Finding sobriety: The seemingly insurmountable challenge

Many people ask me how I found sobriety, what changed in me to trigger that growth. I honestly think that might be the wrong question, not to mention awfully difficult to answer for most people in my position. The question that I think needs to be asked, is why didn’t I find sobriety sooner? What was it that drove me to keep using?

I kept going back to the drugs and alcohol. Every time I decided that it was time to return to normal life, I kept finding myself rapidly returning to my old behaviours. Even after I suffered a spontaneous pneumothorax (spontaneous collapse of the lung), I swore I would stop smoking cigarettes and weed, yet once back in my normal life, found myself using all over again. This despite the fact that I had nearly died.

What was it that made it so difficult to quit?

My answer to that is deceptively simple. Addiction takes everything from you; my relationships were in tatters, my career was gone, I was incapable of living independently, what little money I had would be rapidly burned up buying drugs and alcohol. I had very little in terms of professional support to begin with because my behaviour meant that I did not easily engage with services.

Addiction takes everything from you, but requires all of your resources to beat.

I had to get creative, and seek a lot of support to find the resources I needed to get sober. I turned to places I never imagined. I spent a month in a psychiatric ward going through an inpatient detox. I joined the twelve-step programs in my city, and although they weren’t appropriate for me, they did teach me a lot about my addiction.

Once I had found sobriety, I had to keep it. There were two vital ingredients to maintaining my sobriety; Open communication and my autism diagnosis.

Once I learned to start communicating my needs, my strengths, and my struggles, professionals were able to support me better, and my friends and family could begin to unravel the sources of a lot of my more harmful behaviours. This led to the second ingredient. When I started to communicate what I was going through, the autism that professionals had denied my entire life became apparent (fun fact: the name of my blog ‘Emergent Divergence’ is in fact a reference to the fact that my autistic traits appeared to emerge to professionals once I was sober).

I maintain my sobriety now through communication and altruism. I advocate for others because it allows me to communicate my experience in a goal oriented way. By discussing my struggles and strengths, I am able to help others. Addiction can make a person very selfish, and I am resolved now to be the opposite of that.

If you are an addict, wondering how you will ever find sobriety, please keep trying. Different things work for different people, and especially if you are autistic, you need to be open to breaking away from mainstream routes to sobriety. I don’t mean engaging with pseudoscience, but you do need to approach the task with an open mind.

Sobriety is a beautiful thing to achieve, and worth the blood, sweat, and tears that it takes to achieve. Keep going, keep pushing towards sobriety. There is a world outside of addiction that shines in hypercolour, and one day you will look back on your journey and be proud of yourself.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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