"The Inner Journey!"

About: Adult mental health (Southwark) Equinox Personal Care Service

(as a service user),

I was dual diagnosed with clinical depression and addiction issues in 2002 after trying to abstain from using narcotics and suffering a mental and emotional breakdown; I had been in active addiction for 23 years. At about the age of 15 I discovered the euphorically liberating effects of alcohol and would use it whenever I had the chance. By the time I was old enough to legally frequent pubs and clubs my love affair with alcohol was becoming problematic and I opted for drugs like Cannabis and downers (sleeping pills) that seemed to give me more control and less negative consequences. By the time I discovered Crack Cocaine I had already been using hallucinogenic drugs regularly at illegal raves that my friends organized all over England. So at this time in my life it didn't seem unusual to be getting high every day.

Being in an altered state was my solution to living life on it life’s terms; I found it a great salve for treating resentment, fear and the perpetual feeling of differentness I felt throughout my life. To be honest I’m not sure how I would have coped with the challenges that I was dealt in life without drugs of one kind or another and I have to say It wasn't all doom and gloom, I did have a lot of fun with them; I felt more connected and ‘in the moment’ when I was high and consequently found it almost effortless to deal with a variety of different (and often interesting) situations that I may have found harrowing without my chemical sustenance.

My problem/s began when drugs no longer seemed to treat my underlying condition, the internal condition that was always there in varying degrees and would surface without any warning; I would have days when I just couldn't shake it off no matter how much drugs were in my system. I would also try to treat this condition with a variety of other things like pornography, sex, relocation, retail therapy and even by joining and trying to get involved in things that might give me a feeling of purpose and direction like socialist parties and religious groups. But sadly the deep and enduring feeling of emptiness and despair would not go away.

This malady had been with me from as far back as I can remember. I’ve nearly always felt to some extent a deep emptiness and dis-connection (of varying degrees) from all those around me and this at times made it hard or nigh impossible for me to be around others and to my utter dismay I found that when the feeling was acute it was also unbearable to be alone!

This loneliness, irritability and discontentedness would no longer recede when I used drugs and this was when at last I sought help.

I spent the next 5 years trying and failing to stop using narcotics and although I was less unbalanced than I was in 2002 I was unable to live life without being in an altered state; be it with Cannabis, Benzodiazepines, Narcotics, or all three of the aforementioned. After a period in a psychiatric ward I was discharged and after a few months in the care of the home treatment team I was referred to my local CMHT. I was referred from the CMHT to The Munro Clinic at Guys hospital where I had some C. A. T (Cognitive Analytical Therapy) and although I found the experience interesting and to some degree useful I was far from ‘out of the woods’ at this stage.

My salvation began in 2006 when it was suggested by an addiction counsellor at the CMHT to have a look at the 12 step approach via Narcotics Anonymous where I met addicts who (were actively working the 12 step program and) had found a way to stay clean by following the practical program of action. I’ve been clean since 2007 thanks to the simple program and I now help other addicts to work the 12 steps.

Not long after that I met service users at a day centre who were involved in user involvement work and seemed to benefit from the routine and purpose it gave them. Although I was in full time work at this time I decided to attempt to do some user involvement work and started by becoming a member of the Southwark Mind User Council representing the same day centre that I regularly attended. This in time led to other user involvement opportunities and before long I was quite busy.

The combination of helping addicts and doing wide-ranging service user involvement work has given me a new purpose and vision; I now do an assortment of user involvement work with several organizations. I have to say that another major element that helps me to maintain a balance and a satisfying level of well being is my Quaker membership; I became a Quaker in 2009 after attending regular meetings for about 18 months at Friends House in NW London. Even before attending regular meetings I was reading Quaker books for at least 2 years; I became deeply interested in their open-minded approach to the search for divine direction and purpose, I also believe in everyone having ‘That of God’ within them and the ‘inner journey’ that I feel benefits from when I diligently embark on it.

Currently peer support in its various forms is my ‘passion’ and I have seen some encouraging outcomes from some of the peer support work I’ve been involved with. With peer support in mind I have now gone onto develop a personal development project involving mentoring that is designed to benefit people with a lived experience of enduring psychological problems. I've now been given funding to pilot this project.

I think there is much scope for the widening of the involvement initiative and I dream of the day when it becomes a fully authentic way of improving mental health services that could benefit service users, professionals, service provider’s and local communities.

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