Bronwen Smith’s Raw and Honest Story of her Recovery.
My Life Story – Bronwen Smith (Experience-Strength-Hope – 18 Months – 04 June 2015)
I’m Bronwen and I’m an addict. I’m going to take you on my life’s journey and hope you take something out of my share.
I come from a loving, stable, secure family. So secure that my parents are still married after
42 happy years of marriage. I have one older brother, Brett who is married to Christie. They have a 2 year old son Cole, who they’ve made me legal guardian to, which I am very proud to be.
I don’t remember much from my early childhood years… but then who does. I was born in Durban; however I have moved back and forth my whole life between Durban and Johannesburg.
While still living in Durban, like all teenagers, I started experimenting at a young age. My experimenting started off with alcohol which started off as a now and then thing but progressed very quickly to an every weekend activity. Alcohol as you know gives you a false sense of confidence and makes you lose all your inhibitions, which then by the age of 15 led me to try and start smoking weed occasionally.
At this stage we moved from Durban back to Johannesburg, and this is when my wheels fell off.
One of my first addictions was Tippex thinners and when I ran out… nail polish remover. I started smoking more weed, and there was a lot of drinking… Including stealing my dad’s red wine and other booze. A month before my 16th birthday, I got extremely pissed at a party and ended up having sex for the first time, which ended up being a one night stand.
Falling in love was easy, but my first love *Darren was not the best influence as well as turning out to be an abusive person. I went from weed, alcohol and thinners to experimenting with acid at the night clubs I enjoyed frequenting. At school I rebelled badly, and eventually took an overdose at the age of 17 and was hospitalised. After this, once home, I couldn’t handle my reality and have never coped well with being told what to do, so thought the best escape was to run away. I ran away for a month to *Darren and his family. This snowballed into problem after problem and eventually I dropped out of school in the 3rd term of STD 9.
Now out of school, completely lost and not knowing what to do with my life, I enrolled in a Girl Friday course at Academy of Learning – where I completed a 1 year course in 6 months. I started working when I was 17. All of this took its toll on my family as you all can imagine and in 1996 my dad had a mild stroke, which at the time, he blamed me for. My family and I then moved a few times after this back and forth between cities but still I rebelled and took no responsibility for my actions and all the events surrounding what I never realised then to be – MY ADDICTION.
My addictions took a turn for the worse when I started dabbling in Ecstasy. By the time I turned 21 I had tried coke while still continuing with the rest of my vices, all while hitting the pubs, clubs and rave scene in a big way.
I was lucky enough to receive a free plane ticket at a previous company I worked at, so took this opportunity to travel abroad, I did a working holiday in London, travelled to Ibiza and did a 21 day Contiki tour around Europe. My travels were amazing but my vices followed me and my addiction had not changed – I now realise this is because I had no idea I actually was an addict and had been for a very long time.
On my return, I started working at Cinevation (where I currently still work) from 17 October 2001 as a PA. My boss grew me into a media position within a year. I studied a part time Media Management Diploma at the AAA School of Advertising in 2008 and became fully qualified in Media and Advertising.
One of the biggest and most tragic and traumatising events in my life was soon to become my reality, in the next love I met by the name of *Paul. He was my everything and I was completely devoted to him in every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately he was the ultimate abuser, manipulator and fuelled my addiction to levels of no return.
I had my first line of Cat in December 2001 just before meeting *Paul. With *Paul I continued to use cat and E but it progressed to cat every weekend, then once during the week, then we became middlemen dealers, which is when our habit increased. We were co-dependent, I smoked weed occasionally, and we used to go for 4 days with no sleep until we passed out. *Paul developed psychosis after all the abuse of Weed, Cat and Coke (which I didn’t know about). He tried to set me alight in Ponta D’Ouro; he tried to strangle me a few times, sometimes I would even hurt myself because I couldn’t handle being accused and blamed for things all the time. I couldn’t shave, wear sexy underwear or even go to the guest loo 5 steps away from him, without him seeing me at all times, because he would wonder who I was having sex with. These are just a few of the things I went through with *Paul, I would have you here for a long time, if I had to go through all events that took place.
