I love my family, I love my job, I love my friends, I love my hobbies. I wonder how many of us are able to genuinely able to say that? I was pretty sure that I did for the best part of 10 years although looking back and what I called ‘hobbies’ and ‘friends’ maybe that wasn’t the case, and once I became obsessed with work I certainly wasn’t able to tick all four boxes. I worked hard and played hard, in fact I worked hard to play even harder if I’m truly honest with myself. I was young (er), footloose and fancy free, and I had what I thought was a good life balance. Working hard yes, but enjoying my job, socialising with my friends usually at the weekends, and spending time at the week with my now wife.
Looking back on the whole affair, I worked 60 hours per week, for the best part of 10 years, and that justified me playing hard, Right? Is this is what is meant by work life balance? I think that somewhere along the line I may have misinterpreted the meaning or the message. Looking back at my version if you like, is that my ‘hobbies’ and ‘family’ almost because non-existent, as hard as it is for me to actually say that out loud, Thinking friends were family and thinking drugs were hobbies. Wrong!
When I envisage a life balance now I think of 4 quadrants;
- Hobbies / Leisure
Each quadrant should contain roughly the same amount of activity with work and family having slighly more because family is you flesh and blood and well, work just pays for stuff! I would say that throughout my addiction and at its worst the split looked something like this;
- Work – 30%
- Hobbies / Leisure – 60% (Drugs & socialising)
- Family – 5%
- Friends (and by this I mean fellow users)
Was this balanced in any way? Was it eck!!!
If I rewind 10 years to when I started taking drugs recreationally, I would say that I probably had close to my ideal in terms of balance, however as your ‘recreational use’ evolves and life throws one of its many curve balls at you, it becomes less of recreational, and more either necessity or even worse a dependency. Then you are stuck. Deep in a rut, it actually feels like you are buried, with no way out.
One of the reasons why I believe the balance is tipped so unevenly, is not because of just ‘life’ or its curve balls, because lets face it, things happen, and there are always worse people off than ourselves, but when you use recreationally or heavily on a ‘social’ basis , this then becomes your ‘social life’ or ‘hobbies’ if you like and with this you establish a core network of friends which are associated to drugs. They are your friends and maybe your best friends but in reality they are you avenue to use and justify your using. So between these two quadrants in my life balance of hobbies and friends over half becomes quickly dominated by drugs. The scales from this point will not only get unbalanced but they quickly get decimated, but at the time, you are just socialising with your friends, and there is no harm, because we are ‘functional’
I think that our interpretation of friends becomes seriously distorted by way of definition (or certainly my definition). For me a friend is someone who is able to offer support, advice, love, loyalty and empathy at times. How many of our friends who use with us can identify or have shown the above? Not many I guess, because on those nights where you are off your nut having probably some of the best laughs you thought were imaginable, you get lost in the moment. Are they really your friends? Will any of them call you on Monday Morning to offer advice on your problems or even remember what was said a couple of nights ago, or lend you money if your issues are financial or even just stop whatever it is they are doing at the drop of a hat because you just need their moral support. My experience in the main, unfortunately is NO. I’m afraid to say. Sad but true. You do get the odd good egg, but generally its not many. I found this out in rehab when my ‘friends’ (who I spend so much of my social life with,and jeopardising my family life and health) were pretty much non existent, again with the exception of one or two. On the plus side of this it made it easier for me to decipher the friends from the ‘drug friends’, but like a lot of things in rehab, its not a nice thing to have to do but it has to be done. Old friends, old hangouts, old habits, the lot, they all have to go, for the sake of your recovery. Don’t get me wrong there are ones who have been there through thick and thin are ironically enough the ones who have also given up using and been on a journey of their own, so the sympathy, understanding or empathy as I mentioned is there, as for the rest of them maybe the issue of my addiction is too close to home for them, maybe its way too close, but hey ho, we live and learn. Usually the hard way.
Eliminating and deciphering through you friends as I’ve said is just one part, but the rest is your’social life’. I considered mine to be meeting up with the lads and ‘getting on it’ and at the time it feels like if you were to take that away you would be left with nothing. Its been drugs and ‘the boys’ for so long that it seems hard to see past all that, its normality. A culture.
I had to spend a lot of time finding out what I actually want from life, what I am passionate about and what actually makes you tick but more importantly what will keep you motivated through your recovery because if you haven’t got that motivation the old habits will creep in and fast. I sat down and listed all the things that I loved obviously family was at the top, but things that will help maintain a better life balance things like sports, Tottenham, fitness and writing. Once I did this all of a sudden my ‘quadrant’ started to look a lot a lot more balanced, it then became a process of plugging the gaps, the gaps that drugs and addiction filled. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in the early stages of my journey and a lot of this may seem easier in theory than reality, and it is tough, but planning and structure and focusing on the simple things that matter helps to maintain a balanced life. I have a lot of bridges to rebuild with family and friends (actual friends), the ones I have lost the trust of but hope to regain, but once you actually start to do this the mist and emptiness starts to clear, and on the horizon is a nice clear and bright future. Its then a case of motivation and maintenance.
Life is for living, a gift, yet it is so easy to get lost along the way. If you make a mistake FIX IT, nothing in life that breaks is irreparable, so repair it, that way you can look back with no regrets. I nearly lost everything, and I thought I had it all, cars, money, house, flashy, flashy, flashy, but non of that superficial crap matters, and it took me a long time to realise what is important. Running on the beach with my daughter watching her kicking a football and saying “Daddy Daddy sand Castles” – That’s what matters. Real stuff.
I had some of the greatest nights and laughs on drugs and they were great and have gained some great friends along the way, and for that I am grateful, but I have to distance myself from most of them now. I regret going anywhere near drugs, I nearly lost everything, luckily, I’m getting a chance to rectify my mistakes and it will make me more resilient and tougher than ever before, and as I like to say it will improve my ‘bouncebackability’