Day 1 of 84: creative writing from people we support - My CMS

As part of our #50YearsOfChangingLives celebrations, this year we held a creative writing workshop for people supported by Changing lives services.

We thought what better way to mark our 50th Anniversary than to give the people we support an opportunity to express themselves through writing, share their experiences and create something we can look back on for years to come.

Below is a short story, ‘Day 1 of 84’ written by a person accessing support at our Oaktreees Recovery project.

Day 1 of 84

A big black cloud is hanging over me again, the storm is brewing. Not a weak cup of tea in a blue China cup but a tornado that will wipe out everything in its path. This is my path, my journey and this is where this chapter begins.

Following a conversation with a lovely lady named ‘Val’ I was due to start in rehabilitation in an establishment known as ‘Oaktrees’. I had paid to go into residential rehab two years earlier and relapsed after 4 months sober. My family were getting sick of me and my son future with me was held by a thread which was about to snap. There would be no second chances in court, and I was on a final chance with my family, my close friends tried their best as they always did but could not help me. None could, I knew I had to embrace this chance and do everything asked of me and more, a lot more.

I approached the building which at one point had been a luxury gym and spa, that once in a previous life I had been a member of. Walking into the entrance felt vastly different this time though. I was physically shaking as I walked the flight of stairs to the first floor, unaware if this was DTs or nerves, sweat trickling from my neck, down my spine, chilling me.

I walk in, sit down and think of a happy place, of sunshine, the storm clearing and the rain washing away the debris. The bulbs pushing through the tough ground and the flowers beginning to blossom. As I sink into a huge vibrant orange chair, I wish I were invisible, that I could just disappear. The room is vast, a circle of chairs filled with unfamiliar faces. I scan the faces looking for hope, trying to figure each of these individuals out, judging each of them without having even spoken one word to them. My anxiety kicks in, dread, fear, nervous. They are chatting amongst themselves, one lady asks if I would like a cup of tea, but I just shake my head. Where the hell has my voice gone just when I need it.

The facilitator walks in and announces there is a new member to the group, I feel my cheeks redden as he asks everyone to introduce themselves. When it is my turn, and I echo the other members by saying, ‘I’m Abby, I’m an alcoholic,’ there I said it, can I go home now? It is then explained to me that we now do what is called a ‘check in’ where we tell the group what we have been up to on the weekend and how we are feeling. First there is reading, I do not know what, nor do I understand it, its sounds religious and I wonder if I have unwilling joined some sort of cult, you read about shit like this. Any ho one girl is beaming as she talks about a small child, hers I can only assume. Another cracks a joke and I try to muster a smile, yet there is nothing in my life right now worth smiling about, no light at the end of this tunnel, just blackness. A man boasts about some achievement on some stupid course he done on Saturday and to be honest he just grinds on me. As I settle though what I start to realise is everyone seems to have had a lovely, content weekend. How is this even possible without a drink? Am I the only person in the room living in shit, terror and self-loathing? I try to mentally distract my over thinking and picture my walk down to this strange building only 30 minutes earlier. The hussle and bustle of commuters trying to get to work. Tramps scattering the dirty streets of Newcastle, eyes heavy. The clouds slowly breaking allowing a tiny ray of sun to brighten my day. I desperately want to relax, my head to clear but its foggy and confused.

We have a 15-minute coffee break and I head downstairs with the smokers; I inhale my tab deeply knowing I will have to make small talk. A lad who must only be in his early 20s asks several questions, but they are not intrusive in fact rather kind and encouraging. I wonder how someone so young knows they have a drink problem.

Another girl chats on her phone, she glances over whispering, ‘it’s important, gotta take it.’ I stub out my cigarette and press the buzzer forgetting which one will allow me back in the building. Back in the room I am informed we will be doing meditation next. A rather petite lady enters and sits crossed legged within the circle, the circle of trust I soon discover, and this makes me think of the movie ‘Meet the fockers’ and I give myself permission to laugh.

I feel like I am drifting in and out of some state of unconsciousness, either that or I am nodding off. I am desperately wanting to get in the zone, but my mind wanders again, and I find myself planning tea. This session seams to go on for ever but the ladies voice is warm and soothing and afterword she gives recommendations and shares a quote for daily reflection, again I do not have a scooby what she is talking about. The rest of the morning passes in a haze, the noise of building work outside is the only thing I can hear at times it blots out even the voice of an older man sitting next to me. I warm to him; he is as mad as a box of frogs but something about him grabs my attention. His wit, dark humour and his ‘I don’t give a fuck what people think about me’ attitude. Its refreshing having hated me for so long. People are also talking about this illness that has had a hold of us for so long. ‘Shit’ I think, ‘am I actually ill’? for so long I have been told just to not pick up a drink. For fuck’s sake, if it were that easy do you not think I would have done that years ago.

I cannot even remember the rest of the day or recall how I felt when I left, probably confused. We ended the morning by reciting what is known as the ‘serenity prayer’, the final line strikes a chord, it reads, ‘it works if you work it, so work it your worth it’.

At this point, I did not know I was worth it. So that was day 1 done, a gloomy day, a day I asked myself how my life had resorted to me sitting in a room full of drunks and druggies, no hopers and dole wallers. On reflection, what I did not see or know that day, is that these people that I had the audacity to judge are the most beautiful people inside and out that I ever encountered in my life. Loyal, compassionate, deep baring souls with hearts of gold. They have a passion for life and certainly do not judge anyone. I was also unaware of the journey I was about to embark with a long winding path, filled with huge obstacles, broken branches, many broken pieces to fix, mountains to climb, swamps to sludge through and many bridges to build along the way. This group though, this new family are guiding me along this path, they are holding my hand and dragging me when I need it. They are embarking on this journey with me, and we are smiling every step of the way, strength in numbers.

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