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February 1, 2014

RECOVERY

In My Own Words: Dirk

—by Dirk

My name is Dirk. I am forty-seven years old, and I live in The Netherlands. At this moment, I live at Mentrum (a mental health care institution, part of Arkin) in Amsterdam. Herewith, I tell you my life story and, foremost, how I stopped taking drugs. I do so, because I hope that others can use my experience. My dream is to help other people with my knowledge and experience.

I used all sorts of drugs: hash, weed, cocaine, crack, speed, magic mushrooms, and heroin. I never used needles. I smoked heroine with a duct, from a foil. Sometimes I drank beer or wine, but drugs were for me the most important.

I now even start to feel more than before, and I enjoy that. However, Clozapine and other anti-psychotic medication reduces the feeling. The flattening of my feeling irritates me.

FAMILY

I am the youngest from a family of four children. My father was remarried with my mother. That was his fourth marriage. I have a full sister and a half-brother and a half-sister. I had a troublesome relation to my mother and my sister. They tried their best, but it did not work out that well between us. I lived in Amsterdam until I was seven-years old. After, we moved to Amstelveen. That had to do with the divorce of my parents. That removal had its workings. Finally, namely, I found my turn in Amsterdam. In that period, I was kicked out of school three times because of bad behavior. I was not an easy child. Then I went to primary school, named De Horizon [translated as The Horizon]. Thanks to help of the director, Mister Albert Hottinga, I finished.

We went with souped-up mopeds into Amsterdam-City in order to blow.

SIXTEEN

By the end of my sixteenth year, I started blowing. I did so while playing poker at Uilenstede (a student living area). Afterwards, we went with souped-up mopeds into Amsterdam-City in order to blow. My mother kept an eye on my use of drugs. At my seventeenth [birthday], I got drugged with LSD in my coffee. You can say that I went from experimental usage to more frequent usage.

When I was nineteen-years old, I started living in student flat "De zilverberg" in Amsterdam-North. There, I turned ill. That is why I returned to my mother's and my stepfather's place in Amstelveen. They told me I needed pills, but they wanted to send me at the same time on holidays at Ibiza. I decided not to do so, because it did not seem smart to me. Hereafter, I turned to psychiatry. In this period, some people were important for me. Doctor Willem Schermerhorn from the former SPDC-Oost supported me very well.

I have terrible memories of the seclusion in the period from my seventeenth year. I turn bad when I recall it.

Because of drug addiction, you start doing the most stupid things that later you regret. You do everything to get "your stuff." You don’t have control over yourself anymore.

TWENTY EIGHT

On my twenty-eighth, I seriously started with taking hard drugs. During the time I lived in Bos en Lommer (Amsterdam-West), I used speed and coke. A friend of mine told me he had nothing to do with drug users that use for fun. But to me, he said, "If you use, I have understanding for that, because I know you feel really bad." I lived for more than seven years in the Dapperstraat. From my thirty-eighth to my fortieth year, I lived in the Madurastraat. I even started using crack. I smoked "white" and "brown" with a buddy of mine. He warned me that I should not start taking injections. I never did. Because of drug addiction, you start doing the most stupid things that later you regret. You do everything to get "your stuff." You don’t have control over yourself anymore. Still, some rules were there for me. One was not to start dealing. When my buddy wanted to start dealing, I sent him away. He remains my buddy, but dealing was for me a no-go area. I saw him only outside from that moment on. I stuck to certain principles. At the Dapperstraat, I started using speed in order to get rid of white and brown. That is the way I dealt with it.

I had a phase in which I still desired drugs, even though I knew it would not be good for me. That desire has now faded completely. It all calmed down.

FORTY

I have positive memories of Barbara Meijer, Ferry Kok, and Lodewijk van Grassstek at the Eerste Constantijn Huygensstraat [an inpatient setting of Mentrum] and of Alexander Achilles. He had me turned into the KIB [translated as Clinic for Intensive Treatment]. That was when I was about forty-years old. From the KIB, I went to Mentrum. At the KIB, I had, at the beginning, one relapse. After that, I got back on track. Because of my substance abuse, I hit rock bottom. I really wanted to finish this and start a new lifestyle—a life without drugs. That has yielded a lot. I now live at Mentrum in a nice apartment and have lots of freedom. I save lots of money with which I can do nice things. In the past, all this money went to my substance use.

