My Story – Matthew Ingram
As a child, I always knew I was different. It’s hard to put my finger on as to why – but there was always something not quite right and I knew it from an early age.
I always felt disconnected from everything and everyone. At primary school, I was the class clown, and this would continue right up to secondary school. But I was so desperate to be loved by everyone, I forgot to love myself. I would always go to extreme lengths to make people happy, to make people laugh, to make people like me, all the while neglecting what I really wanted to do. Trying to please everyone proved difficult. I wanted to be accepted by so many different people from so many different social groups and, as a result, I became this kind of ‘popular loner’. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be the centre of attention, but always been too shy to really get there… you’d have thought becoming a ‘popular loner’ would have been ideal then! But it wasn’t… it just made my already busy, young head more confused. An over-thinker with too many thoughts meant that my mental health was fragile to say the least. I managed to coast through my early years. I was always top set in every class (primary and secondary school) but that was because I was intelligent on paper – it didn’t mean I applied myself. School was just a daydream and a bit of a laugh really… I smoked a bit of weed and drank occasionally through the first years of secondary school, but nothing out of the ordinary.
On the 29th March 2008, I was hit by a car travelling at 60mph. I was 15 years old. This would become the turning point in my life for all the wrong reasons. Somehow, I managed to survive without a single broken bone (just a few cuts and bruises). I was a celebrity at school and in my local area. Everyone wanted to see the ‘miracle boy’! I thought this was great. Finally, I’d hit the big time! Then, as the cuts on my face healed, everyone forgot about me. I was old news. The trouble was, my psychological problems had only just begun. My mind was in overdrive. I thought all of my mates had abandoned me. They hadn’t. They thought I was alright, and they carried on with their lives. With hindsight, I can’t blame them – they hadn’t done anything wrong! In some sort of strange retaliation (that they had no idea about), I withdrew from everyone. I stopped answering my phone and the door. I started hanging around with new, older people. People that drank alcohol and took Class A drugs. I was in a vulnerable frame of mind and was easily led at the best of times. This was a recipe for disaster. I had to escape my own mind, and this seemed like the only way.
Unbeknown to me, I suffered from untreated PTSD as a result of the accident. As I got older, I realised that alcohol gave me the confidence I had always wanted, and the pub created the perfect environment to be the centre of attention – what a result! But there was a problem… once I started drinking, I couldn’t stop. I was always jealous of those ‘normal’ people that could have a couple of pints and go home, completely comfortable in their own skin. But I couldn’t do that. I had to drink and drink and drink until I could drink no more. This meant that I was sick, became obnoxious, I misbehaved, started fights I certainly couldn’t finish, and so on. What could solve this problem? Cocaine, of course! This gave me the ability to drink and drink and drink, still be the charming centre of attention I so longed to be, and then drink and drink some more! Perfect! I thought I had life sussed. If I could just get through work every day with the depression, anxiety and generally poor mental health – then I could make up for it afterwards with a few pints and a couple of lines! Easy!
Unfortunately, I was trapped in the world of addiction pretty quickly. I couldn’t afford this lifestyle on a shop worker’s wage. So, I had to steal from the shop. That worked brilliantly until I was caught and sacked. To be fair that saved my life, as I had been having seizures as a result of my drug use, and I didn’t think I could survive much longer at the rate I was going. Then while I was unemployed, I turned back to alcohol full-time. It was cheap and I had a friend’s house I could drink in. Then I got a half decent job in a factory. I thought this would sort me out – and it did… but not for long… I was up and down with my usage of Class As… going from cocaine to MDMA, back to cocaine, then to M-CAT, then back to cocaine, all the while alcohol was a very present feature in my life. Eventually, as time went on, I had to resign from that job. Mental breakdown after mental breakdown meant I was unfit for work. I had massive debts, shocking mental health… not to mention a drug problem that was killing me slowly.
I tried counselling. I tried medication. Nothing would help. How could I sort my mental health out if I continued to take drugs? I couldn’t. The demons in my head kept telling me that I was the problem. I had no self-esteem, no money, no future… what was the answer? More drugs!
But then out of nowhere, a family friend with no children passed away, leaving me a six-figure sum in his will. All of my money problems went away overnight. The thousands of pounds of debt was gone, I bought a fast car, I bought thousands of pounds worth of clothes and jewellery – I became addicted to spending! As well as getting through massive amounts of alcohol and cocaine, I started spending money to make myself feel better. If I spent £200 on a drugs’ binge, I’d then spend £300 on a new jacket to cheer myself up. It was like I was trying to justify my using. I couldn’t possibly have a drug problem if I spent more on clothes than drugs… then, out of nowhere, someone who I barely knew became very close to me all of a sudden. He had obviously realised how much money I had in the bank and wanted a piece of the action. Looking back, I don’t even blame him. He was a drug addict as much as I was. But things were getting worse quickly. I had already had a stint on crack cocaine a few years previously – and now I was about to get a real taste for it.
My home life had fallen apart for the hundredth time by this point of my life. I was on self-destruct yet again and my parents could do nothing other than look on. It must have been hell for them. I spent every waking hour drinking as much as I could while using crack cocaine and then snorting cocaine when my lungs got too bad from smoking it. Not even the worst crack addicts were smoking as much as I was. What do you expect? How many crack addicts have a small fortune in the bank? As time went on, more and more users and abusers came and went. Some were genuine friends and were good to me. Others were not. I’ve always had a kind nature, so they must have seen me coming a mile off. I felt so stupid.
By the end of my using, I would sit in my flat, alone, staring at myself in the mirror while I smoked crack and drank whiskey. I couldn’t believe that my life had come to this. I used to feel sorry for the local crack heads who had nothing in their lives – now I was becoming one. Lost, confused and totally broken, I went to my mum’s house and told her the extent of my using. I told her everything. She cried. I told her I needed rehab and I needed it fast. I didn’t want to die. I was desperate not to die, but I couldn’t stop using. I sold all of my furniture in my flat and stayed there, smoking the rest of my money in a crack-pipe until I had to go to rehab. Then my life was saved.