‘You’re bleeding behind your eyes.’ I drank to forget the pain. Internally, I was completely dead. I’d never felt so alone.’: Man details addiction recovery journey, ‘I completely changed my life’

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Trigger Warning: This story contains themes of addiction, drug abuse, and self-harm that may be triggering to some.

“To say my twenties threw up more questions than they did answers is a vast understatement. I was successful on paper by the age of 28. I had the house, the flashy car, and the girlfriend who I would marry, have kids with, and live happily ever after, or so I thought.

Instead of seeking help from a coach (or anyone!), I decided to keep pushing all my problems and insecurities to one side through drink and drugs. Looking back, my biggest problems were trying to understand who I was, where I was going with my life, and how I could get over my own mental barriers. I reached 28 and felt that life had happened mainly to me unconsciously. I had taken no action in my own direction in life. While the world could see this person meeting what society had expected of him, internally, I was completely dead. Shortly after turning 28, my world completely crumbled into a hell hole. Mentally I couldn’t handle the late nights, the lies, and turning up to work with only four nights’ sleep a week. I decided to admit I was a drug addict and needed help.

The next 2 years of my life were the most chaotic. Even though I admitted I had a problem, I still took no real action on getting over my addiction. As a result, I spiraled into heavier drinking, drug, and gambling addictions. In the span of 2 weeks, my girlfriend had left me because of my drug use, my mom became bedridden with a rare paralytic virus, and I started a new job as a financial advisor in London, which I had to leave 2 weeks later because of everything going on. I had gambled away $70,000 in borrowed money against my house and credit cards. Looking back, I simply didn’t know how to handle everything that had gone wrong in such a short amount of time, but this was a result of years of neglect to my own conscious direction.

Courtesy of Sean Gay

During the last quarter of 2015, I admitted to the banks and card companies I didn’t have the money to pay them back and then went through the incredibly challenging process of debt relief. On top of that, I had drug dealer debts totaling about $13k and with a promise my house sale would pay these off (and my bank debts) and avoid my legs getting chopped off.

The house fell through four times and took precisely a year to sell. My drug dealer had now stopped my drug supply through my post box each day and was starting to get restless about the money I owed. During this time, I wasn’t working because my mom came out of hospital after 7 months and I helped with rehab. The only fantastic thing to happen during this period was the love my parents showed me and I could help my mom get back to walking, even though the doctors had given her a 50% chance of walking again. I had fallen into depression, which is no surprise as I was medicated briefly but I was still doing cocaine daily. The NHS counselor I had at the time asked whether I wanted to reduce or stop my intake of cocaine. Looking back, this was some of the worst advice I had ever received in my life, and it clearly showed the lack of understanding and experience of the counselor.

2016 was approaching with the crippling fear I was never going to be good enough because my whole life had imploded at a catastrophic rate. Every insecurity was now exposed with my mind racing at a million miles an hour, seeing others become successful in their careers, get married, have kids, and the list of things I saw other people do goes on!

Courtesy of Sean Gay

There were a few alcohol-related instances in late 2015 where I think was unconsciously trying to end my life. I had no off button because I was so incredibly depressed, even with the love of my parents, who have been endless in their support throughout my life, I just drank to forget every pain I was feeling. Still, because my pain was all the time, it was a scary time for me as I literally didn’t care what happened to me.

Having abused alcohol and drugs in secret again, while I was trying to sell my house to pay off all my debts and look to escape to Australia, I found myself rushed to hospital in January 2016. I had gone for an eye appointment, which resulted in the optician seeing I was starting to bleed behind my eyes. The doctors did tests on all causes of the bleeding, and it was evident my blood pressure being 200/160 was a direct result of my lifestyle of smoking, drinking, and drugging for the last 8 years. This didn’t stop me, and although my drug dealer had me on a ban while he waited for his money, I found my next-door neighbor was a drug dealer! This allowed me to forge a bond that could keep my drug-use going, without the need to provoke my other drug dealer. However, the house had fallen through another three times by this point, and I started receiving death threats, which were enough for me to plead to my parents to help me to run away to Thailand for some time to sort my sh*t out and get my head straight. They still didn’t know I had to run away because of addiction, just as loved ones think you are doing well, you secretly go back into old habits, and the chaos gets worse again.

Courtesy of Sean Gay

Having gotten back from Thailand a few months later, I made arrangements for the money to be paid off for the debt as the house sale was only just starting to go through. I put my car on the market to get some cash, but there was a massive leak, and the car sold for about an eighth of what it could have done. This was at least one less pressure, but I was still drinking and using drugs. I finally sold the house in October 2016 and made enough money from the house sale I had about $130,000 leftover. This was my ticket (or so I thought) to fix all my problems, to play golf every day in Australia for 6 months and live the dream life. I felt like I deserved it.

I landed in Australia, looking to turn professional at golf, but having not got any help for my addiction to drink and drugs by this point still. The idea was the money was going to fix me by being somewhere else. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that old habits turn up very quickly. Gambling, drinking, and using drugs in the most expensive city in the world meant I was flying home sooner than expected as I could see my bank balance falling at an alarming rate. I wasn’t in the right place mentally. I had never felt so alone as I did in Australia. So lost and not knowing how I could find direction in my life again.

Having come home for Christmas, I could enjoy a short few weeks before deciding South Africa was my next destination for me trying to turn professional. I joined Milnerton Golf Club, which was on the stunning coastline of Cape Town, and again, I found people and places that were associated with addiction and all my bad habits were back in abundance also. This time, everything was a lot cheaper, so I felt like a king, and my own ego was on the verge of exploding.  My golf game did improve, but never to the level, I needed to get on the tours as my partying was taking up the time and nothing had really changed in my life, other than my ego was more prominent. I had a bank account that could justify that existence, but only for so long.

