“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us,” Albert Schweitzer
At the beginning of 2014 my life changed beyond all recognition. I, for the first time was brutally honest with myself and I realised that I needed help. My cocaine addiction had taken me to a point from which I thought there was no return.
Mounting debt, breakdown in relationships, the deception both to myself and others and my worsening mental health had meant I was out of control.
I self-referred to Priority House and spent two weeks in a mental health unit. When I came out I was clean, but realised that I could not continue on my own any further and needed external support, I self-referred into the West Kent Recovery Service and started to attend Aspire2be meetings.
My recovery journey continues and will be with me for the rest of my life. I am dealing with each part, especially the mental health issues, but I have discovered that the recovery journey is one made of what seems to be inconsequential, mundane and tiny parts; a changed thought, an ignored craving, a different action all accumulating and amalgamating to create something very different.
It is why so many struggle in early recovery and why it took me so long to “get it”. The problem seems so large and all-encompassing that it becomes overwhelming. Understanding that you only need deal with the smallest aspects of the problem each time brings a realisation that it can be beaten.
I have viewed my own recovery like the building of a house. When a brick is manufactured you shape a piece of clay - this is made up of tiny hydrous silicate particles. When you then bake the brick the water (the hydrous bit!) comes out and there you have a brick. As each brick is laid, eventually a house comes into existence.
The amazing thing is that house is essentially made of tiny microscopic particles - this is what recovery is – the accumulation of tiny, yet important, changes that in the end create a changed person.
There is also another factor that affects recovery - balance. Addiction drags the person into chaos and you become obsessed by that to the detriment of anything else. The recovery journey has taught me that we must seek to have a well-adjusted approach to life not letting one single area dominate.
One of the things I have been encouraged by my CRI Keyworker, West Kent Recovery and the Aspire groups has been to consider what they call my “recovery capital”. I can hear the little switches of disinterest being turned on as I write. Though it sounds like some American sales technique it does work. For someone to recover and stay on that road requires all areas of one’s life to be better balanced and that one has resources “banked” should challenging times come.
I had a long hard look at myself, never an easy exercise because you have to be honest, brutally so. The realisation came to me that I was particularly deficient in one area, my spiritual life. This is a particularly difficult area for me as I came out of a cult when I was in my early twenties so I am very wary of anything that smacks of religion.
This is the rub though; all humans need some spirituality in their lives whatever flavour or interpretation that is right for them. This is where Small Sparks has come in.
The grant has allowed me to connect with the world. The grant has allowed me to buy turf for my back garden and a little shed to house tools and a lawn mower. Very mundane ordinary things but they are helping me to connect with the spiritual part of my life that has been so deeply affected by my past.
Martyn's new garden
I have been able to convert what was a decked monstrosity (the previous owner of the house seemed to be obsessed with not having any plants except in pots) into a haven of stillness - a space that I can call my own. I can sit with my partner and enjoy time with her and the two of us can be involved with something that is growing and dynamic.
My personal situation meant that though we had plans for the garden we simply could not afford to do it. The grant has allowed me to breathe life into what was an eyesore. I was able to recycle the decking as fencing and gates and the garden is greening up well.
I started with the Albert Schweitzer quote as I think it is very appropriate. The changes in my life have been caused by those small sparks being fanned to life, my partner, CRI, Aspire2Be, friends and now I have a permanent spiritual bolt hole to add to that, all protecting my long term recovery from addiction.
If you take nothing else from this piece, then please take this, recovery is made up of small sparks all gathering together to light a fire that sustains a person through the ups and downs of recovery.
There is a life after addiction and, do you know, it is pretty good!
This was a guest post by Martyn. Martyn is an active member of the West Kent Recovery Community, a member of Aspire2Be and a recent recipient of the Small Sparks Scheme. Small Sparks is a grant giving scheme that helps people spark the next stage in their recovery. If you would like to find out more about the RSA's work in West Kent then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org