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Daniel - Interview 05

Brief Outline: At the age of 23 Daniel realised that he was an alcoholic and decided to ask for help. In early 2006 Daniel was diagnosed with drug and alcohol addiction. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), meditation and his religion have all helped him recover from his alcohol and substance dependency. He wants to train as a counsellor.
Background: Daniel, university graduate, is a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and is on the 12 Step Programme. He says that he hasn't tried anything stronger than a cigarette or a cup of coffee since January 2006.

More about me...

Daniel started drinking alcohol at age twelve and over the years, his drinking increased slowly. Before his seventeenth birthday he mostly drank at weekends but between the ages of seventeen and twenty two he describes his drinking as ‘excessive’. During that time he went to Nepal and while there, he tried several different drugs: opium, LSD and heroin. He took LSD regularly for nine months. He tried cannabis for the first time when he was fifteen but gave it up when he was twenty two because he found it ‘boring’. He was keener on cocaine and ecstasy. He described himself as having an addictive personality that he feels has resulted from his sense of disconnection with the world around him.
 
Daniel has experienced distressing events in his life which were the direct result of his addictions. He was arrested in the USA after collapsing in a nightclub and he became violent in someone’s flat and started smashing things with a hammer, all under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Daniel's parents tried to help him. When he was sixteen they took him to see a hypnotist to see if hypnosis could help him with his problems and later, in his early twenties, they wanted him to go and talk to his GP. But Daniel thinks that his addiction problems can't be helped by the usual treatments and describes himself as been ‘beyond the realm of psychiatry’. 
 
Daniel had his last bingeing weekend in January 2006. On that occasion he was violent towards someone, something that he felt bad about when he sobered up. This made him realise and admit that he was an alcoholic. He decided that he wasn’t going to drink or do drugs again. He called an old friend of his father who had been sober for a long time and he took him to an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting. For the next one and a half years Daniel attended lots of AA and NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings and he still attends AA meetings. For that first year Daniel says that he was ‘crazier’ than when he was drinking; he was smoking heavily and having sex with total strangers.
 
Daniel said that it took him around two and a half years to understand his addictive personality and to recover from his addiction. The Bhagavad Gita (a sacred Hindu scripture) has enabled him to work on a spiritual programme and help other alcoholics and addicts in AA and NA. He meditates daily, and it is very important to him. In addition, the AA Twelve Step programme has helped him get a structure in his life. He hasn’t drunk alcohol or taken any substances since January 2006. He said that one positive impact of it is no longer seeing his mother cry because of his addictions. Daniel’s relationship with his parents is described as 'good' and 'mutually supportive'. He lives with his girlfriend whom he describes as ‘special’ and has a good group of friends. He plans to train as a counsellor.

 

 

Daniel has felt an ‘emotional disconnection’ from the world since he was a child and thinks this could be the root of his problems with addiction.

Daniel has felt an ‘emotional disconnection’ from the world since he was a child and thinks this could be the root of his problems with addiction.

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I’m the classic drug addict, alcoholic, nicotine addict, sex addict described in a doctor’s opinion at the beginning of the book of Alcoholics Anonymous. When a drug of choice enters my body several things start to happen and I experienced this the first time I drank alcohol, alcoholically when I was 12 years old. When I take a drink of alcohol into my system it starts up what we describe as the phenomenon of craving which means that I am entirely powerless to stop myself drinking. Now that might be 3 glasses, it might be a 2-day spree. But that started the very, very first time that I drank alcohol. I would never be able to predict how much I would be able to drink. I would never say with any great certainty whether I could stop. That’s the physical effects of my addictions. Alcohol was the first but in time I, god you name it, I’ve been addicted to it ' cigarettes which I’m still going through sadly, then later on drugs and also compulsive sexual behaviour. Those are my four big ones really in terms of addictions.
 
When I was 6 or 7 years old long before I’d taken drugs or drank or anything like that I remember standing in the playground when I was a little boy and I felt all of a sudden a sense of profound disconnection from the world and from the little children playing with me. It was almost like a curtain, like an invisible barrier had formed around me and I felt entirely separate from the world. It took me years of misery and active addiction and when I say active addiction I mean drugs and alcohol. And it took me 2 ½ years of recovery to realise that that thing, that weird sense of disconnection is what we describe in AA as a spiritual malady. I’m disconnected from the world and I need my substance of choice, be it the drink, be it the drugs, be it the sex, cigarettes, whatever to reconnect me. The connection between the two, the spiritual problem and the act of addiction and that took me a long time in sobriety to get a grip on. 
 
 

Daniel only heard about mephedrone recently when friends were trying to buy it over the internet. He wasn’t impressed.

Daniel only heard about mephedrone recently when friends were trying to buy it over the internet. He wasn’t impressed.

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Well I’d heard about this whole plant food one
 
Six months ago. I was with two friends who like, they take drugs. They’re not addicts. They do it socially and it’s fine but I was sat talking to them and they were talking about this plant food that they get off the Internet and that was like, oh thank fuck I don’t do all of that anymore. I mean do you realise how fucking retarded you sound talking about ordering plant food off the Internet for fun. I mean it’s just sounds really stupid. I don’t know. I’m not really interested in what it’s like but
 
 

After a few months of heroin use, Daniel became very ill and was taken to hospital overnight.