Courtesy of Sean Gay

I knew in South Africa my life couldn’t carry on in that style, as I almost got arrested for picking up meth. The dealer’s car was parked up, and I was walking to his car about 65 feet away, and then suddenly about four police cars turn up and arrest the driver. I can look back and say this was another sign for me to get help, but you would be amazed at how blind you are to anything in life when you are in full-blown addiction.

I came back alive, health in tatters, finances almost all gone. I came back to play golf to see if I could make it as a professional golfer. The golf got worse when I got back, so I thought a new job might be the new lease of life I needed to get my life back onto the straight and narrow. My drug addiction had lessened by this point, and I felt like control was coming back after years of chaos. However, I got into another financial role, working with a big American consultancy company. The stresses of the new job, knowing I really didn’t want to go back into finance, meant my drug use spiraled, and 4 months into the new job I finally had enough. My bank balance was zero for the first time in my life. With no money to pay rent or eat, the thought of being homeless and the shame I would have to say again I had failed was all too much. Luckily I had an excellent private medical cover as part of my work benefits, and my provider offered me a 28 day stay in rehab. The thought of committing suicide had crossed my mind, but it was the love and support of my parents that pulled me through and gave me the strength to check myself into rehab at the Priory in London.

Courtesy of Sean Gay

Having started understanding myself better from my initial 28 days in rehab, I decided I wanted to get back into fitness to help concentrate my mind and give me something positive to focus on.

I hired a personal trainer to get me back into a healthy routine that could focus my mind away from alcohol, drugs, and gambling. I had trained for over 15 years before this time but had never stuck to anything religiously before. This time I was determined to see this through, but I made clear goals for what I wanted from the fitness program and completed each training session. The more I achieved, the more I could see the weight drop off, muscles started appearing and the more natural confidence I acquired. Natural confidence was a big reason behind my addictions growing up. I was never comfortable in my own skin, so I used alcohol and drugs to mask those insecurities.

Courtesy of Sean Gay

I also had weekly therapy from my addiction counselor post-rehab, who himself was a recovered alcoholic. He is someone I am forever grateful for by merely acting as that building block that would allow me to understand myself emotionally, mentally, and let me start experiencing spirituality for the first time in my life. I was also attending Alcoholics, Cocaine, and Narcotics Anonymous, which showed me I wasn’t the only person that had gone through these difficult times and we can recover from addiction. The 12 step program was incredibly powerful for me, and I will always advocate for anyone in addiction to give them a go, even if you have preconceptions about what you think they are, just go and see for yourself.

From having had no coaching in my life, to effectively having three coaches for fitness, addiction, and spirituality (12 Steps), I now felt I was able to gain direction in my life. I went back to my finance job after 6 weeks out, and this was an incredibly stressful period because the company I worked for told me to tell people I was suffering from depression if anyone asked. This on top of the stigma around addiction outside of the workplace was putting increased pressure on me to work harder as I was still relatively new to the business.

Having realized my addictions were all triggered by drinking alcohol, it was the easiest decision for me to give up alcohol. I promised myself before I checked into rehab I would put the same amount of effort into turning my life around I did in destroying it (the addict mindset!). Not having a hangover and experiencing the level of clarity through staying sober is the single most powerful thing I have done in my life. I highly recommend going sober for those who want to improve every aspect of their life. Even if you don’t think you drink much, alcohol has more of an impact on how well connected we can become to our true selves.

Courtesy of Sean Gay

My mindset had completely shifted. It went from being a victim of my surroundings to one of curiosity and passion. On top of doing a 4 day a week fitness program, I was also reading over 3 hours of self-development books each day, and this created a fascination with how I could completely change my life and manifest a new life for myself.

Fitness completely changed my life as it gave me the natural confidence I always wanted, without needing to turn to drink or drugs to make up for it. It allowed me to regulate my emotions better through the physical exertion of doing weight training. This is an incredibly powerful tool for recovering addicts as they can use the gym to effectively manage their past pain and not let it manifest itself in harmful addictions like alcohol and drugs.

My fascination with human development had increased exponentially as I had started seeing a complete transformation, not just in my own physique, but in how I believed I could achieve anything I put my mind to. I was able to manifest what I wanted, put the work in, and get it, something I was too scared of attempting in my previous life through fear of failure. Going through the process of losing everything I had was incredibly powerful, as it gave me a new outlook that was fearless and hungry to start following my own passions.

Courtesy of Sean Gay

Having given up alcohol, drugs, and gambling, I found my work within the corporate world no longer fed my soul, and this is where the journey of Addicted2Life started. Having had such powerful transformations in my own life through fitness and self-development, Addicted2Life takes what I have learned about the human mind, body, and soul. It also includes my previous professions in the finance industry to provide a coaching solution that combines the essential ingredients to living a happy and fulfilled life.

Golf has been a massive part of my life, and I attempted to turn professional twice in my twenties (which was hindered by my addictions). As a result of my passion for all things golf, I offer golf specific packages for Fitness and Life Coaching that look to utilize my 27 years of experience. A lifelong dream of mine is to help develop the next Tiger Woods, and I firmly believe my life experience and skills can help me do that.

My podcast, Sober Heroes, is my way of giving back to those going through addiction in the hope others, who struggle like I did, can find the strength and determination to start changing their lives around. My addiction story is documented in greater detail on the podcast, so feel free to listen, and if you know anyone that might benefit from listening to my story, or my guest’s stories, please feel free to forward on the podcast links. Combining two other passions of mine, I created Sober Golfers, which connects like-minded golfers across the world and will enable me to play golf around the world doing what I love.”

Courtesy of Sean Gay

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sean Gay from the United Kingdom. You can follow his journey on his Instagram. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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