I cannot thank S2S enough for what I have now. Oh, how my life has changed since beginning the programme in January 2015. For a start, I am writing this on holiday, a place that I visited a year ago, but under very different circumstances. Then it was a holiday of drink, drugs and anonymous sex with random strangers – fun? Well, it would have been a few years ago, but last year? No. In truth I was desperately lonely and unhappy, looking for some comfort in anything that would get me away from being me, the only person in the world who I truly hated. Today I am here drink and drug free, respecting myself and others; having fun and laughing – really laughing – and that is down to the amazing programme and all of the counsellors at Start2Stop (and maybe a little bit of work on my part!). But let me first explain where I was when I came to see Cosmo – and, if when reading it, you identify with some or all of it, then I could not recommend a better place to help you get well and have what I have today. It is possible, no matter how impossible that may seem for you right now.
I was your typical addict – not that I realised it before Start2Stop, but I was. Back then I was alone, isolated, feeling as though I was the only one; feeling as though nobody could ever understand me let alone help. I was bad, wrong, worthless, riddled with guilt and shame, unable to look at myself in the mirror without being disgusted and telling myself so. My life was consumed by drugs and alcohol, the only interaction with the outside world was the daily grind to get to work where I barely functioned and prayed for lunchtime or 5 o’clock so that I could get the hell out of there and use again. All my thoughts were either about using or from where I would buy the next bottle or fix. I was utterly desperate with what was my norm. Using had consumed every part of my existence until finally I could take no more and I found myself broken, crying, praying to something, someone, to help me; to show me a way out of the never ending cycle that was my life.
Then I prayed to stop using and take the pain away; now I pray for the strength and hope to keep me clean and sober – something that if you’d said I would be doing back in January would have left me laughing, sneering and incredulous, for back then I had no strength yet alone hope.
I was recommended Start2Stop by my therapist back after finishing a four week inpatient programme elsewhere. He obviously knew that hadn’t worked – good as it was, I was locked away for the whole time and then let back out to face the old world I had left behind, where once again I began using straight away. That is one of the great things about S2S – it allowed me to become a recovering alcoholic/addict while I carried on working. It showed me how to deal with the world in real time – allowing me to make mistakes and giving me the support to get back up and carry on. Through the group work I managed to share my experiences and soon I began to realise that I was not unique, other people also felt like me and had done similar things. With Tertius, an amazing man, I was able to talk about things that I had for so long buried because they were too painful. I resolved so much and changed my perspective on beliefs that I had held since childhood, deep seated, entrenched beliefs that I ‘knew’ to be true and that had made me feel so inadequate and shameful.
Every one of the people who work at Start2Stop has helped me to get to where I am today and I thank them wholeheartedly for that. The knowledge, compassion, support and guidance they provide is incredible – in my eyes it can only be described as such because I know where I was 7 months ago and how far I have come with their help. It was tough, at times I wanted to stop because it was so painful and tiring, but I am glad that they kept faith in me and helped me persevere, because what I have now I could never have dreamt of before. A life free from using, free from the prison of addiction, equipped with the tools and knowledge required to keep clean and sober. This is what Start2Stop gave me and for that I will be eternally grateful.
I’d like to thank you so much for the kind and generous help you gave ____ this year by giving him a bursary and the wonderful work and support and care you all gave him at Start2Stop in helping him on the road to recovery. When I came to a family meeting the Councillor/psychiatrist said to ____ as I was sitting opposite him, ‘Expect a miracle’ — I hoped I could trust that that would be the case.
I now see it is. It’s been a year since ___ had a breakdown. It’s been a difficult year, but also a hopeful one. Today, ____ told me that next week, it will be a year since he has smoked any weed. He now has a sponsor and is doing well working his Steps and going regularly to AA meetings.
I too am working my Steps in Al Anon and with a Sponsor. I am very grateful to Al Anon and to Start2Stop. ___ and I can sit in a room together and talk…that in itself is a miracle. He is working hard at college and sees a future for himself. It is a slow process – but yes progress and strength and hope is where we are at. And ____ and I couldn’t have got this far without Start2Stop.