We got engaged in 2005 and were supposed to get married in November 2006, but I ended up in a treatment centre (The Gap) on the 25th July 2006. The event which led me into treatment was, that my boss strongly suspected I was using and called an intervention with my family. I started as an outpatient at a treatment centre (First Step) but *Paul had not started treatment which made it almost impossible for me to stop, being around him while he was using.
I thought I could cheat the system by asking others how long it had been before they got tested, however that didn’t work out that well. I got “bust” twice by testing positive and was then sent into an inpatient treatment centre (The Gap) for 13 weeks. *Paul continued using. He came through to visit me one Saturday and was tested upon arrival and tested positive for Coke. He was then sent to a rehab in Underberg for 6 weeks. I managed to keep my job, and the 13 weeks in treatment (The Gap) were given to me as unpaid leave. I was probably clean and sober for about 4 months. I then started drinking again in the December, I was never a big drinker, but started drinking again, so relapsed. *Paul and I starting using Cat occasionally again, and eventually the abuse started all over again. Towards the end he was going to whore houses, and always blamed me for having orgies whilst he was sleeping. He eventually used to drop me at work and I would always have to report to him my every move. It was mostly verbal and emotional abuse that I went through, however there was some physical. The final straw was after one weekend when he grabbed and bruised my arm quite badly, I spoke to my folks finally, told them what was going on and they helped me move out the next Wednesday, 12th September 2007. From this day I didn’t use drugs again for about 4 and a half years, however I continued to drink. By this stage, I hardly saw friends anymore and also hardly saw my family. My brother was no longer mates with *Paul. I was made to give the engagement ring back, even though I paid for the gold and the making of the ring… as the diamonds were family Heirlooms. He had broken me right down, from a confident and happy person, to someone who hardly spoke and cried every day… I began to think that crying every day was normal until I left him and then realised that it wasn’t. I was scared to start over and to move back in with my folks, but it turned out to be the best thing I could’ve done.
I had to rebuild myself. I had flings with a few guys. I then bumped into *Ray, who I had known from my school days. We dated for about 2 months, this is when I finally realised how I should be treated and I’ll always be so grateful to him for that. I did however turn out to be his rebound. I then dated *Steve for about 3 months, who I had met through *Ray, and turned out to be his rebound too. Overtime, *Ray and *Steve became my 2 best guy mates. *Ray unfortunately was involved in a car accident in March 2011, he was in a coma for 7 ½ months and then passed away on 12 November 2011. This affected me more than I realised at the time, and even after 3 years since his passing, it still hurts. However, I know it will eventually get easier.
I started using shrooms from about March 2012 and occasionally E and then back to my drug of choice, Cat. In September 2012 I met a guy, *Craig at a mate’s birthday. He was a dealer on the side. Apart from a few MDMA’s or pills, I never really bought or got anything else from him. *Craig and I were together properly from November to the beginning of February 2013 when he ended it. I was really hurt. One of my best mates, gave me her healer’s number to see if she could help me. I saw my healer from 14 February until June for 4 sessions and a healing your heart course. In this time I realised that I had never dealt with the way *Paul treated me, I’d just suppressed it. It was suggested to work on me and my happiness. I also learnt to always trust my gut and always do what makes me feel comfortable and happy.
My using became every weekend from February 2013 when *Craig and I broke up. I became a weekend addict. I went out every weekend with one of my best mates *Claire. *Claire and I have known each other since 2001. She used to date *Paul and our brothers knew each other from Durban. We lost some contact and didn’t see each other that often, however we became single at the same time and started using every weekend together until August 2013 when she started getting serious with her current boyfriend. It was at this time that I started seeing a lot more of the new mates I’d met like *Ben and the Guys, *Keith, *Sarah and a few others. Every weekend we got together and used. We’d club hop, always finding the next “jol”, and would carry on like idiots. This is also when I started taking GHB and tried Crystal Meth and basically did whatever was going. We did have a lot of great times; however it wasn’t all smiles for me, especially from August when some bad consequences started. There are three particularly bad ones that come to mind.
