come out, it can seriously affect the trust between loved ones. As Richard, our Recovery Lighthouse client, explains:
“I’d lied so many times to my wife. She did not believe that rehab was going to work because when I was getting help myself at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and through therapy, I got worse, not better. While I was in rehab, she had a long call with my key worker who told me her trust had completely gone.”
Did your addiction lead to you becoming isolated?
A major part of the reason why trust and communication break down is that addiction is isolating, causing changes in someone’s behaviour which alienate them from their loved ones. Simon explains:
“Mum had seen me at my worst. It’s taken its toll on my mum by being so worried about me. Lots of people don’t want to tell people in case they react badly. I wish that I’d reached out to people that I hadn’t. I thought it would cause me so much pain, but by just saying, “I have a problem, and I don’t know what to do,” you will realise most people don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
Carl from or Primrose Lodge reveals how his cocaine addiction and alcoholism also isolated him:
“Everything was falling apart before I got there. I didn’t know how to communicate and be honest. It’s difficult because you tell someone you have cancer, and you get nothing but love and support, whereas you just get darkness when you open up about addiction. So I understand why people want to keep it hidden.”
Were you surprised by people’s reactions when you did open up?
It can be so difficult to open up about addiction, even to the people that love us and just want the best for us. As is so often the case, many of our clients found that the thought of telling their loved ones was far worse than what actually happened when they did.
“My children have never seen that side of me,” says Simon. “It was kept out of sight because I’m split from their mother. As soon as I was under the influence, I would send her a text saying I couldn’t pick up the kids or let them see me like that. When I went to detox, it all came out because the children wondered where I was. When they were told, they were very supportive. We don’t give people due diligence – my kids were nine, eleven and thirteen, and they listened and took it all in.”
Were trust and communication during rehab important?
With trust and communication sometimes having broken down between clients and their loved ones, being able to build trust among clients and staff is a major part of the UKAT recovery process. Matt explains the welcome he received on day one:
“When I first walked into the building, four big guys walked up to me, and I literally did a pigeon chest to intimidate them. They came over and shook my hands and welcomed me, and I felt safe for the first time in ages. My advice is to go in with an open mind and grab every bit of advice you can. The therapists are there to help.”
We’ve all experienced these moments of apprehension. But rehab is a place of support and love, not judgement. Daniel, who attended both Liberty House and Sanctuary Lodge, explains the benefits of embracing new relationships in rehab.
“I tried to be as amicable and friendly as possible with the other clients there. I was very conscientious and willing to listen. I trusted them. My therapist, Tracey, was magnificent. The fact that the therapists had been through addiction themselves helped to create trust immensely. Now, every Friday, I go with Tracey for aftercare, and it’s really helping me to stay connected.”
Which therapies most helped you to open up?
At UKAT, we offer a range of therapies, as different clients have different needs. It is always interesting to see which type of therapy each client responds best to. It can sometimes come as a surprise to our clients themselves which they end up enjoying the most. Knowing that the other people in his group therapy sessions could relate to what he was experiencing helped Richard to settle into rehab and overcome his denial about his addiction:
“It wasn’t my decision to get help. It was my wife and a very good friend who intervened. You are understood and accepted straight away, which is a revelation because you’ve spent so long thinking nobody understands you. The first session was really frightening but listening to others made me understand I needed to be there. I didn’t like it but knew I was in the right place.”
For Carl, it was the one-to-one therapy sessions that really helped him to open up:
“The one-to-one was mind-blowing, and I spoke about my whole life. Having someone who was there just to listen to me was very different. I still have a therapist now, although not weekly anymore.”
Sarah benefitted from both one-to-one and group therapy but says that it was the one-to-one sessions that really helped her:
“Group therapy is great as you relate to others, but you have to learn to share because it doesn’t come naturally. You realise early on that everyone has the same story, and you build trust. The one-to-one therapist was brilliant, which was once a week. I was terrified of the first session, but I thought it was brilliant. My eyes were opened up to a few things that I hadn’t even considered, and he taught me some valuable life lessons.”
Everyone is different, but one effect of addiction that many of our clients experience is that they lose the ability to trust and communicate. Addiction thrives on isolation, and so a huge part of our job at UKAT is to get our clients to open up and start talking again. The transformation that just this small thing can trigger is incredible, and it is a huge step towards recovery. Nobody needs to suffer in silence, and Carl has a message for everyone who is struggling alone about the importance of reaching out for help:
“There is no freedom in keeping secrets and hiding things just make you sicker. We all need to live free.”