Thanks to the Start2Stop team I am now able to operate a happy and grounded life free from my addiction, which I never thought six months ago was feasible. What is brilliant about this programme is that it encourages you to take the option to live life a different way – no matter what social and professional world you operate in (despite my preliminary efforts to give every excuse under the sun to counteract this argument!). The onus is on moving forward in the outside world, but with a focus on the harm caused by active addiction, which helps dissuade you from going back to your old ways when you leave.
I found that being in treatment alongside working in City PR meant I didn’t get a huge shock when I left Start2Stop – there is also free weekly aftercare provided to enable people to stay in touch with their recovery friends and to check in with the counselors on a regular basis, which is fantastic. I now have a completely new set of friends (as well as much better relationships with my old ones) who can empathize with what I am going through – we all support each other and meet and chat on the phone regularly. I am not sure where I would be without them or my Start2Stop counselors, to be honest.
Start2Stop also provided me with the basis of a really strong 12 Step recovery programme – impressing on everyone that it is the meetings relevant to your addiction (AA, NA, GA, OA, SLAA etc) that keep people clean and sober for the long term. Begrudgingly, I filled in the meeting sheets and got myself a service position at a meeting and a 12 Step sponsor, as well as completing Steps 1 – 4 – but I am so glad I was made to do this, as I now realize that we cannot combat our difficulties alone. Because of Start2Stop I now have a really good structure of recovery that compliments my work and personal life.
Another wonderful aspect of the programme is the family night, where you can bring members of your family to the centre in order that they can gain a better grasp of what you are going through, which really helps with things at home. I also do not know where I would be without the weekly one on one counseling, either.
Thank you, Cosmo and all the team, for transforming my life. I have realized that my job and the professional and social world I live in can be done without the use of alcohol and drugs, and I am so much happier for it. To be honest, if someone had suggested I went into residential rehab six months ago I would never have taken the plunge because I was to some extent in denial about my illness, but it has only been with the tactful yet firm unpicking of the nature of the damage I was causing myself by the Start2Stop team that I realize why things needed to change in order for me to be happy and get the things in life I ultimately want.
To anyone who is reading this and who is having any doubts about whether they could do what I have done – I guarantee that if you go with an open mind and do what is required, it is completely possible.
I remember the first session that I had at Start2Stop like it was yesterday. I was unmanageable: I showed up half an hour late and paralyzed by fear. I had never thought that I could or would be sober and the idea of that seemed frightening. Being 18 years old, I felt comfortable in my eating disorder and using so I wrote it off as part of my identity.
I thank Start2Stop for providing me with a gentle yet challenging space of support in the journey towards sober living. I began this journey in groups where I recalled past events and my role in them. This helped me see past my denial and take responsibility for the wreckage I left in the wake of my addictions, diminishing the shame that I had attached to each event. Additionally, through one-on-ones with my counsellor, I saw clarity in my behaviours through understanding patterns in actions I chose to take, helping me to avoid repeating them. By understanding myself, I began to see the insanity of the illness and felt sympathy for myself instead of dwelling in self-hatred.
If I hadn’t found Start2Stop I probably would still be digging my grave, if not lying in it. It offered me a hand, yet gave me the responsibility to pull my own weight and the support to do so at each step. I realised that I was not alone, that we all are on different benchmarks on a similar journey towards discovering ourselves.
I had become part of a community of clients and counsellors that I could love, respect and rely on. Massively altering my self-beliefs, Start2Stop helped me begin to seize life instead of letting it overwhelm me – allowing me to live and love.
Start2Stop saved my life, gave me a new freedom that I never believed was possible, and continues to support me on my journey in recovery.
I arrived at Start2Stop having spent forty years acting out on a host of crippling addictions: sex, drugs, food and exercise. I believed I would go to go to my grave a using addict. Given my disease had already taken its toll on my health, perhaps that point was closer than I realised. Regardless, recovery from addiction was possible for others but not for me. I was different. No matter how hard I tried, I could never recover.
