Category: Addiction

From Addiction to recovery – True Story

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.

Turning point

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.

Guilty feelings

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

Category: Addiction

From addiction to recovery: the referral process

Kristoffer Johansson* is addicted to drugs. After an emergency visit to hospital he realised something had to change. Like 27,229 UK adults did between 2011-2012, Kristoffer referred himself to rehab.

After a brief break from the UK, the trainee journalist returned home determined to seek professional help to control his seven year battle against bipolar. This took an unexpected turn, and Kristoffer has now entered a structured treatment programme to overcome his reliance on drugs and alcohol.


The Who

Almost 200,000 adults in the UK underwent official treatment to overcome drug abuse between 2011 and 2012, according to the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS).

Out of these, 69,434 were new to treatment journeys.

Like Kristoffer, during this period the majority of the clients undergoing treatment were white (88 percent) and male (73 percent).

The median age for the men was 35 years, one year older than that of the women.

The How

The search for official help took Kristoffer from speaking to a doctor in the A&E department, registering at a local doctor’s surgery, and finally finding a personal support worker at a rehab centre.

Between 2011 to 2012, by far the most common route in was through self referral, with four in ten clients starting treatment this way.

In comparison, only six percent were officially referred by doctors, and 182 clients went through accident and emergency departments, which may be a surprise to many.

Treatment is provided free by the NHS alongside many charity services and getting help can be a simple process. But for someone constantly struggling with their own mental state, Kristoffer felt like he was fighting an uphill battle.

Kristoffer faced uncompassionate staff throughout the process. When he made contact with health professionals he was routinely told he was speaking to the wrong person. He had to overcome a clinic’s phone number that didn’t connect and an out-of-date website publicising misinformation. And most of all, he has had to fight past his own prejudices about what it means to visit an addiction rehab centre.

The hardest part of asking for help came when he heard that his GP could not proceed with treatment for his mental health until he started to control his substance abuse.

He hadn’t been aware that he wasn’t in control. And he had no idea what was next.

The good news is, the majority of clients received their first intervention within three weeks from their first point of contact between 2011 and 2012. Kristoffer’s situation mirrored this after registering with the GP.

This number has increased steadily over the past six years from 87 percent in 2006 to 2007 to 97 percent, as found by the NDTMS.

Commenting on the challenges Kristoffer went through, Harry Shapiro, Director of Communications for the UK’s leading charity supporting professionals working in drug and alcohol treatment DrugWise, said:

As the figures show, there has been a dramatic reduction over the past decade in the waiting times for entering drug treatment.  In the late 90s and early  part of this century – a wait of a year or more was not uncommon.

That said, there are still long-standing concerns for those with a dual diagnosis of substance misuse and mental health problems.

As you have reported, the person in this situation can easily fall through the net of service provision.

And while overall service provision is good, drug users can face stigmatising and hostile responses from health and social care workers. All these issues have yet to be addressed satisfactorily.

The What Next

Treatment is personalised for every individual who seeks help and can involve a number of activities. These may include attending weekly private meetings at day centres, group therapy and mindfulness sessions, drug substitution, or alternatively inpatient detoxification.

Out of the 63,020 clients who exited treatment in 2011 to 2012, nearly half of them left having completed their programmes and were defined having overcome their dependency. On average (mean), these completed their treatment in 506 days (16 months).

Though it’s only been a couple of weeks, Kristoffer’s support worker has been meeting with him weekly and has exchanged mobile phone numbers so to offer 24 hour support.

A long journey still awaits Kristoffer in his battle against bipolar and addiction. But one thing is for sure, at least he has made that first crucial step in the right direction.

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.

To understand the effects of street drugs on your mental health Mind has more information here.

*Name changed for privacy