In August 2013, after using and staying awake from Friday through to Monday morning 2am. When I got home I took half a dormicum sleeping tab. I started feeling wobbly after about 15 mins, so sat on my kitchen bar stool. The last thing I remember is eating a tennis biscuit and smoking a cigarette. The next thing I know, it’s about 3am or just after and I wake up on the floor not knowing what’s happened and I have a sore left leg or foot, not quite sure what’s sore. I got up and went to bed. In the morning I woke up for work, took painkillers and continued with my day. By the afternoon my foot was so sore that I decided to go to Olivedale Emergency. I had to be driven there. It was so swollen and blue that the doctors thought it was broken. I had x-rays and got examined. It turned out that I had severely damaged / torn the ligaments and hurt the tendon. I was given a moon boot and crutches, was off work for 3 days and had to have 5 weeks of physio.
In November 2013, I went to a mate *Lyle’s house with my mate *Keith. We partied on Cat and GHB from the Friday night, throughout Saturday. I had been having ½ ml of GHB at a time. Around early Saturday evening, we all decided to have another G. As I had mine, it tasted stronger than usual, not knowing that *Lyle had poured it this time, instead of *Keith and he had poured me 4ml’s. Within 20 mins I was lying on the grass moving around so much and all I was saying was “Please help me, I don’t like this”. I don’t remember every single moment after that. I remember being carried inside, then I felt sick so puked outside, I then wanted to go and lie down. *Lyle took me into his room and locked the door. My friends were knocking on the door and shouting for me and I remember him telling me to tell them I’m fine. We ended up having what I thought was consensual sex, but because of the state of mind I was in and because of him knowingly giving me 4ml, it was rape. I only found this out in a gender group in treatment. I eventually got out of the bedroom, I remember not being in control of what I was doing at all. The last thing I remember is having a swim and sitting in the garden. The next thing I knew is that it was 3 and a half hours later and I woke up in a bed inside with all my mates around me. I had blacked out and didn’t know what had happened. The rape never really affected me to the extent of what I can imagine being raped would affect someone, as in active addiction I was very Promiscuous, which I had a lot of guilt and shame around. Due to this, I blamed myself for what had happened at the time, as I felt I had allowed it to happen.
The last consequence is actually what made me ask for help. This was definitely higher power stuff, as I had prayed on the Wednesday for help to stop using. The first weekend in December, I went to Truth with my mate *Sarah. I took a Candy Flip capsule called a Super C. I honestly thought I was going to die. It was fun in the beginning; however the acid was so hectic that even strangers were asking me if I was ok – I must’ve looked hell of a chowed. Finally when we went to the car, I tried to have a bullet of cat to come right and I started getting sick, so badly that I was battling to catch a breath. After getting sick, I was even more out of it and all I wanted to do was go home. *Sarah took me to ESP in this state, which I managed for all of about just over an hour and then was taken home. I took a tranquiliser when I got home, slept for 8 hours, woke up and went and joined some mates in my complex and carried on using. I got home late Sunday night and took another tranquiliser. I woke up late for work on the Monday morning to my mom arriving at my place and waking me up and asking what was going on. At first I got defensive and tried to lie, but then something made me speak up and tell her that I have been using again. I then told my boss and went through to my treatment centre (Houghton House) for an interview. I was very resistant to going into treatment and I was a real nightmare, angry, scared and extremely full of shit, however I eventually agreed to go into treatment and was admitted on 4 December 2013. My drugs of choice were mostly cat and GHB and only once I was admitted into treatment, did I discover that I was also addicted to codeine. My adcodol were taken away from me which pissed me off as I always had headaches, not realising at the time that it was my addiction to codeine that was giving me the headaches. I withdrew for about 10 days with terrible headaches, however I was given Mypaid to help with this.