After a few months of heroin use, Daniel became very ill and was taken to hospital overnight.

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Do you want to tell me more about that experience with heroin because you. For how long did you do heroin?

 
I first took, I first drank opium in Nepal in 2000. Is that right? Yeah. And then I started chasing it off the foil [pause] in 2004. So we’re talking about a very short space of time, three months or something like that.
 
Ok so it’s three months that you did that.
 
Yeah.
 
And would you mind sort of telling me what happened when you were taken to hospital and spent two days there and?
 
I well I woke up and the room was full of my own vomit and excrement. ...There was a guy, a guy from Pakistan I remember who took me down to the front desk. The ambulance showed up. I went with them to hospital. They gave me some, I mean I presume it was Diazepam or something like that. That kind of, that really sort of numbed me. I lay in bed. I slept, slept. Didn’t want to eat, threw up a bit, threw up some more, slept, drank lots of water, slept, vomited. They took me outside for some coffee and cigarettes. There was a guy from I think it was Nightline the university run this helpline. He was there and he talked to me for a bit. And then there was a counsellor just after that. They gave me some food that night, soup I think. I woke up the following morning just sweating and it was like having very bad flu for a day. I took some more Diazepam the following day [pause] and then maybe codeine as well. ...The following morning they let me out.
 

Daniel is in favour of legalising drugs because those who use them won't be criminalised and it’ll be easier to get help for addiction.

Daniel is in favour of legalising drugs because those who use them won't be criminalised and it’ll be easier to get help for addiction.

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But the problem is that they don’t know what they have in it?
 
Yeah. I mean this is why
 
I mean they could have sand or
 
This is why I’m a big advocate of just legalising everything.
 
You think that will solve the problem?
 
I don’t think it will solve the problem but I think the people who do drugs socially will be able to do them and I think that addicts will get help quicker if the government controlled it all.
 
But I don’t see, I just don’t. If someone can explain to me what the problem with MDMA is then I’d love to hear it. I mean I’m talking about social drug users using MDMA. I mean what’s the problem with that.
 
Well I mean it’s addictive to people who are drug addicts but for most people who don’t have an addictive thing, gene or whatever the fuck this is, it’s a good night out. It’s not. I just hate the way that governments have criminalised this. I mean if you really want to make something illegal how about cigarettes. How many people have died because of cigarettes? More than both the fucking World Wars put together. Malcolm McKlaren last night, cigarettes. George Harrison, killed one of the fucking Beatles, cigarettes. You know if you want to make something illegal, make cigarettes illegal but not after this interview because I will need to smoke after this.
 

Legalise it. I think they should completely legalise it and then maybe people would realise just what a stupid waste of time it is. 

 

Daniel gave up heroin but replaced his addiction with an alcohol problem.

Daniel gave up heroin but replaced his addiction with an alcohol problem.

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I stopped taking heroin at that point but what that did and I didn’t see what that did. It just shifted all of that addictive behaviour over to the drinking. So my drinking just went out of control. I mean I, I’ll use an example.
 
I started doing my dissertation a couple of months after that. Now my dissertation is a fucking fabulous piece of work. I got 69%, one off a first for it. I have no memory of writing my dissertation at all. What I would do at the beginning of every evening, and I mean every single evening is that I’d work in the library from about 5 o’clock to 10 o’clock. I would go to - I lived in a huge halls of residence, a huge block. Underneath that was an off licence. I would go there. I would buy three bottles of white wine, two packets of cigarettes and I worked from 10 o’clock at night to 6'00 in the morning typing, drinking, smoking, typing, drinking, smoking. At 6'00 in the morning I was so hyper, my mind was so blown wide open that I’d have to roll a skunk joint basically just to get myself off to sleep. I’d wake up at 2 o’clock in the afternoon and then at 5 o’clock I’d be in the library and I’d do the same again and again and again and again. It’s a brilliant dissertation. It got the highest mark of anyone in my year. It’s fabulous.
 
But you don’t remember how?
 
No I don’t remember any of it.
 
Ok. So
 
So that was my drinking after I’d given up smack was three bottles of white wine a night.
 
And why did you give up heroin because not everybody who?
 

Well I’m not, I mean I’m not an idiot. Like, I knew that I’d been very, very, very lucky. I knew that I’d been lucky and I was like - and also it’s got, of all the drugs really there are two drugs out of all of them that people in mainstream society view as being the dirty ones is heroin and crack. And I never, I never took crack. It was never really. It was just never there but I knew that I had this fucking degree to get and my willpower, my ego was so huge [laugh] that. I mean I was never going to get my degree let alone get a good 2'1 which is what I got in the end if I was going to carry on doing this, you know. And so I stopped but really I stopped but it didn’t really affect my daily life because I was still abusing myself tremendously. I was just doing it in a more socially salubrious sort of way but those days were really. I mean, yeah really. I mean it, you know when people talk about hardcore addiction, or like hardcore alcoholism, mine was between August ’04 and January ’06. Some people’s hardcore addiction goes on for 20, 30 years and I just don’t know how they fucking do it. I’d never be able to do it. 

