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Man on roof

Drugs and self-injury – Ben’s on-going recovery

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This is Ben’s story; it’s written by Ben, and we’re grateful to him for sharing his past pains and on-going struggle. Ben talks about drugs, cutting, and boderline personality disorder.

My drug use and self-injury were interconnected. But the drug use was a different way of achieving the same goal which was to not feel the internal hurt anymore. To me, drugs proved a better and longer fix for the same problem.

Drugs offered me escape – when you are in that moment or that state of mind you need an escape from the pain, and the hurt you are suffering; I think it’s only in the last few years that I actually fully understand that it was a version of self-medicating and self-harm. At the time I just wanted to escape from the world and in all honesty wanted that to be a permanent thing.

I guess the other side of it is wanting to be part of something; wanting to have friends and that was the upside of all the drug use, rather than hurting myself I would take massive amounts of narcotics and suddenly I was the life and soul of the party, people wanted me to be there (at least I thought), be at the things they were going to, and even though people would take the piss out of me, and put me down, and in a way bully me, I never even took any notice of it. I just wanted to be someone different, not me, someone people liked no matter the reason.

Not everyone things of drug-use as self-harm, I would agree with them in some way because you don’t consider the effects it can have.

I certainly didn’t think it was self-harm, I just did it to escape. Now I can see the effect it has had on me and continues to have on me; I became addicted to drugs, and I cannot ever see a time where it doesn’t creep into my thoughts and I have to fight those demons to not go back down that path. Honestly it would be so easy to just give in to those demons as it just means a day, a week, a month, a year without the thoughts and anything’s better than them. But I keep fighting. I think drug taking can be self-harm when the intention is to cope – to avoid the feelings you have to avoid.

I don’t fully think I have fully dealt with my drug use; when it comes up in therapy sessions it still brings me to tears, and brings everything back to the front of my brain, so I think all I actually did was suppress the addiction.

The only way I can say I dealt with it, is by dropping everyone I ever associated with when I was taking drugs, which of course meant I lost a lot of people, but when you say it out loud, that really shouldn’t have been the case, I mean if they were truly friends, they would have stayed and respected my choices. I guess the context of drug use is more important than the individual relationships… The only support and biggest influence I had for quitting drugs was (and luckily still is) my wife. No matter how much shit I put her through she stuck around, and in all honesty I think she saved my life when it came to the drugs.

Getting off drugs didn’t take away the urge to self-injure. I gave up the hard stuff when I was 20 I think? But not 100% certain; I gave up smoking cannabis in about 2006. And the weird thing was I had stopped self-injuring (mostly) about the same time, but that reared its ugly head again in 2014 in a big way. That was when my folks moved away and the abandonment issues I now know are a huge part of suffering from borderline personality disorder struck and I fell down a very dark hole. (I was finally diagnosed with BPD in 2014 I think.)

Bullying has always been a huge driver for my self-injury and drug-taking. Part of my drug taking was to feel part of something, which I guess is down to being bullied and a typical loner back in secondary school, I just wanted to have people like me, but in reality nobody knew the real me anyways, not even me back then. But when you have been verbally abused and physically beaten up for looking the way you do, or listening to the music you do, you learn to become a chameleon and change to feel part of the crowd and to stop the beatings and abuse. The bullying stopped when I left secondary school. Well I thought it had, but it ended up being a whole different type of bullying when I was older. The people I thought were friends were actually very controlling and mentally abusive. So I guess, maybe, being bullied when you are younger you kind of gravitate subconsciously to people that continue that cycle of abuse, without actually realising it.

The bullying has affected me in my adult life; I sometimes see the people that bullied me, and it scares me, I have to try to hide and make sure I’m not noticed.

I don’t know what support would’ve helped back then; I needed help, but I don’t think people (including my parents) would think that name calling etc. would affect you. “Don’t be so daft”, or “stop being silly” would be the things you would hear if you spoke to anyone about it. And the problem is when you face it every day you look to other ways to support yourself. So you don’t have to feel embarrassed about saying anything to anybody.  Especially as, 30 years ago if you were to have said anything, you could almost guarantee that the people that bullied you would find out, either because you were both called to the principal’s office or your parents would go and speak to the bully’s parents, which would inevitably lead to another beating or more abuse from the people that bullied you as they would know you had grassed on them.

Recovery is an ongoing struggle, you just learn to fight that bit harder, and pray that you are strong enough or have something that stops you from giving up and trying to score drugs. What keeps me from doing it again, is my wife and kids, but some days if we have a row… Those voices start whispering to me again…

But I know if I went back to drugs I’d lose my family. And honestly, would I want them to be there if I was back on it again? No I don’t think I’d want my kids, to see that.

I still find myself cutting myself when I am really down about something or struggling; I don’t like my wife to know, but I just really really need a release every so often.

I used to be on lots of meds for it, but took myself off them for fear of starting to self-medicate with them. My biggest fear is abandonment; I don’t deal with that very well, if at all.  I started doing 1-2-1 therapy for a while, before I was seen my a psychologist who put me into a STEPPS group for 6 months maybe a bit longer, I am now ½ way through a STAIRWAYS group which is the follow on to STEPPS.

It impacts my life quite a lot; my wife still doesn’t quite understand it and I think sometimes she feels it’s just an excuse for my irrational and sometimes moody behaviour.

I still get very anxious when I speak to my parents on the phone as them leaving was when I fell apart, there are days when all I want is to be left alone, but have someone there to hug.

BPD is a very weird thing to understand, everything is Black and White there is no grey.

You find yourself wanting to be with people but not wanting there in the same minute.

And when I look back on my life I realise that I have always been that way. But Mental Health wasn’t such a big thing when I was younger, there wasn’t such an understanding around it.

There is still a stigma about the ‘Mental Health’ label – I prefer the term ‘Limited Edition’ :)

You look back at the things that have happened, the people that you have lost or in my case pushed away, or left because of my choices.  And being BPD is the first thing that actually makes sense out of all of it.

Sure I can’t put everything down to that, but it helps explain a lot of what happened.

I hope that if you are reading this, and managed to make it to the end, that it has helped you? Or at the very least given you something to think about.


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