Anecdotal experiences are, of course, respective, yet I am a firm believer that a lesson lived is a lesson learned. Through the tumultuousness of my life, I have ascertained a certain comprehension of addiction and trauma which cannot be taught or read; thus, this conceivably gives me the authority to share my experience in the hope of helping others. I currently embody the role of a recovered addict, speaker, radio and talk show host, but above all a survivor. My mission is to give those who are suffering a message of hope and help these individuals transform their lives in a peaceful, powerful and positive way. There is no telos to my journey, but I simply hope that I can help people become mentally, emotionally and physically free along the way so that they too can become survivors that have overcome and thrived in the face of adversity. I find that it helps enormously to talk about my trauma, mental health & addiction and subsequent recovery and my philosophy is that if I can spare even one person from going down the path I did, then everything I do will be worth it. I am by no means asserting that I am omnipotent being that can transform the indomitable, but I hope to act as a mentor and ally because I am someone who understands how to rebuild a life, even if there is seemingly no way back.
Addiction does not discriminate. Many people have the preconceived impression of an addict to be an unaspiring and apathetic person, maybe someone with pitiable hygiene whose life solely revolves around their addiction. Whilst I can subscribe to the thought that an addiction is debilitating and at times all-consuming, the stereotype of what an addict is should be dispelled. I was born into a middle-class family, attended an acclaimed boarding school and grew up to be a loving husband and father. Despite my ostensibly picture-perfect life, I became ensnared by the power of addiction which caused havoc in my life and affected my loved ones to a great degree.
I am yet to determine if I was born an addict or if is a consequence of some of the woes that life threw at me. I was adopted, abused physically, racially verbally and sexually. I suffered wounding bereavements, developed an inferiority complex which can be affiliated to my circle of friends. I was diagnosed as bipolar. To be frank, I don’t know if these events caused my addiction or if it was some sort of predisposition, but I do know that I am an addict and will always be an addict. It may sound counter-intuitive to some that I use the term addict in the present tense when my aim is to help people change their lives, but for me it all comes down to accepting the addiction. Acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today. It was unnerving for me to ask for help, but in all honesty, it was scarier to continue to do what I was doing. My destructive behaviour and volatile mental health that addiction caused plagued my life to becoming unmanageable, but a person may have to hit rock-bottom in order to value their existence. I vehemently believe that the potency of my self-destruction led me to recovery.
I find it difficult to verbalise the extent of the perils of addiction, or the ‘madness’ as I call it. Primarily because addiction often causes a loss of inhibition and rational thought; I used to act uncharacteristically, sometimes delving into the realm of the unethical. In retrospect, coming from a place of recovery, my past self is unrecognisable and the way that I acted seems so senseless as I am now enlightened to the splendour of sobriety. The most tangible effects of addiction are seen in the pain of my loved ones. During the madness, I both financially and emotionally bankrupted my family.
My story is by no means idyllic, but the falling action is nothing short of a dream. The anguish of my loved ones propelled my rehabilitation and sobriety. In the past, there were many transient attempts of being sober, but these were short-lived as I was in constant denial that I was an addict. In these instances, I never effusively sought help and merely replaced one addiction with another which continued to fuel my dependence on the external. However, this time it was different; I started working the well-known twelve step program. Like many I was apprehensive that this would work, the program is often sardonically depicted in film and tv: ‘My name is Saf, and I am an addict’. But shortly after starting I appreciated that is was more than just a recovery program, but a program of life. I can submit to the fact that the twelve steps are not for everyone, but many elements are germane to anyone wanting to relieve their lives of addiction and compulsive behaviours. Principally, it enabled my understanding of what it is to be immobilised against my addiction and that sobriety required constant introspection and contemplation to work. In the ensuing time, I engaged in further outpatient rehab and became an avid attendee of various support groups. Arguably, for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel alone. I’m not undermining the love and support of my family, but I am resolute in the idea that only a fellow addict can fully comprehend the inner turmoil faced on a day-to-day basis. The support groups encouraged a sense of solidarity; everyone had the same goal and this safe space created a camaraderie that is ineffable. Aspire2Be Recovery was another group that helped the transformation of my life, ironically, I am now a trustee of this community, evident that life really can come full circle.
A fundamental aspect of my journey was therapy. I was treated by a remarkable therapist who allowed me to dispatch my trauma and we spoke in depth about my adolescence. Talking openly about the gravity of my past disburdened my mind, which allowed me to propel into recovery without a heaviness weighing me down. Self-examination is so vital in obstructing the power of addiction; how can you stop what consumes your mind, when you do not understand your mind?
Through diligently improving myself, personally, the only logical progression was to help others who were not exposed to such wonderful services. Subsequently, I committed to volunteering in the drug and alcohol services and moved beyond the empirical and started to study various schools of thought. I worked as a practitioner at a ‘lifers’ prison which was an eye-opening experience to say the least. As bizarre as it may sound, I have always relished in surrounding myself around criminals, perhaps you could say I felt at home. Many of the inmates that I encountered mirrored my disposition; they often experienced abuse in the past, but it was evident that the crimes they committed were intrinsically uncharacteristic. Substance abuse can give you a deceitful sense of control, which they may have lacked in their life, and can provide a feigned confidence. I felt it was vital to be of aid in the rehabilitation process, even for criminals who had committed the most ghastly of crimes. To limit the number of reoffenders and enlighten people to choose an enhanced life path was my ultimate ambition.
The aforementioned aspiration, that I learnt from my voluntary work, has transcended into present day. Through my own brand “Saf's Surgery”, I work as a Radio and Social Media Talk host on shows/topics dedicated to addiction, trauma and mental Health. I am a Chief Operating officer of HiS Charity, a men's mental health and prevention of suicide charity. I'm a Human Behaviourial Coach trained in Metacognitive Therapy and The Demartini Method where I see clients individually and/or in groups by the way of facilitating workshops and I intend to dedicate the rest of my life helping people by giving a message of hope.
Author of the upcoming book: “Out of The Madness”