A reflection on the distance I have travelled as an autistic addict

I can’t really remember the exact date upon which the shit hit the fan for me. I know it was towards the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. My engagement broke up in spectacular fashion and I dissolved into my addiction like salt in hot water.

There was nothing of the real me left anymore, I was a machine, swallowing pills, snorting lines, and smoking anything I could cram into my pipe.

I felt powerless, I had no hope for being any other way. I had given up.

Over the course of the next year I found myself a patient of both secondary mental health services (the highest outpatient tier in my area) and a “client” at my local drug and alcohol treatment service. I had a care coordinator; she wouldn’t stand for the usual addict bullshittery that I was used to using on people, and through her I found my key worker (we’ll call her P) at the drug and alcohol service.

Those two people (although I didn’t know it at the time) would catapult me into a life I couldn’t even imagine.

After some time I reached a place where I was ready to admit I needed help. P got me a place in an inpatient detox program that got me free of my benzo habit. P then guided me through an outpatient detox to get me off of the rest of the drugs.

During this time, P sent an email to someone who worked for “Mind in Brighton and Hove”, a branch of the national UK mental health charity “Mind”. During our sessions P had noted my wish to take my experiences with addiction and do something meaningful with them.

The email was picked up by another person at Mind, we’ll call him R. R would be the person who would guide me into a world of advocacy.

Once I was sober and had entered recovery from psychosis, R invited me to the office. He took me on as a consultant, and rapidly I found myself sitting in commissioner meetings, helping shape the services and treatment policies that affected every addict in the city.

I was working with local authorities to map out the landscape of the drug markets in my home city, and even spearheaded a move to have a local University introduce kits for student drug-users to test the purity of the drugs they were taking.

During this time a discovered my love of writing, and this was the life changing moment.

Suddenly there was a world of people out there who might potentially hear my message. Through my writing I met many others in the autistic community and grew to the point I am at now.

I have gone from being the addict who would “never change” to being a person with a purpose. I have contributed to two books that are awaiting publication, my blog pieces and articles on NeuroClastic have been viewed thousands of times. I have spoken at online events, and made many good friends in the process.

There was a time when I thought my life was over, in fact, everyone thought my life was over, but through hard work, self-reflection, and the privilege of great support, I have found my place in the world.

If you feel like you are lost right now, it’s okay. Just don’t give up. This world is better for having you in it, and I will fight for your rights until you are strong enough to stand by my side and join the fight.

My fellow autistic addicts, you are beautiful people.

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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