This is a story of one man’s struggle to seek help to overcome an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
A fight with addiction
Kristoffer Johansson* is a broadcast journalist currently undergoing a masters degree in journalism at City University London.
For the past seven years, Kristoffer has had bipolar disorder. However, due to a fear and an unwillingness to accept official routes to control the disorder he’s taken to self-medicating, relying on drugs and alcohol to balance his moods.
After an emergency trip to the hospital following a drug-fuelled binge that went wrong, Kristoffer realised he couldn’t hide from his mental state any longer and needed to seek help before it was too late.
The road to recovery
When he visited a GP he was given the details for a local addiction centre and was told the doctor wouldn’t help any further until he started to control his substance abuse.
Now, at a different clinic than originally suggested following a few failed attempts to make contact with the first, Kristoffer has his own support worker who is readily available to guide, educate and support him on his road to recovery.
He also has access to free group therapy sessions, mindfulness classes and gym facilities, to name but a few activities. Kristoffer still has a long journey ahead of him but has certainly made those initial steps in the right direction.
But the process to get this support, though on the surface was simple enough, presented mental hurdles every step of the way.
For Kristoffer, the most shocking of hurdles to overcome was that fact that he was regularly greeted with an unfriendliness and harshness by those very people who are working in a system there to help.
This is Kristoffer’s story in his own words:
Master of lies
You would probably never be able to guess what I suffer from.
The only thing that could possibly give this away is if we met up close and if you saw the traces of it on my scarred wrists.
When you suffer from what I do, especially if you self medicate and have an addictive personality, you automatically become a professional liar, hider and manipulator.
The more you love someone, the more you care for someone, the bigger the reason you have for not wanting to hurt them by your mental illness. Therefore, logically, the more you lie.
Because I don’t look or act like I’m mentally ill when you see me walking down the street or sitting in a lecture (at 10am, after having drank two cans of beer and snorted a couple of lines of cocaine or amphetamine), you’d never be able to get me the help I need, no matter how much you care for me.
Not my acquaintances and especially not the ones closest to me (since these are who I lie to most) will ever notice how I feel or how I treat myself, unless I let them.
Eventually, after an accidental overdose, which made it impossible to hide my mental status any longer, I received the support and strength needed to seek treatment.
Unfortunately, my attempt to find help was only to be greeted by a verbal elbow in my face and an annoyed look, putting me on the verge of completely giving up – to give up and to possibly repeat that accidental overdose some day in the future, but maybe next time it would be deliberate.
The verbal elbow and the eyes that told me I wasn’t welcome at the rehab clinic (a place referred to me by my GP) was something I needed to confront as I knew I had done nothing wrong.
If the fact I had visited the wrong clinic was anyone’s fault, it was either my GP’s or the lady’s with the elbow on the reception.
But what you need to understand is that when you feel like I do, you think that everyone hates you and you always think that you have something to apologise for.
In the same way that you lie the most to the people you love the most, you automatically think that the people you care for the most are the ones who hate you the most.
A right to life
If that elbow and annoyed look from the lady at the rehab clinic would be swapped for an outstretched hand and a friendly smile it could lead to a place in care, and hopefully consequences in a life without addiction and mental instability.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are many people within the NHS that want what’s best for you and who try their hardest to help.
But, if I – someone who you can’t physically see is suffering, someone who has support from a vast social network of relatives and friends – almost wasn’t strong enough to keep pushing for my rights a second, third and fourth time after that elbow, how do you think someone without my network but with my symptoms would feel?
The thing is, it is your RIGHT to have the opportunity to help yourself, and to be encouraged when you try.
The battle goes on
Though I have finally found a suitable place to help me after several redirections, miscommunications and unwelcoming greetings, I’m not saying now that I am guaranteed to get well.
I’m not naïve and saying that the understanding and friendly staff in the clinic I’m now welcomed to will automatically create miracles for me.
I’m not saying I will never crave that shortcut of self-medication as opposed to taking the long and painful route towards wellbeing in the long run.
I’m just saying that I now seem to have the opportunity to get better after fighting for it.
But that is the problem – I wasn’t GIVEN that opportunity, I had to FIGHT for it.
I had to fight for help after I had managed to fight the two toughest battles of them all: first, to admit to myself what I needed, and secondly, to allow those closest to me become soldiers who now fight by my side.
Many, many people have been and will be weaker than me and will never be able to win those first two battles. Why then make them fight an elbow and an annoyed look on top of it all?
If you’re in a similar situation to Kristoffer, there are a wide range of services available to help you cope and the NHS provides a great deal of information to help get your treatment started.
For immediate information and support regarding drugs, call the Frank helpline on 0800 776600. Frank is a confidential helpline, operating 24 hours every day.
Alternatively, use this search to find your nearest NHS drug addiction support services.
*Name has been changed for privacy