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Many people saw their lives change when the world went into lockdown, but 24-year-old Jonathon Macleod managed to completely turn his life around by using the experience to help overcome his cocaine addiction.
Jonathon, from Motherwell, Scotland, began using cocaine when he 15 years old and continued to do so while out at pubs, football matches and with friends into his early twenties.
He came to notice that his use of the drug was ‘different to everyone around [him]’, as when everyone else called it quits, he ‘wouldn’t want to stop’.
Speaking to UNILAD, Jonathon said that he was born with an ‘addictive nature to anything in life’, and after being introduced to cocaine he feels he ‘never really stood a chance’.
When he first began to take the drug, it gave him a buzz and made him ‘feel better’. The good feelings didn’t last long, however, and Jonathon ‘rapidly’ descended into ‘depression, self pity [and] guilt’. As time wore on, he felt he ‘didn’t deserve to be alive’.
I was extremely anxious and paranoid, felt worthless and empty and was riddled with guilt at how I had been treating my partner, family and friends… It didn’t matter who was in my life or what I had in life, I couldn’t stop even although I wanted to.
I would sometimes cry myself to sleep or not sleep at all, trying to tell myself to stop and use my willpower to not do it again, however I would always return to using – I would often cry even while putting cocaine up my nose. Knowing that I was going around my life with a false persona and ego crippled me whenever I was left alone with my own thoughts.
Jonathon recalled lying to get out of situations in order to facilitate his drug use, and though he feels he is a ‘hard-working, honest, confident, funny and caring young man’, his addiction ‘stripped’ those qualities from him. He lost pride in his appearance and stopped doing physical exercise because he was ‘completely consumed with cocaine and nothing else mattered’.
His addiction impacted his home life, putting strain on his relationship with his girlfriend as well as his family members. He was financially ‘beaten’, and worried about how to pay drug dealers.
At the height of his addiction, Jonathon described himself as ‘alive physically but not mentally’. There were a number of times when he acknowledged that he ‘seriously’ needed help, the first being a few years ago when he was admitted to hospital with a minor heart attack following a four-day binge.
Doctors treated him and he was able to return home, but the first thing he did upon returning was take more cocaine. His frequent drug use prompted him to have suicidal thoughts every day, as guilt, self-pity and depression ‘consumed’ him.
Jonathon came close to attempting suicide at one point, but he credits a picture of his girlfriend in his wallet as the reason he didn’t go through with it.
After that night, the 24-year-old was ‘completely beaten [and] utterly destroyed’, and he knew it was time to seek help. This summer, he began regularly attending Cocaine Anonymous (CA) meetings, embarking on a 12-step programme to help him put his drug use behind him.
Jonathon is currently on step 10 of the 12 steps, and recently received a chip celebrating 90 days sober. After completing the programme, he will work with newcomers at CA to help them with their addictions.
Jonathon was still using cocaine when the coronavirus outbreak prompted global lockdowns earlier this year, and at first he found the boredom, isolation and spare time led him to use even more cocaine. After he decided to give up, he used the spare time to his advantage by attending CA meetings and learning more about his illness and mental health.
With pubs closed and no football matches to attend, Jonathon wasn’t faced with triggers that had previously contributed to his drug use. Having had the time to work on himself and get a ‘clear mind’, he knows that he now has the ‘tools’ to be able to face those same situations in the future without falling back into his old ways.
Jonathon admitted that it took him a ‘very long time’ to realise that he couldn’t get sober on his own, and that if he didn’t stop taking drugs he would ‘end up dead’. Cravings, withdrawals and ‘mental obsession’ played a ‘major’ part in his life during his first few days of sobriety, but the CA meetings and continued support from his girlfriend, friends and family helped him get through the worst of it.
CA helped Jonathon gain an understanding of his addiction, and gave him the resources he needed to say no to cocaine. Though he describes himself as being ‘far from a finished article’, he continues to take things one day at a time.
I need to work on myself every day, work a programme every day and live a structured lifestyle. I feel like a completely new person and I mean every word when I say that.
I can lay my head to rest at night and fall asleep knowing that I am trying my hardest to be a good person and that I am not carrying any lies. I can look my girlfriend, my mum, my dad, my brother and my mates in the eye and know that I am living an honest and peaceful life.
I have turned my selfishness into generosity and whenever I can help someone else in my day I will. I am enjoying everything in life, from work to my relationship, from having a bit of money in my pocket to being happy and content in my own skin.
The 24-year-old encouraged anyone else who may be struggling with addiction to speak out, join groups and try to connect with other addicts who have been through it all themselves, and who can help you realise that you’re not alone.
By taking things step by step, Jonathon is confident that he will stay on the right path. His experience of getting sober ‘wasn’t easy’, but he stressed it’s ‘much easier than the life [he] was living’.
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