Here I am doing fine. I feel supported and understood by the nurses. I am still very tired and need lots of sleep. But here I can awake in a relaxed way and go have breakfast. There is not too much pressure. The safe environment here and the support of the team members help me to continue my life without using drugs. I had a phase in which I still desired drugs, even though I knew it would not be good for me. That desire now faded completely. It all calmed down. The moments of desire turned more and more "weakened," and now I live without these moments.

DIRK'S SUGGESTIONS

When you are addicted, then you might be able to use my suggestions:

  • If you use, enjoy it and do not use with a bad mood.
  • If you have used, then think, “Now I have had my party” and delay a next time for a while.
  • Make a deal with yourself about how much you want to spend on the stuff and make sure you save some paper money per week for food and basic living conditions.
  • Hobbies and daily activities—for example, music, sports, computer, and drawing—are good means of distraction. They can help in order to use less.
  • If you use drugs, go to sleep afterwards. When sleeping, you won’t suffer too much from cravings and will probably use less.
  • Remain faithful and keep on going, also in moments that are hard.

My suggestions for family, friends, healthcare workers, and other people involved:

  • Be full of understanding that addiction really is a disease and that it is a tough process to get out of.
  • Remain in contact with the addicted person and keep on searching for dialogue.
  • Set boundaries. For example, do not accept theft, deception, and aggression. And communicate in a clear way about this.

CONTACT DIRK

EMOTION & MEDICATION

I now even start to feel more than before, and I enjoy that. However, Clozapine and other anti-psychotic medication reduces the feeling. The flattening of my feeling irritates me. In the worst case, it gives me the feeling of "not taking part in a group." I fought so hard to get rid of my addiction, and now, because of that flattening, I feel like a Cherie or, to put it like that, like a dead gym shoe [Dutch slang]. For example, recently, I had a nice meeting with a beautiful lady. That felt so nice. It was scary to have such nice feelings. But it lasted only a short period of time. After that, I felt sent back into the shit from the past.

So altogether, I have problems with my feelings because of medicines—the feelings being more flat. Sometimes this makes me turn down, and I experience that the process of healing is like counterproductive. This is a quest. Still, I have to say that I get used to it and that the advantages of being clean for me do dominate. Because of being clean, I have less problems, and I can better enjoy the everyday experiences. As I know smoking nicotine is not healthy for me and I will probably need a lower dose of clozapine if I stop smoking, I am intending to stop smoking. I am talking about it with my psychiatrist.

EMOTION & DRUG USE

The use of drugs helped me to feel on a shorter term. But on the longer term, drugs destroy the dopamine "household" and then you really get in troubles. Every now and then, I drink a beer, once in a few months. But to tell the truth, I do not need that anymore, and I want to quit with this, too. Recently, I was desperate for a beer, but then I thought, "I rather not take one." That helped. I did not drink and felt good about it. I discovered that I can enjoy other things in life and, slowly, can feel even without the use of drugs. I enjoy, for example, the cat visiting me and the rabbits in our garden. I sit next to their cave and I feel happy. Also, I started working with the computer. I never did so before. Now I learn to search for music on the computer. I started drawing. I have a nice corner in my room, near the window, and there I draw, and when I do that, I feel really delighted.

THE MEETING CENTER

The last development in my life is that I went to meeting centre, Het keerpunt [translated as The Turningpoint]. That helps me a lot. In a slow pace, I walk to this centre in the morning and get fresh air. There, I meet my mates, and I think this is very cozy. It helps me. Afterwards, I return with a satisfied feeling towards my little apartment. When I go in the city centre, I meet people that I knew from the past when I used. They think it is very wise that I do not use anymore. They respect this. They still are my mates. But using, I draw a line there. Never again for me! Stopping the use of drugs has given me a lot. I started a new life, still make new steps, and enjoy my life again. I wish other addicted people, that they, too, find their way to recovery from their addiction. I hope that my story and suggestions can help them in doing so.


Photo and Image Credits: Pencil and bottles by Nicole Clevenger; Night club and coffee shop by Benjamin Chodroff. Pills and portraits by Getty Images; Excerpt image design and map image by David A. Cravener.


In My Own Words is an emerging series of first-person recovery stories published by the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio with support from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS).

Series Editors: Nicole Clevenger, BFA, consultant and trainer for SE/IPS initiatives & Patrick E. Boyle, MSSA, LISW-S, LICDC, director of implementation services. Contributing Editor: Paul M. Kubek.

 

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