So I clearly didn’t arrive in treatment because my life was good! However, unlike my first time in treatment, where I had over R80k debt… Which I was fortunate enough that my dad paid everything off for me, and then cancelled my credit card, overdraft and all my clothing accounts… I didn’t have debt coming into recovery this time round. My rock bottom was definitely my health and spirituality.
My clean date is 4 December 2013. I did 8 months of treatment. One month in patient, one month outpatient, 3 months of aftercare and I completed 3 months of relapse prevention in August 2014. I decided that this time I was going to do whatever it takes and to take my recovery seriously, as I honestly feel that I do not have another relapse left in me.
So… How have I incorporated the 5 pillars into my life?
Sponsor – I only got a sponsor on the 7th May 2014, when I was 5 months clean and sober. I never realised how important a sponsor was until I met *Leigh. The way we met was definitely Higher Power stuff. I had been in a bad place and went to vote with a friend of mine. We stood in the queue with a guy she knows, *Ryan, who is also in recovery. We got chatting about a few things and especially that I didn’t have a sponsor yet and I wasn’t in a very good place in my recovery. We exchanged numbers and that same night I got a call from *Ryan, who had randomly bumped into *Leigh at a shopping centre, and said to her that he had met me and I really needed a sponsor and help, so he put her on the phone. *Leigh and I speak every night at a set time and I tell her about my day. She has helped me through so much already and has helped me to see things from a different point of view and to also not be so hard on myself. I have really grown a lot since May 2014. I also became a sponsor myself once I was a year clean and sober. What I have learnt is that some sponsor / sponsee relationships work out and some don’t, and that’s ok. The sponsee’s that I first had, didn’t work out, however, I learnt so much from them and situations that they were in / went through, and it helped me to deal with situations in my own life. I now currently have active two sponsee’s, as well as a temp sponsee.
Meetings – I did mostly 3 NA/AA meetings a week, however I did go through a stage where I was only doing 2 meetings a week for about a month. I then decided to start trying other meetings as I was nearing finishing relapse prevention. By December 2014, I was attending between 4 and 6 meetings a week.
The meetings have really been good for me and have also made me more focused with my recovery and with life in general. I listen very carefully to the preambles and especially the part in the NA preamble “Thinking of alcohol as different from other drugs has caused a great many addicts to relapse. Before we came to NA, many of us viewed alcohol separately, but we cannot afford to be confused about this. Alcohol is a drug. We are people with the disease of addiction who must abstain from all drugs in order to recover.” This stands out for me because I know that if I ever relapsed it would definitely be on alcohol first, as I had never thought that I had a problem with alcohol, and even got into a bad space at the end of April 2014 when I was planning a relapse on alcohol once I was a year clean. I had to surrender once again and get real and stop living in the future, and recommit myself to recovery.
From January 2015 I became really involved in the CA fellowship, and was attending between 6 and 8 meetings a week. However I started really battling with balance, so in order to get some balance in my life, I now attend 3 meetings a week, more if I can.
Step Work – I don’t do step work every day. I do need to commit and do it more often… As whenever I do my step work, it really helps and feels like more and more weight gets lifted off my shoulders. Also going through my step work with *Leigh, was a brilliant reminder of where I have been and that I have actually always had a problem with alcohol. I also found that when I did a Step 5 with one of my sponsee’s, it really helped me too, and as much as it was her Step 5, it was like it was for me too.
Higher Power – I personally believe in God, the universe and angels. I’ve always been more spiritual and although I have always believed in God, I had anxiety around the word God and religion for a very long time because of an experience I had at a church (New Life Church) when I was 21. After speaking about this to a couple of people that I am close to, sometime in July 2014, I became a lot more open minded and decided to let go of my resentment that I had held on to for so long, as I realised that it was the people and the experience that I had had at the time, and wasn’t God or religion as a whole at all. I couldn’t believe how much lighter I have felt and how things have changed for me since July 2014. My faith is a lot stronger and growing all the time. I hardly have anxiety, fear or sadness anymore, which is a blessing, as these emotions used to consume me. By learning to let go and Let God, and by keeping present and focused on the here and now, I am full of happiness and peace.
