It’s Monday January 7th the day before my 3 month sober mark. It’s been an empowering and challenging journey so far that’s seen me make some massive changes as well as mistakes along the way. I’m really proud to say that I’ve not drank a drop of booze since the anniversary of my Dad, Tony Jones’ death on October 8th, which is when my year of sobriety began.
One thing that I have been struggling to stay on top of is typing out the most relevant realisations and experiences I’ve encountered each month. I have note pads packed full of daily entries yet procrastinated when it comes to creating monthly blog posts that aim to summarise key findings.
The memory fades somewhat whilst tumbling through the passage of time yet fortunately the scribbles and scrawlings made should be enough to help me pay tribute to the significant days events that I feel so fortunate to have lived throughout November, despite them being sadly peppered with the untimely death of loved one’s loved one’s plus some of my own triggered trauma that sobriety feels so sensitive to.
After successfully surfing the turbulent waves of my first month of abstinence it was time for me to add new layers to my radical recovery and holistic healing protocol, based on new understandings informed by the research I’d been undertaking. October was all about quitting whilst taking action on the damage that I’d caused myself as a result of years of excessive drinking. Supplements, probiotics, organic nutrition, gentle exercise and improved sleep hygiene took centre stage with a few less obvious additions being invited into the choir for good measure.
My intention for each month was to adopt new healing processes that operated on different levels of my recovery whilst also tweaking and deepening them so as to make sure I was covering as many bases holistically as possible. Gabor Mate the Hungarian-born Canadian physician who specialises in addiction discusses it from a biopsychosocial perspective. In this sense he takes a holistic approach towards working with addicts which takes into account the biological, psychological and social factors which contribute to the addiction process. When it comes to effectively treating and overcoming addiction we might be wise to consider similar.
November arrived with a surprise phone call from a close friend who had received the tragic news of the unexpected death of an ex-boyfriend of hers. She was in bits, he was young, it was addiction related, before she knew who it was the thought had gone through her mind that it might’ve been me. The tragic reality slammed home as dark waves ripped through the community of everyone who knew and loved him. Addiction, which is so closely connected with the depression, stress, anxiety and childhood trauma that we all face to an extent, whether directly or indirectly, affects everyone.
That Tuesday I went to Vegan Revelation with two of my …pr@xis?.. PROBIOTICS crew, Johnny & Camile, who were fermenting veg in the kitchen whilst I was sat in the cafe researching the next steps for my protocol. I was reading The 4 Pillar Plan by progressive medicine practitioner Rangan Chatterjee. I rate Chatterjee due to the extent to which he’s brought more holistic lifestyle based medicine approaches to the mainstream. As a GP he is passionate about equipping patients with the knowledge needed to effectively treat their conditions with lifestyle changes rather than dishing out antibiotics and pharmaceuticals willy nilly, which can often contribute as much to the problems they’re marketed as solving as they do the actual solutions.
The 4 Pillar Plan advocates making improvements in areas of Relaxation, Diet, Movement & Sleep encouraging us to make incremental changes to improve our overall health & wellbeing. In the Relaxation chapter Chatterjee touches briefly upon the importance of relationships and making quality time for those you love as well inviting us to dip our toes in the importance of having a deep sense of purpose, living a life that’s in line with our deepest held beliefs and contributing to a good that’s greater than solely ourselves, which as I’d later learn, yet deep down knew all along, is crucial for our mental, physical and spiritual health.
That evening my sober committed confidence got knocked as my own childhood trauma was triggered leaving me reeling through a restless night. I discovered an ex-lovers deceit which led to intense emotions bubbling up and erupting inside of me, my skin aching and heart hurting. The intense sensations when sober were so much harder to endure. The death of my mother when I was 3 years old had affected me massively. Despite being relatively confident, privileged and empowered as a person I can also be deeply insecure as my anxious-attachment style, ferociously fears abandonment, particularly in the form of rejection from significant female others, especially lovers. The links between childhood trauma caused by parental loss, attachment disorders and addiction are beyond strong. The plot get’s thicker like fog with the horizon harder to see, yet my view of this quests purpose clear as crystal.
Since the age of 17, due to my passionate interest in psychology and the human sciences more generally, I’d been curious as to who I was as a result of the experiences I’d had, my living environment and the wider society that had shaped me. I had always been sensitive to suffering, my own and that of those around me. This led to me studying Sociology with modules in social psychology and political theory whilst at the University of Leeds. Upon my graduation I became a youth worker wanting to empower other young people to not only make sense of their lives and the world around them but to also be proactive in making positive changes and improvements.
Whilst working with young people I was educating myself more about counselling, psychotherapy, critical pedagogy and critical social theory, acquainting myself with the works of key thinkers from Carl Rogers to John Bowlby, Eric Fromm to Paulo Freire, inbetween, before and beyond. I’ve read now on a number of occasions the fascinating observation that many find themselves teaching others that which they are in most need of learning. It would appear this continues to apply to myself. With that in mind at the age of 29, after another failed relationship, I embarked upon 4 years of psychotherapy seeking to tackle the undernourished roots of my issues. During this time I would’ve been drinking every night, with alcohol still in my system each session. My therapist was unfortunately inexperienced working with addiction or childhood trauma so after 3 years of digging deep our sessions ceased.