More recently, the last two and a half years had been spent trying to stop an escalating cocaine habit and my view was that if I managed to curtail it, then that would be the best I could hope for. I lived a life in the world but apart from it. Life was predictably routine: get up, go to work, go to the gym, then seek out sex, as much as possible, fuelled with whatever drug was available to me at the time. My work was suffering, my relationship was in trouble, I was on the edge of a precipice powerless to stop the fall that would inevitably result from my continued path.
By the time I came to Start2Stop, the damages were already significant – I had contracted two chronic life threatening illnesses yet despite this, I was still was unable to stop my damaging behaviours. My escape from living turned out to be a mental and emotional prison with one night running into another and another, the ends always the same: baffled, bewildered and terror-ridden, having again done what I promised I would not, promises made often over again for years.
Towards the end of my using, unable to sleep– the mattress was too soft and I too disturbed – I would sit, knees drawn up to my chest and in the tiny space that had become my world away from life, would try to escape the pain and desperation I felt by scratching up and down my arms with a fork until the bliss of physical pain over-rode the emotional.
It was at this point that I began my treatment at Start2Stop addictions treatment centre, and it was here I received more than I ever thought possible, the promise of a fulfilling life. The centre provided a safe, nurturing and supportive environment within which I could open myself up, face my fears, anxieties and hurts, break the walls of denial and share my shameful secrets, all of which kept me trapped for so long. Finally, perhaps for the first time in my life I experienced what it was like to have peace, hope and freedom.
This journey could never have happened without the loving support and skill of the highly committed staff who work there; it is to them I owe my recovery and thus my life, receiving more than I ever thought possible. I went in hoping at best to be free from my cocaine addiction, but was given so much more. I was fully supported on my journey, never rejected. I learnt to trust and grew to have faith that others could help. Not once was I disappointed, not once let down and never alone, and when my time at Start2Stop was drawing to a close, I experienced, for the first time, what it felt like to be free. After a lifetime running, I stood present and accountable, ready to meet life and take part in it. This was a freedom I had never experienced, I had stepped outside the cage door that had kept me captive but which was now open and knew something special and significant had happened.
Despite the difficulties that living inevitably brings, this is a freedom I still experience today and one I might never had known but for the nurturing support, skill and love of the dedicated staff who are Start2Stop.
I acknowledge my time at Start2Stop as being a precious gift that empowered me to embark on a new life free of active addiction.
Start2Stop saved my life – literally. In January 2011 I had reached a new rock bottom. I had spent 2 fruitless years trying – and repeatedly failing – to get clean. After my umpteenth relapse in December 2010 my therapist persuaded meet to meet Cosmo and to consider signing up to the Start2Stop primary programme.
I liked Cosmo immediately and signed up although, at the outset, not with great confidence and definitely a sense of dread. The next 3 months of my life were a revelation. The first few sessions felt slightly weird, even a bit scary, but I was very quickly surprised to discover I was actually enjoying the programme.
I learnt a lot very quickly, dispelling many long held pre-conceptions about therapy, recovery and the 12 step programme.
Importantly I learnt how to be honest, not least with myself, and understand the emotional and mental strength derived from the support of a tight knit group. Clear, firm but compassionate guidance from the counsellors was the final critical piece in the jigsaw.
Start2Stop may not work for everyone but it worked for me – and worked better than I had dared to dream. I have always believed in getting the best professional medical treatment available when needed.
In the field of addiction recovery Start2Stop are by far the most professional practitioners I have met (and I have met a lot) and they have an outstanding record in delivering successful outcomes at much more affordable price than the premium fees often charged elsewhere.
Spiritually, emotionally and physically bankrupt, on June 10th 2010 I finally smashed into a million pieces alone at my kitchen table. I could no live with alcohol nor could I live without it. Immobilised with fear, consumed with anger, loneliness, hating myself, I couldn’t speak, walk or function I was no longer human. This low, this hideous blackness, I now understand was my gift of desperation. I went into treatment broken and willing.
