Recovery Worker

Eternal Optimist

Recovering meth addict

Clare C’s story

I grew up in a good home with both of my parents. I had a lovely relationship with my mum. There were times when it probably wasn’t the happiest, but I never went without and I always got to do fun things and go on holidays. I had good relationships with my family, my nan especially. Growing up, I was quite lucky to spend some time at her home, which kind of felt like a safe space for me in a lot of ways. At school, I never really felt like I massively fit in. I always felt a bit different from my friends. I’ve now come to the acceptance that I was living with childhood OCD but didn’t know at the time.

I always felt a bit different from my friends.

When I was 18, I moved to Canada with my parents. I kind of knew that it wasn’t going to be the right decision but I went anyway. Within a matter of months, I started hanging out with friends that were smoking crack, as well as doing cocaine and ecstasy. I was introduced to the Toronto rave scene pretty early on, which I fell head over heels in love with. It wasn’t just the drugs that kept me going, it was the music. I have a passion for trance music and electronic music in general. And obviously, with the clubs, comes the drugs and the widely accepted knowledge that we will probably be doing some kind of stimulants along the way. I was always in Toronto, or somewhere nearby, in nightclubs or afterparties. And that’s when I was introduced to methamphetamine. Very quickly, I was completely addicted to meth. It wasn’t a party weekend drug for me, it was an everyday, all-night, all-day thing. For the next 10 years, I did meth almost every day.

It might surprise some people but I never really went to massive lengths to get it. If I didn’t get it or I couldn’t get drugs – I just went without. I don’t recall myself ever getting into any massive debt. I never broke any laws or committed any crimes to get my drugs. I was just a normal girl who fell into a life of taking substances all the time. I look back now and I think part of it was an acceptance thing: for the first time in my life, I was being accepted by people, and I had a sense of community. We had something in common: trance music – and the drugs were just a part of that scene. It was also a sense of independence: I felt like I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I would stay up late and go to work the next day completely high.

I would stay up late and go to work the next day completely high.

I decided to get my own flat and pay my own bills – to try and function as a human being who wasn’t a drug addict, even though I was and no one knew. I tried to keep it together for a few years living on my own. I always had a job. I knew if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t have money for drugs, and I wouldn’t be able to continue the lifestyle that I had.

Slowly but surely, my life started to unravel. I found myself doing stupid things like getting in cars with complete strangers to go to nightclubs, and hanging out with people that stole my rent money. Those people that I was with weren’t my friends, they weren’t good for me. I also knew I was damaging my body: I started to lose my teeth and was in constant dental pain. A big part of my personality is my smile, and I was losing it. It broke my heart. One day I remember thinking to myself, “You’ve been doing this for ten years” and yet it felt like just yesterday I tried meth for the first time. “How have I been doing this for so long and how am I going to get myself out of this?” I knew something needed to change. I wasn’t this person I’d become.

How have I been doing this for so long? How am I going to get myself out of this?

I tried to reach out to a few different rehabs in the area, but they wanted a lot of money and I couldn’t afford it. I remember some days, I would just break down out of nowhere: I one minute I’d be happy and smiling, and then I’d just have these massive waves of despair come over me. I’d find myself a bawling mess on the floor, sobbing my heart out. I carried on like this for a few months until I got a sneaking suspicion that I was going to be let go from my job. I made a promise to myself that if I lost this job, I would book a one-way flight and go back to England. I knew that meth wasn’t in England like it is in Canada and that if I wanted to have at least some chance of survival, I needed to get myself out of Canada. Sure, enough I got called into the office and I had the dreaded conversation. I knew there and then, that I was doing this. I’d made this promise to myself.

I said my goodbyes to all the people I knew and got the hell out of Canada. The first few months were a bit rocky. I went completely cold turkey from the meth but replaced it with alcohol and food. I got myself an admin job as soon as I moved back to the UK, which helped, but the one thing that kept me going when I first got back was the excitement of being home. I got to see my family again, to see places that I hadn’t been to for years – even going to the supermarket was exciting because I got to eat English chocolate again. The novelty of being home was what kept me afloat but after six months here I started to get really depressed. It was hard. It was lonely. No one knew anything that I was going through. I tried to carry on like nothing was wrong.

Unfortunately, I relapsed in 2015 when I went to Canada to help my mum and dad move back to the UK. Within a matter of days, I was straight back on the meth again. But this time, it felt different. I knew that I didn’t want to use any more. So, I stopped. Unfortunately, because I hadn’t done enough work on myself, I still had the mindset of an addict. Even though I’d cleared my system of the substances my mind was still thinking like an addict. When I returned back to the UK with my parents, that’s when I knew this was my time to start getting clean. Three weeks later I got pregnant with my daughter. I think in a lot of ways, the hardest thing for me was being newly in recovery and finding out I was pregnant. I look back now and I get quite emotional when I think about that time because no one knew what I was going through, no one knew that I was trying to heal myself as well as bring a child into the world. It was rough, but I did it. Pregnancy taught me about abstinence.

No one knew what I was going through

After my daughter was born, I went through postnatal depression for about two years. I didn’t really admit that to anybody either. I’d spent all of my life keeping things to myself: my addiction, my struggles, my bad thoughts, my unhappiness. I just learned to deal with it on my own. The midwife asked me – how was I feeling? All I wanted to do was go and kill myself and run away, but I lied straight to her face and said I was fine. I pretended like everything was okay, but it wasn’t. I was struggling so much – I didn’t want to be around my baby and never wanted to hold her.

Slowly but surely, I started to do things that made my life better. Last year, I got my own place for the first time ever and moved out of my parent’s home with my little girl. Everything started to come together for me. I was so unhappy for so long, I couldn’t understand why someone would say that recovery is beautiful, because I honestly didn’t see that side of it. I realised that when you put the work in, and you spend the time focusing on yourself, and thinking of the reasons why you did what you did, recovery can actually be quite a beautiful thing.

For the longest time, and right up until last year, I honestly thought that I’d ruined my brain. I thought I’d damaged myself to the point I couldn’t feel joy anymore. But I can!

I’ve done so much for myself; I’ve made my home pretty and spent time doing things and reading and listening to music – things that I used to do before my addiction. I’m starting to feel that joy again, it is actually really amazing that I can finally be happy again. Another massive part of my recovery was getting my teeth fixed. There was a point where I couldn’t smile, so I went to the dentist and they basically had to start from scratch with my mouth. I actually have dentures now. To this day, I send a Christmas card to my dentist because they were so incredible. I don’t think it really hit me till the next day when I was doing my makeup, I put my lipstick on and I smiled in the mirror. And I just broke down because I was just like, “Oh my god, they’re finally done – I can smile!” I needed that confidence and boost, and I needed to work on my self-worth to make myself realize that I am worthy of change. I am lucky enough to still be here.

It is actually really amazing that I can finally be happy again.

Ever since then I do stuff now to make my life better. Last year I decided I want to be a recovery worker and got a job at The Forward Trust. I want to help people go through what I went through, to be the person that I needed when I was going through it. I am working with people that are really similar to me. We’ve all got our past, we’ve all got our addictions. That’s when I realized this is where I was meant to be.

Since starting at Forward, I’ve been able to accept the fact that I can be open about this, and I can talk about it. It absolutely changed my life, it’s been amazing. And that’s why I want to share my story, finally, because I know that this is a massive part of my recovery. I think there are a lot of people that probably would be shocked when they find out about my past. But at the same time, I hope that they will respect the fact that I have come out the other end, there are reasons why people become addicted. And those reasons need to be understood.

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