Service – The service I started off with was very light. From the beginning of my recovery, I helped out with lifts to meetings, helping others where I can, shared at an in-house meeting, and then also took up the key tags and hugs service position at the Fourways Gardens meeting. My sponsor said to me that the first year in recovery was for me and thereafter I give back. I have found that once I hit a year clean and sober, my service really became a lot more meaningful to me. I became a sponsor, which helps others as well as myself, and has helped me grow in my recovery and within myself. In January this year I became more involved in the CA Fellowship. I took up an H&I service position with a friend of mine for an in-house CA meeting at a treatment centre. This meeting is absolutely incredible. People that have come through to share their experience, strength and hope / hope, faith and courage for us, have said that the meeting is like 5 meetings in 1, that’s how powerful it is. I get something out of that meeting every week and it keeps me grounded and keeps me reminded of where I’ve been. To watch the growth of these amazing people really makes my heart smile. I’m also involved at the Thursday CA meeting, I’m in a rotation to chair the meetings, and also help out where I can / fill in when necessary for other positions at the Thursday and Sunday CA meetings. I still continue to help others where I can, and because of me being very open about my recovery, I have had a lot of friends reach out to me for help / guidance and others that have also said that because of my monthly clean & sober posts on Facebook, it has inspired them to do something about their addictions… which is awesome!
My life has changed so much, and I have never been so happy, serene, grateful and proud all at the same time. It has been a great journey so far. Yes I have had ups and downs, but definitely more ups and I’m also very fortunate that I’m a very optimistic person and I don’t have depression or anger issues. I always try to take a lesson out of every situation, whether good or bad, and that has helped me to grow from strength to strength.
I now see a lot more of my family which I love and cherish, as when I was using, I tried to avoid them as much as possible. I am so grateful that my relationships with my mom and dad are stronger than ever now, as I have always been close to my mom, although during active there was a lot of dishonesty from my side. Also, I spend a lot more time with my brother and sister in law now and with my nephew at the age where he remembers familiar faces and things, he knows who I am and it’s just amazing the love he gives me.
Yes I have had to change people, places and things, however I have been very blessed with reconnecting with some great mates of mine, as they have all given me the most incredible support. I am also very fortunate that I have a lot of friends that don’t use, that support me, more than anyone could ever wish for, including my friends that have also come into the rooms and the friends I have met in recovery. I have had such fun in this last year! Who knew life could be fun without drugs and alcohol… I sure didn’t.
My finances have also amazingly changed for the better. I managed to pay off a long standing loan account I had with my dad from things like car services etc. I paid for my first car service EVER out of my own cheque account, which was huge for me… I’ve managed to save money, as well as, take out another investment. Because I really wanted to do whatever it takes for my recovery this time round, I paid half for Relapse Prevention and my counselling during those 3 months, and also paid for my individual counselling sessions from September to December, as I wanted to continue with some kind of treatment until I was a year clean and sober, as this was what was suggested to me. After I reached a year, I decided to continue seeing my counsellor, Natashia. I see her once a month, as my sessions with her have always been beneficial to me and she has played a massive role in my recovery.
One day at a time…
I will find every opportunity to share my experience, strength and hope. Every day is filled with experiences. I can choose to let them pass me by, or I can allow myself to learn lessons from them. It is easy to let the day pass by quickly and virtually unlived. If I refuse to stay in the present moment and choose rather to be filled with resentment, stuck in the past, filled with fear, or stuck in the future, life truly does pass me by – My experience truly has no value. But if I choose to learn lessons, stay in the present moment, and remain connected to my Higher Power, my day becomes experience, strength and hope.
I really am… a grateful recovering addict. Thank you for letting me share.