I completed four months of residential treatment (primary in London and secondary in Cape Town). I took the advice of the clinical team in Cape Town and joined Start2Stop on my return home in November 2010. This proved to be the decision that truly saved me, gave me my life back.
Returning and integrating back into everyday life wasn’t easy. I had changed, I was equipped with a new life toolkit, but using it was not without its challenges. By continuing to be part of a therapeutic recovery programme and community, assigned a brilliant therapist meant that I had the best of everything-both a shared and highly personalised recovery programme. The support, caring, practical real advice, experience and dedication of the programme clinical team was, and is, truly remarkable.
Recently diagnosed with Bipolar ii, I am now on the next phase of my journey. I continue to see the same S2S therapist and link into the aftercare programme on a Monday night. I am an active member of the AA fellowship, have a sponsor and I’m working the steps, but I have a killer disease and I know that I cannot do this alone. The most wonderful change is that I now connect meaningfully with others, I can be useful, be honest, love and feel loved.
Today, the only thing I can’t do is drink, everything else is open to me and I am enormously grateful to the Start2Stop programme for guiding me on my journey to find my true self.
When I first walked into Start2Stop for my consultation, I had no idea what to expect. I was scared but was only met by friendly, smiley faces and I felt an aura of safety – nothing like the primary treatment centre I had been in a couple of years earlier.
I was in a lot of pain and wanted to do something about it, but when I was told I wasn’t allowed to drink for the duration of treatment, I decided it wasn’t for me.
I went back to Start2Stop again about a year later and still wasn’t ready so continued behaving in the same ways.
When I finally hit my rock bottom another year later, I went back and was welcomed with open arms. At this point I was prepared to do anything to relieve myself of the pain I felt. Looking back, I am so grateful for my state of desperation as Start2Stop not only saved my life but it gave me the hope that I never had to live in that pain again.
For the first few weeks of my time at Start2Stop, I was still very much in denial about the fact I was an addict and believing that my addiction is a disease. I wanted to be there only when I had to and I would run off as soon as I could at the end of the evenings. I didn’t think connecting to anyone there would be helpful and I was very good at making up excuses as to why I never attended the group coffees. I thought if I just did the programme I’d be ‘cured’ and I could go back out and continue with my old way of life. I was living in engulfing fear and shame and didn’t have any belief that it could ever be different.
This changed very quickly. To my surprise, Start2Stop became my safe place, somewhere I was able to speak honestly without any judgement. It was the first place that allowed me to be me, even though at the beginning I didn’t know who that even was. When I realised that I might not know all the answers and started to trust the counsellors and those around me, something clicked. I finally felt I had a new family around me and I learnt how to ask for help.
The mixture of process groups, lectures, meditation, chanting, my 1:1 counselling and group outings started to give me a whole new perspective on my life. The tears and laughter shared made me feel like I was human again. All I had to do was show up and be me and I was fully accepted with all my flaws that I had been so ashamed of. It taught me self love and self care, something that had been so alien to me in the past.
One of the most profound things for me at Start2Stop were the team of counsellors. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I felt held and supported throughout my time there by them all and I still do. The fact I can still go to aftercare every Monday for however long I need enables me to feel I have still got my safe place where I can go to whether I am struggling or thriving.
What makes start2stop different is that it run by addicts who can empathise and have been at that same rock bottom. They understand the pain that comes with addiction and offer nothing but support and care. They want the best for you and most importantly they know what happiness recovery can bring if you work hard.
It also promotes personal recovery. As a client, I never felt I was a number or just another addict to walk through the doors. I always felt I was made to feel special and that by being me was more than ok and that I don’t have to change or be anything more than who I am.
Start2Stop is so much more than a treatment centre. Its a community that offers love, support and for the first time in my life, I felt a part of something. I have made friends for life at start2stop. The connection I found there, however scary it was to begin with, was more special and real than I ever believed possible.