Hi, my name is Derek, I first started taking drugs at the age of 12-year-old back in my hometown Dundee, I started experimenting with drugs like solvents, cannabis, alcohol, and ecstasy in my teenage years before quickly progressing on to drugs like diazepam and temazepam, before eventually being introduced to heroin around the age of 17. This was around the time I became physically dependent on drugs and from then it was just a constant battle to get myself clean, I had periods of clean time while in treatment when I was 21 but struggled to maintain this, my thinking was always as long as I am not taking heroin I was okay I struggled on like this for years before going back into treatment in 2009 a residential rehab in Glasgow. This was where I eventually got clean from all drugs and started thinking of abstinence as the way forward for myself, although I continued to struggle with alcohol. I couldn’t come to terms with a life of total abstinence, my head always told me things like you’re too young to stop drinking, what will you do with your life if you can’t go out at the weekend and have a sociable drink.
I continued with this thinking having periods of five or six-month abstinent but always ended up having a drink. During this time I was just barely managing to keep my life in order, I went to University and completed a degree in music technology and then started to work in a community music project, before then moving on to complete the Scottish Drug Forums Addiction Worker Training Project. At the start of this course, I did again try to become total abstinent and again managed to stay abstinent for around 6 months before picking up alcohol. I eventually got to the point with alcohol where I was starting to feel that I was going to do what I have always done, got so far in my recovery and then hit the self destruct button, so I made a decision to make a real effort to move towards total abstinence.
I started attending a twelve-step fellowship and got myself a sponsor, this was the turning point in my recovery I felt that once I had a made a decision to become total abstinent I started to accept that I can no longer take any drugs, alcohol included, I started to see the truth. I started to realise that alcohol although not my drug of choice it was always the first drug in the progression that eventually took me back to my drug of choice, from this point my recovery really started to grow, I started to make real friends and started to gain a belief in myself that I had never felt before I started to understand that I couldn’t do this alone and realised as long as I was humble enough to ask for help and stick close to others with the same aspirations for recovery as me I could actually do this. For the first year of my life of total abstinence, I stuck close to meetings and attended at least four or five every week.
As time progressed and I became stronger in my recovery, my meeting attendance relaxed a bit and I started to make that bridge back into normal living, I started to do things that I didn’t think I could do without drugs, like enjoy gigs and music festivals. These were things that I always associated with being out of my head! So to start to do these things and actually enjoy them drug-free was like a spiritual awakening for me, I started to look at life differently I started to look at life and experiences as an opportunity to grow, all my life I had struggled with social situations and still do but now rather than take drugs to get myself through these situations I started to use them as opportunities to challenge myself and break down the negative beliefs I had about myself. I believed I was anxious, uncomfortable, weird, I realised that I am actually okay in social situations and the more I challenged myself and put myself in situations I started to gain new positive experiences that I could then use as affirmations if feeling uncomfortable about social situations.
My professional life really started to take off too. Through becoming total abstinent my confidence and belief in myself improved greatly, I started working in an alcohol treatment centre as a Support Worker, and while there completed an SVQ 3 in Health and Social Care, I spent two years there and learned so much about being an addiction worker, before moving onto a Practitioner role within a community rehab where I spent the next year putting into practise the skills I had learned in my previous employment. Unfortunately, the community rehab closed down, something I was sad about at the time as I had made really close friends while working there, but I couldn’t have ever imagined where my life was going to go from there. I got another job as a community engagement coordinator this was like my dream job, my role was to help support the recovery communities in Glasgow and it has been such a great experience for me to be part of a growing recovery movement that challenges the stigma surrounding addiction. In this role I have had some amazing opportunities like very recently I was allowed to support the recovery walk in my hometown Dundee something that meant so much to me. I had always wanted to go back to Dundee and do something positive in the city, and I grabbed this opportunity with both hands, with the whole experiences culminating in the walkthrough Dundee city and centre and then myself and a few other Dundonians getting to give a speech in front of 2000 people in my hometown wearing a pair of shed specks and a Recovery Dundee t-shirt saying “this is what recovery looks like”. That for me is what recovery is about having the ability to push through your fears and be a part of the world around you in a productive manner, so far my recovery has been one amazing experience after another and I totally believe, the best is yet to come!