This Life: My new drug is love

After years of addiction to alcohol and drugs, Mark Richmond has succeeded in turning his life around

Most people can remember their first drink. I can’t. I thought I was the classic moody teenager but my mum and the doctor didn’t see it that way. At the age of 16 the doctor put me on antidepressants but I had already found a better medicine: alcohol. It relieved my symptoms a lot better than the medication the doctor had prescribed.

I moved to my own place and one day while visiting my mum she turned to me and said I was becoming an “alcoholic tramp”. It hit a nerve. I moved back in with my parents, pulled myself together and took a job working on an agency as a kitchen porter.

The next period in my life was spent in and out of catering jobs and drinking more and more. By now I had developed a taste for whisky and cherry brandy. My parents must have been aware there was a problem but they couldn’t help me because I was in denial. I didn’t want to accept there was something wrong with me. I began to self-harm because I felt that was what I deserved.

I started suffering badly with alcohol withdrawal and blackouts. Sometimes I would come to and not remember anything from the week before. I severely overdosed on drugs three times during this period. At the time I didn’t care whether I lived or died. It was at this point that my doctor told me I was an alcoholic, just as my mum had predicted all those years before.

The next few years saw me in and out of detox, and different rehabilitation centres when they put me on a methadone programme. With the help of some wonderful people I started the journey of getting to where I am today. I attended the Tillingham day hospital where they taught me how to handle everyday situations, how to understand my illness and how to handle my raw emotions. Slowly but surely, instead of just existing I began to actually live life and enjoy it. I also continued with the methadone programme.

Now I have been sober and clean for more than a year and I feel that I am a different person. I am attending college doing IT, maths and English. Last May I went to the volunteer centre in Chelmsford and met Pauline Pickering, the volunteer support worker. We looked at opportunities into volunteering and I was asked whether I’d like to be a buddy.

In my recovery no one had put much faith in me and to be asked to be a buddy made me feel I had turned a corner. I felt valued for who I was. Today I am everything I ever wanted to be and more. The most important thing I have is a renewed relationship with my partner and my son.

Now that I can feel emotion I have decided my new drug is love and understanding. I can rest my head on my pillow at night and sleep easy. I have many regrets and feel a lot of remorse for things I have done in the past. I accept I cannot change the past but I can change the future into something good to look forward too.

Mark Richmond is a former substance misuser

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