A Personal Story By John Taylor
by John Taylor
Music phenomenon and author of In The Pleasure Groove, John Taylor moved from the excesses of success to loneliness and depression, through the tough paths of recovery, to the joy of building relationships with family and friends.
I am an alcoholic. A drug addict. I could not control my use of alcohol or drugs and my using caused me to behave in ways I never would have done had I been sober. 19 years ago, I checked into a rehab facility. I spent 30 days there. It turned my life around.
Based on this experience, I believe in rehab. I believe in the turn-around that is possible through rehab. A life that is spiralling and out of control can be made useful and successful once living drug and alcohol free. It was in rehab that I was first introduced to the 12-step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Alcoholism is a disease that is also a spiritual malady. I believe that it is a form of genetic defect, why some of us can stop after one drink and some of us can’t after 20. Whether that is fact or not is unimportant. What is important is believing in the idea. It lets everyone off the hook, for one thing, everyone and everything you have ever blamed for your life problems. And that’s a big deal.
But it doesn’t mean you are not accountable for your actions from here on, from the time you discover recovery. On the contrary.
Most of us who wind up in 12-step programmes aren’t there because our lives are working. More often, life is crashing down around us. Out of work and unemployable, family hardly on speaking terms, poor health… That’s the perfect state to enter a 12-step programme. It’s called the gift of desperation.
And here’s another thing about alcoholism: it’s an equal opportunity illness. It will bring down lawyers and footballers, veterans and factory workers, rich and poor. It recognises not ethnicity nor age, and it has no political allegiance.
But getting to that place of acknowledgement… I have a problem with alcohol, I have a problem with drugs… Once there, I was ready to be helped. It was all right for me: I could write a cheque. But that is not the case for the majority of people in this country who want help now.
How Can We Help Others To Achieve Recovery
If the government can step in and help more people over the line and into treatment, that help will be the greatest gift that can be given to that person. Because if that person stays sober – and it is an if, I acknowledge that… not everyone stays clean who enters rehab, but many do – that person will be giving back to the community the rest of his or her life. They become the ideal citizens the government claims to be so badly in need of.
How to help get them there? I would like to see in my lifetime a nationwide programme to inform all doctors of the success rate of 12-step programmes, so that care based on this becomes the treatment of choice for problem drinkers and drug users. Such mutual-aid groups have been endorsed by Nice and the World Health Organisation.
I would like to see distribution of pamphlets and materials about AA and 12-step programmes throughout doctors’ offices, clinics and hospitals. More young offenders could be offered drug and alcohol treatment instead of prison. Drug courts are proving successful from West London to the US.
Support Careers In Recovery Counselling
Careers in drug and alcohol counselling should be encouraged. There are degree courses available at Bath University and South Bank University. Many ex-drug addicts and alcoholics are turning to a career in counselling, but most people currently considering a degree in counselling would not be granted a loan. This is a late-life career choice. It is not a job for an inexperienced 18-year old. We want men and women in their 40s to turn to this line of work – but for an adult to enroll in two years of study is an expensive commitment. Perhaps funding could be found for scholarships, which the government could then match?
Support After Treatment
In my case, 30 days at a residential treatment facility was enough, but many of us need more. And it is significant to recognise that, in order to maintain abstinence, patients must follow their rehab treatment with an ongoing peer support programme – sometimes seen in “working the 12 steps” – on leaving the facility. An alcoholic or a drug addict’s recovery is never over, and he or she is never completely ‘recovered’ just because they have completed the rehab experience.
According to the proven formula of the 12-step programmes for drugs and alcohol, abstinence must be practiced “one day at a time” without picking up that ‘first drink’ or a drug. This can be done successfully only with ongoing peer support, meetings and ‘sponsoring’ (the mentoring aspect of the programme).
For some people, this can be accompanied by more formal, structured therapeutic aftercare or extended care which links patients’ process of change therapy to their process of change in the mutual-aid groups.
Residential treatment is neither free nor cheap, but ‘aftercare’ as it exists in the 12-step community is free.
Whatever the cost to put an individual through a residential treatment plan, I believe these expenses will prove to be worthwhile. Certainly, they are cheap compared to the expense of supporting someone with lifelong addiction and alcohol problems: low or no wage-earning, draining the NHS with continual health issues, policing, court and prison for crime and family violence.
Giving Back To Society
Evidence suggests that the greater number of individuals living sober in 12-step programmes are able to earn above the national average, and as members of their community offer themselves in service to other addicts and alcoholics who have less ‘time’ than they do. They give back in order to maintain their own abstinence, thus helping the system that helped them.
Rehab is not always necessary. AA gets the greater proportion of its members directly in off the streets. But more and more, I hear gratitude from people who say that without getting into rehab, if only for 30 days, they would not be alive today, let alone be a functioning, thriving, useful member of society.
When a person with a serious problem needs to be taken out of circulation, and wants to, is ready to, get away from the home and the clubs and the supermarket and all the local triggers, rehab is the best option.
Today more rehabs are closing than are opening. Only about 2% of problem drug users ‘in the system’ are allowed to enter rehab. Of the over £1billion pounds spent on combating drugs each year only 2-3% is spent on rehab.
Rather than rehabs being forced to close, there should be an expanding of services, including development of specialist residential facilities for young people.
Anyone who has the wherewithal to understand and accept their problem for what it is, that they have a problem with alcohol or drugs that they cannot solve by themselves, should be encouraged to get help – that is, treatment – and government should be prepared to help make that happen. The words are there in Drug Policy 2010; implementation must follow through on the promises.
My thought is that this is a similar situation to the world of higher education, which was once a privilege available only to the few. After the war, we realised that every member of our society is as important as the other and a plan was put in place that has changed the lives of millions to the good.
The psychology, the education into knowing who we are, and why we do what we do, as part of a 12-step treatment plan – currently on offer in this country only to the few – is an extraordinary one. And one day I would like to see it being offered to all who want it.