Cocaine left Edward isolated, afraid and feeling empty inside. Then he found the strength to ask for help

Edward on a bench smoking a cigarette

It all started in my early teens.

I wasn't happy with who I was, or comfortable in my own skin. I started smoking cannabis at school and it seemed to fill a hole. Others could take or leave it, but I couldn't and I would steal for it, and lie, and manipulate.

The progression to cocaine didn't take long. By 18 I was using at least weekly. At first it was fun and confidence-building for me. I would take it on every social occasion. As I went through my early twenties, my usage got heavier. The stress of running my own business also made me need a release, and the only way how I knew back then, was to get high.

The main feeling that I remember was of being isolated.

I thought I had no one to turn to, no one to tell I was struggling. Looking back, I wish I had screamed for help there and then. I was using cocaine against my will. I took days off work to isolate myself and use it. I would sit there, gram after gram, to try and fill this feeling of emptiness and stress inside of me.

A side-effect of excessive cocaine use is paranoia, and some days it would grab hold of me so badly that I would be looking for people in the bushes, or would be convinced that someone was in my house. I sometimes even found myself scared of my own shadow. My mental health was deteriorating. I knew I was slipping but I was so fearful of telling anybody the truth for fear of being judged.

Being a drug addict exhausted my relationship, my finances, my trust in myself, my confidence, my values, and my emotions

It was a Tuesday morning at 3am, after another £2,000 week. Something inside my head said ‘no more’. I went home and told my fiancée I was addicted to cocaine and that I didn't know what to do. Suddenly it was all out and there was no turning back. I was completely done with it and I knew it was over. Being a drug addict had exhausted me, it had exhausted my relationship, my finances, our finances, my trust in myself, my confidence, my values, and my emotions.

The next day my fiancée marched me to the local GP who found a local drug counselling service in Aldershot, called Step by Step. We walked in and had a chat with a counsellor. She reassured me I could get off this drug and turn my life around and informed me that there was a local 12-step meeting called Cocaine Anonymous.

We went to my parents that night and I told them. We had a very emotional chat about how much of a mess my life had become and how broken I was. Suddenly I had a support network. I had three people who were on my side and who were rooting for me to get better. All this time I had been hiding my emotions from them. All this time I should've just told them and stopped hiding my double life. It was killing me.

That day was 6 November, 2013. It was my clean day, the day I turned my life around and got happy. It was the day I stopped hiding from my own emotions by using narcotics, and faced them head on for the first time in over 14 years. I embarked on a 12-step programme. I went to 90 meetings in 90 days, which was what was suggested to me. All these years I thought I was unique and just disgustingly greedy, but I soon learnt (and more importantly accepted) that I was an addict. I was on the right track. I was recovering.

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I also had some cognitive behavioural therapy counselling, which was helpful and I plan to carry this on. Recovery is hard. It’s extremely emotional and self-searching, but it is an absolute breeze compared to being a drug addict!

Recovery is also an incredibly enlightening, humbling and joyous experience. Recovery saved me. My wife, my parents, and my support network saved me. I reached out for help and help came. If you don't tell anyone you are suffering, they don't know. A problem shared is a problem halved. Just tell someone. Reach out. After all, when you're at rock bottom you have nothing to lose.

Life now is great. I think about cocaine every day but now I have a defence mechanism within me. I deal with life without using and I am extremely grateful for life.

If you would like to talk to a professional about addiction, please visit the Counselling Directory. Further information about drug addiction and getting help can be found on the NHS's website.