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I will survive

May 15 2018
Kentish Town's inspiring bridge © Mat Amp Kentish Town's inspiring bridge © Mat Amp
The complexities of modern living can offer few answers. So why turn your life around, asks Mat Amp

The complexities of modern living can offer few answers. So why turn your life around?

With a grim inevitability, night falls like a blanket of paranoia over everything, disconnecting the dots and leaving you utterly alone with yourself. It’s a dark place to wait until the dawn breaks again.

The nights and days are an inevitable cycle of hope and despair, and that’s what you live by when you’re on the street. But you don’t have to thrive in the way that everyday “normal” folk do, you just have to survive. And there’s a simplicity to that, which can be really hard to let go.

Rebuilding your life, after a period of being marginalised at the broken edge, can seem near impossible, especially these days when cash-in-hand opportunities are few and it’s harder to hide your past.

For the past few months From the Ground Up peer reporters have explored and written about the difficult, entangled themes of shame and suicide. While it hasn't been easy, confronting some of the issues that caused our lives to fall apart, or some of the moments when we've had to confront that impulse to just give up the struggle, it has been unbelievably rewarding.

And there it is, the light at the end of the tunnel. Call it hope, optimism, whatever you like. For me, at least, it was a feeling that I wanted to take part again and get back to living right. It’s a feeling that comes from the need to connect to other people, and to be part of what’s going on around us. Call it society if you like.

That feeling provided a foundation that I started to build on. There were plenty of platitudes strewn about our language to point me in the right direction – “brick by brick”, “a day at a time”, “piece by piece”. The signposts were clear enough, it doesn’t just happen overnight.

It can be overwhelming to look at the bigger picture. Everyone is different, but for me cognitive behavioural therapy provided the knowledge and self-awareness to enjoy laying each single brick. It’s the pleasure of the order in things that dampens the static white noise of addiction and the chaos that comes with it.

It can be a long, slow process built on small victories, but the trick is to enjoy the journey and not worry too much about the destination. And try to remember that your recovery is fragile. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) offers plastic chips to celebrate sobriety because, like your recovery, they are easily discarded. There are things about NA that really piss me off, but the organisation was an essential part of my recovery and by getting so much from an organisation that I don’t truly vibe with, I began to realise that life is about compromise, learning to work with others and knowing when to stand on principle.

Focus on the little things, like clean clothes and decent food, and the bigger picture will gradually start to take care of itself. It can be lonely to start with, but before long you should start to develop relationships that aren’t built on dependency, but instead come from a desire for friendships and just having a laugh. There’s creativity, pubs, football, art, quantum physics, reading, walking the dog… There are a million things to do out there. And plenty of people to do them with.

This advice doesn’t apply just to addicts in recovery. Anyone whose life has been marginalised, for any reason, goes through this difficult time when they’re trying to put it all back together.

Always remember that there are other people who ache like you and love like you. You just have to give yourself the opportunity to meet them.


Mind, body, spirit – Put yourself back together


If you don’t have substance misuse issues, or if you find the structure of NA/AA difficult, there are other options, such as Dual Diagnosis Anonymous for people with mental health and/or addiction issues.



Crisis skylight courses are fantastic and free to people with lived experience of homelessness.



Volunteering keeps you busy, introduces you to people and you learn skills that could lead to paid employment.



Endorphins make you feel good and exercise produces them. And if you want mind, body and spirit in balance there is yoga. Don’t knock it till you try it.