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Substance Use

Substance misuse is widespread in society. How many times have you seen on the news about people in this country ‘binge drinking’? It’s all the same thing… escape! As a survivor myself and as someone with an issue surrounding substance misuse, I would like to offer some ‘insider’ thoughts and opinions, as well as some useful information and facts.

I’ll start off with a brief introduction on why I think as survivors we can use drugs to such an extent that once we get into them, we can’t seem to stop. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people involved in drug and alcohol services have been the victims of sexual abuse, in fact research

“found that males were more likely than females to experience denial and to control their emotional response through the use of drug abuse”

(Kaufman, et al. 1980)

In my own experience, drugs were the ultimate form and vehicle for escapism, to change my head space so I didn’t have to deal with the thoughts and feelings of the past. I wasn’t dealing with the past at all, shit, I couldn’t deal with the past. I couldn’t deal with the here and now. Inevitably, it led to one unproductive, unfulfilled human being heading nowhere other than prison, or a section at the local psychiatric ward (if lucky enough for them to take you).

For me, and many others and possibly you reading this now, drugs seemed to be the ultimate way to escape from past negative experiences. It wasn’t until I found a good therapist that I realised what I was doing and made the connection between my drug use and being a victim of sexual abuse. I used to beat myself up for taking drugs and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t stop relapsing, I just thought I was basically thick and a waste of time. But my detox worker put it to me that it was totally the opposite to what I thought, he said to me “it was big and clever to take drugs to forget about the shit, it just wasn’t healthy or adaptive way to cope with the past”.

Basically what he was saying was I’d developed an excellent coping mechanism to deal with the abusive past because if I hadn’t what would have been the alternative? I’d say suicide, for me anyway. That’s another reason why we are called survivors because we have the ability to come up with ingenious ways to tell ourselves so many lies that we start believing them just to cope with the past. To put it temporarily on a shelf somewhere thus creating a new identity. Genius I say… at the time but also dangerous, as I came to find out. I’d bottled things up for so long that it resulted in a nervous breakdown. What I came to realise was that I was suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – a result of keeping secrets. It wasn’t untill I broke the silence to my specialist support worker that I truly started to heal.

Drug addiction can be a life sentence just like being a victim of sexual abuse. It means were handing our control over to another perpetrator, only this time it’s called drugs. We are certainly not in the habit of doing that anymore because “where did that plan get us last time….”. We need to clear ourselves of everything that is torturing us in order to move on.

So that’s the story so far, lets look at some of the different kinds of dugs we can end up taking and the different stages of addiction.

The Drugs

There are many other drugs but it would be impossible to list them all. There are already dozens of sites that do that, look for your local drug service or voluntary sector organisation.

The next bit I would like to discus are the different levels of dependency and how basically one thing can lead to another and next thing you know “BINGO” you’ve got a habit.

We will first start of with of with the first stage there are 3 stages or levels of dependency.

The first stage is experimental this is when were first starting off and don’t know nothing about drugs normally at a young age 13 plus. We hear about drugs and older peers experiences and it sounds exciting maybe just what we are looking for a chance to change the way we feel. So we start off with the basics smoking a bit of weed maybe trying a trip (lsd), gas, glue etc. so we start trying the different drugs find out what sort we like, uppers or downers. Nothings problematic at this stage its just fun, funded by pocket money or given to us by an older friend or sibling. No major problems really?

The next stage is a little more serious this is when we are a little bit more experienced trying other things like coke, ecstasy, speed and like we call this the recreational stage not too problematic at this stage just using drugs at weekends maybe to enhance our nights out a good way to describe this is going out clubbing at weekends still holding down a job, maybe a bit of social supplying to friends but nothing life wrecking. Still fun at this stage?

The next stage is dependency this is when we cant function or go out without having drugs in our system and are possibly physically addicted. Now we are masters of drug abuse. Not fun anymore we will more than definitely be committing serious crime at this stage or selling our body’s to fund the habit whatever our drug of choice. I don’t differentiate what the drug is if it’s taking over your life you got a problem alcohol certainly included. An example of this is forming a dependency on a physically or psychologically addictive substance like heroin or any of the so called party drugs. But the party is well and truly over. This is when a serious intervention from a professional is required to help us learn to control our problem and understand how to unravel our addiction.

In my personal view, as a survivor and drug user, is that with the psychological damage from childhood or adult abuse issues, we are more likely to form a habit on substances to cope with past traumatic experiences. If you’re laden with issues, drugs seem to be the perfect coping mechanism to get by but take it from me, they are certainly not the long term answer.

I hope this has been of some help to all those survivors and their friends out there reading this. I have also proud to have written my story on drugs that you can find on this site under ‘Survivors Stories’, its called ‘First Chance to Escape”. If you can relate to anything in this article, have a look, it might be of some interest and help. I personally took drugs to combat the abuse and it was like a light being turned on when I realised this. That’s when I started to unpick my drug use and work on the legacy issue so I can build a better future for myself. There is nothing special about me I have no magic powers or ain’t been tapped with a magic wand. Anyone can turn there life around and have a fulfilling future with the correct support in place. It is a relief and a release to fully understand why we have kicked the arse out of our drug use when we have seen others take or leave them, (no resentments there honest), it can also give enlightenment to loved ones in our life when they realise why we took drugs, it wasn’t there fault nor could they have done anything at the time to make us stop – it was more deep rooted than simply putting the drugs down, but disclosures a whole other minefield.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help to get rid of that shame and guilt surrounding drug use and move proudly on. you’ve made it this far, your reading this.

For further information and support, we have teamed up with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation who have produced a range of superb self help guides covering a range of mental health issues and subjects. The publications we thought were suitable for this page include:

  • Alcohol and You

To download a copy of any of the Self Help Guides click here

FRANK is a national drug education service jointly established by the Department of Health and Home Office of the British government in 2003.

ADS is the leading provider of alcohol and drug treatment services in the North West and beyond.

Lifeline works with individuals, families and communities both to prevent and reduce harm, to promote recovery, and to challenge the inequalities linked to alcohol and drug misuse

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