I keep one photograph close to me at all times. It serves as a bookmark in whatever I am currently reading, but it’s also a reminder, a souvenir if you like, of the most troubled and darkest moments of my life. The photograph in question shows me at a family reunion but no one is smiling, and looking at my sunken eyes, shallow cheeks and greasy appearance, it’s hard to accept that the stranger staring back at me is in fact how I used to look nine years ago. There is one expression spread across the faces of my family, it’s a mixture of concern and resignation. They had resigned themselves to the fact that my destructive behaviour was going to lead to my ultimate demise. That was Andy Macia, me, back then.
I can sit here now and say that fortunately, somehow, it all changed, but this road to compulsion recovery has been far from plain sailing. I have spent nine years now in deep introspection and wonder how I can repair all of the relationships I destroyed during my secret life, how I can once again establish myself professionally having decimated my career, pay off the lengthy list of legal bills I have accrued and balance out my debts, and finally, but possibly most importantly, recover my health.
It seems unrealistic to say that I have developed a love of running and working out, but, I now know that getting out of the house and occupying my time healthily keeps my demons away. At the very beginning, it was a chore, not to mention painful and I thought often about returning to the bottle, it was, of course, the easy option.
Here’s how I have felt improvements now that I am clean and sober:
- My brain feels clear, my decision-making, stress levels, and reactions have improved. I have come to terms with the fact that after so many years addicted to alcohol, hard drugs and finally as a workaholic, I will never have the body and capabilities of a young man again, but, I can recover some semblance of a life.
- Exercise has, in fact, become an important part of my life. I have been clearing out my medicine cabinet as my defences are in great shape. Previously, after so many excesses, my immune system was shot and I would inevitably be the sick person in any company. This, in turn, has benefited my sleeping patterns and I function perfectly on an eight-hour cycle now.
- A word of advice for those of you who have not been working out to a routine for a long period of time, you cannot and must not pick up where you left off. Your heart will not be able to manage the stress of a full workout, not to mention the rest of your body. If there was the fear that you could have suffered a heart attack on drugs, there’s an increased probability of this occurring while participating in strenuous exercise. Be careful.
- My doctors told me that if I had been an alcoholic for just one week longer, my case of cirrhosis, amongst the worst they had ever seen, would have resulted in me needing a transplant, can you imagine? I can never have a drink again, but you know what, I don’t miss it.
- So, overall, I am absolutely certain that my body has undergone some severe changes during my addictions and now in my new life. Exercise has played its part and I am also careful to watch what I eat and pay attention to my appearance too. I am ashamed to say that at one point, with my hair thinning, my skin jaundiced due to septicemia and my veins collapsed due to too many needles, my family had pretty much given up on me, they saw no chance of recovery. Now, I run, play sports and have healthy working relationships with those around me.
I am living proof that substances abuse and alcohol can impact your health and even end your life, not to mention the lives of those around you. Think about my five examples of issues that can end up being fatal, damage your brain, weaken your immune system, give you a faulty heart, cause liver cirrhosis and affect your overall physical well-being, every one of these plays its part in your body’s complex science and each one needs to be cared for. Sometimes, all you need is to look hard at your current use of substances and seek help and treatment if that use is becoming unmanageable.
There are friends of mine from those awful days in the past who remain unable to kick the habit and stay sober when I see them in their despair, anxiety, and depression, I wonder if I can help. But, my journey has been a hard one and I have had to focus on confronting my own health issues.
My name is Andy Macia and I am a recovering addict. This is me now, and I am fortunate to say that I no longer resemble that stranger in the photograph alongside my long-suffering family. There are self-help books, information online and groups, but nothing is more effective in helping a recovering addict than the help of another addict.
How can I help others?
Do you or have you ever suffered from addiction? Share your story and let’s try and work through this together.
Ana Miller is a creative writer. Her topics of interest and expertise range from psychology to all sorts of disciplines such as science and news.