When I was 22 I took a three month sabbatical, and went travelling around Thailand and Australia. Most of the trip was spent lazing on beaches by day and boozing by night, with a large smattering of the (back then) readily available pharmaceutical drugs I used to take for fun chucked in for good measure.
I’d convinced myself that I was living the dream, but in reality I was trying to escape from my demons by getting trashed. It’s fair to say that I had a serious drinking problem and ‘recreational’ drug habit at that point.
By the time I got to Sydney for the last few days of my trip, I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained. I headed out to an all night party anyway, then the after party, even though I could barely stand. I got chatting to a Thai girl in the toilets who had fled a few years previous, escaping a life of abuse, sex slavery and misery. Her story was compelling and had me in tears.
I can now see that I wasn’t crying for her. I was crying for myself, and this was the catalyst for my first mental breakdown. It was inevitable really, after everything I’d been through as a kid.
Sexual abuse. Check.
Emotional abuse. Check.
Bullying at school. Check.
Living in a constant state of anxiety caused by moving house every 6-12 months. Check.
Leaving home at 15 with no money or qualifications. Check.
When I returned home from that I trip I made one of the best decisions of my entire life, and started seeing a counsellor.
Through therapy I came to terms with why I was so out of control. I’d start to see that I’d been hiding the pain of a severely dysfunctional childhood all those years. The wounds of which ran so deep that it took getting obliterated every single weekend just to feel good about myself.
My counsellor opened my eyes to how toxic my relationship with my family had become. She helped me see that I deserved to be loved, and taught me that if I didn’t respect myself then I couldn’t expect anyone else to.
Ultimately she helped me deal with my demons, and start the long journey of recovery. I began to face up to my past so I could truly make peace with it, and eventually it would stop destroying my chances of happiness.