 

Daniel got so drunk celebrating his new job that he overslept and woke up several hours after he was supposed to have turned up for work.

Daniel got so drunk celebrating his new job that he overslept and woke up several hours after he was supposed to have turned up for work.

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Well like I said I will always be an addict. I have this until my dying day. I have a methodology that I, [sigh] which if I use then I can live in god’s grace. I tend to live in god’s grace. There are some mornings because I am such an addict that I just don’t do that and I engage in these addictive behaviours. Now I can’t tell you why because if I told you why then I think that I’d have the solution to all of this stuff that we’re talking about.
 

I can’t tell you why but I think I can illustrate it with this story from my drinking days which kind of does it quite nicely. Was that I got a job in university in my second year. And I’d been searching around, money was tight and I finally got this job and I was very happy to get the job and I shouldn’t have got the job. It meant me starting at 7 o’clock in the morning and I talked to the guy and I kind of forced him into it. You know I was so forceful, I was so charming and persuading, most alcoholics are, that he gave me the keys and told me, ‘Look you’ve got to open up at 7.’ It was a little shop. You know open up at 7. I said, [smack] ‘Brilliant got the job’. Walked home, a nice sunny evening. Everything was right with the world. Everything is fine. Everything is fine. I’m going, I’m turning into my street. Everything is fine. Everything is fine. I get to my front door and the thought occurs in just, less than half a second, ‘Oh you’ve done so well today. You really deserve, you really deserve a drink.’ The next moment I’m waking up. I open the curtains. Bright light is streaming in. I look down at my mobile. It’s 11'00 am. I’m supposed to be there at 7'00. All of that hinged on that thought, that twisted alcoholic perception, that that single thought had been at the core of most of my problems in my life is because of that thought. 

 

Daniel realised he was an alcoholic and had his last drink on a Sunday morning in January 2006....

Daniel realised he was an alcoholic and had his last drink on a Sunday morning in January 2006....

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I’d done this thing which will remain nameless. I woke up on the morning of the 28th January and it was a beautiful winter’s morning. There was ice on the ground outside, clear blue skies, sun streaming in. My life had never been lower than it had been on that night. I was surrounded by empty cans of Strongbow in this shitty little room in [city area]. I came downstairs and I felt absolutely wonderful. I just felt wonderful. I didn’t know why I felt wonderful. I didn’t know what was going on for me. I just felt a huge sense of release. I looked out into the sky and I said to myself, ‘I’m an alcoholic’. And for the first time - I’d suspected for 3 years prior to that that I was - but for the first time there was no dissenting voice in the back of my mind. I went and sat down at the desk. There was some stranger sleeping on the sofa in the front room who I didn’t know and I said to him, ‘I think I’ve got to stop drinking.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah I think that sounds like a good idea.’ I took a sip from a can of Carlsberg that was lying on the desk and that’s the last drink of alcohol I’ve ever had. That was the 28th January 2006.

 

Daniel said that giving up drugs and alcohol has been worth it because he no longer makes his mother cry.

Daniel said that giving up drugs and alcohol has been worth it because he no longer makes his mother cry.

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How were your parents at that time? Were they supportive?
 
Well I think that if there’s one thing. If I look back on the last four and a bit years and say, and look at it and think, ‘Oh well it’s all bollocks’, you know, ‘God’s not real. You just gave up because you wanted to give up. You grew up.’ All of this stuff I’d still think it’s all been worth it for the fact that I no longer make my mother cry, all of it. Every AA meeting that I’ve been to, every. Because I used to make her cry a lot and I don’t do that anymore. And do you know how valuable that is to me? 
 
 

Daniel joined Alcoholics Anonymous and found the group support helped kick start his recovery.

Daniel joined Alcoholics Anonymous and found the group support helped kick start his recovery.

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It was a realisation but it was. This is, see this is again in our culture this is a very difficult thing to get your head around. Ok. The first thing after that moment was that I called a friend of my father’s who’s long-standing, was sober for a long time in Alcoholics Anonymous and he took me to an AA meeting. I think on the Monday, on the Monday night. For the next year and a half I went to just a shit load of AA and NA meetings 
 
Now it took me, I was 2½ years in to realise that the answers for me, I mean I can’t say how these experiences. I’ve got, a lot of my friends are recovering alcoholics and addicts. I can’t say how they’ve experienced these things but the way that I live my life today on a good day is, meditation is extremely important to me. Hence all the stuff with the Gita, helping another alcoholic and addict in AA and NA and taking a moral inventory i.e. when I’ve done something wrong I admit it and say sorry. And really you know I mean AA has kind of helped me to get that structure in my life, the Twelve Step programme.
 
Well I think that like in any given week I would probably go to maybe two or three AA or NA meetings and when I’m there I will try and carry the message that was brought to me. It’s got nothing to do with me, you know, it’s just the message of Alcoholics Anonymous. If people like it, if people are willing to engage with it openly and honestly then there is a chance that their lives will be changed and god will start doing something for them that they can’t do for themselves
 
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