So, on November 7th I put word out to my facebook friends seeking their suggestions. A kind person contacted me directly advising me to ring Talking Therapies via the NHS to arrange an assessment which I did. In the meantime I continued focusing on my current plan of action whilst also adding steps from the 4 Pillar Plan to improve my overall health and wellbeing. A major part of the recovery puzzle is social connection and now that I wasn’t stumbling into the pub to share mumbles with whoever I happened upon I had to consider alternatives, seeking meaningful encounters that were fulfilling and purposeful with friends I felt comfortable, safe, respected, loved and understood by. I feel so fortunate to have an abundance of excellent friendships with people, especially within a social context where mass isolation and loneliness is prevelant.
Saying this, on Saturday November 10th I had my first proper club night out. I was involved in organising SubVERSE Hip Hop event with some mates at the Hairy Dog. As an organiser I was obliged to be there for the duration so arrived at 8 and then bounced a little earlier than I probably should’ve done at about 1. Not drinking alcohol felt a little weird, awkward and unfamiliar at first but once I settled in it was fine. I noticed that I was going outside for cigarettes more, which over the course of the month quietly increased. I was replacing one addiction with another, not to mention my social media useage, coffee intake and book buying habits. Coincidentally, that night, before going out, I listened to the eagerly awaited podcast between Russell Brand and the aforementioned Gabor Mate who broke down the addiction process in detail, touching upon childhood trauma and much more. It’s a fascinating listen I couldn’t recommend highly enough.
The next day I ritualistically put pen to paper planning my week ahead. Alongside setting goals to help heal my body and mind I considered meaningful opportunities to socialise including watching a documentary about the refugee crisis called Movement as well as attending a protest in London with Stand Up to Racism. I was also aware that Extinction Rebellion were taking direct action in the capital to highlight the urgent ecological crisis we face.
During this time I was also reading a key text called the Globalisation of Addiction by Bruce Alexander, better known for his infamous Rat Park experiments, which are well known throughout addiction literature and have been popularised by Johann Hari in his best selling book Chasing the Scream plus his viral TED talk where he states the opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety but instead connection.
In the Globalisation of Addiction Alexander poses a ‘dislocation’ theory of addiction which zooms out to the socio-political context and charts how the the process of capitalist development has also ushered in a global addiction epidemic. He identifies ‘dislocation’ as being the root cause, explaining how the processes of enclosure and commodification have severed traditional human ties with family, community, kinship, the land and our more natural and traditional ways of doing things. This process is significantly traumatic and stressful in itself as entire communities are severed, relationships weakened, people divided and increasingly isolated as the capitalist mode of production and consumption prioritises the maximisation of profits and accumulation of capital above all other values, including human wellbeing and ecological sustainability.
Engaging with the harsh realities of the refugee crisis, rise of the far right and looming ecological collapse, can in itself be deeply distressing and traumatic and this is from a position of relative privilege never mind being on the receiving end of these realities most oppressive manifestations. Capitalist society is inherently stressful as it breeds insecurity and propogates the fulfilment of false needs via consumer-culture ideology. The stress, depression, isolation and chronic physical and mental illness spreads amidst the affected like a disease. In this sense capitalism, ever expanding, obsessed with infinite growth, is cancerous and fuels the pain, despair and distress which begs to be alleviated by the addictive process.
Bruce Alexander, alongside Andrew Harvey who wrote Savage Grace, both suggest that chronic addiction is not only a consequence of capitalism but one of our main obstacles in developing the resilience, courage, clarity and abilities needed to challenge, overcome and create humane alternatives to capitalism that we so desperately need. The scale of the crises we face combined with levels of urgent, wise & considered collective action needed to address them, require a holistically healthy global population, reconnecting with what matters most.
It’s for these, amongst other reasons that radical recovery is so important. In order to recover from our addictions we need to work towards recovering from our trauma and the full frontal assault that we’ve all received from living in capitalist society generally. It is this process of recovery that is the key to us all achieving holistic health, well being and social justice.
Radical recovery entails finding processes, actions & habits that help us heal on a personal and social level, that help us tackle the root of our own addictive processes whilst also contributing to the transformation of society, in whatever way works for us, on whatever level we can, the process of contributing and understand the importance and urgency in doing so can also feed into a sense of purpose and spirituality that is also a crucial component of our recovery.
As the month drew to an end I found myself performing spoken word at City-Zen @ Ryans, thanks to Pippa Nayer, alongside my fellow ex-alcoholic and up and coming local rapper Beetone, who I’d later meet and become deeply inspired by. I also received some incredible massage therapy thanks to Jo Peace at Inner Peace therapy, procured a bicycle thanks to my friends Mikey Cottle & David Clasby via Life Cycle who train ex-prisoners to maintain and build bikes. That same day had a long conversation on the phone with Talking Mental Health who kindly performed an assessment with me, this was on November 24th, my first session was last week on January 17th.
Sadly, unexpectedly, at the very end of the month it was announced that another young man’s life had been lost too soon. More tsunamis shook Derby as those closest groped grief. The condolences and expressions of loss came flooding in as some voids will always be harder to fill than others
A massive thanks to everyone involved in supporting my journey so far and to you for taking the time needed to read this.
We thrive together or not at all
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