“I wanted a reprieve from myself, and to feel safe and away from addiction and all its troubles. Clouds House provided me with that.”
Some people do attend Clouds House after a previous attempt at recovery at some stage in their addiction, either with us or more usually with a range of treatment providers. We do not judge people who have attempted abstinence and subsequently relapsed.
Christos’ story of addiction and relapse will be familiar to many people in recovery. When he entered Clouds House in November 2017, he had reached breaking point. His attempts to stay clean and sober had never lasted and he found himself spiralling into active addiction again and again. Relapses became intermittent and almost predictable. After days, weeks, sometimes months of sobriety, he would find himself using again, leaving him with immense amounts of guilt and shame.
This was not Christos’ first admission to Clouds House. He had begun his journey the previous summer but had relapsed after a few months. Looking back, he realises that he had been resistant to the recovery process. “The first time around I couldn’t engage,” he says. “There was something missing.”
Abstinence based recovery is not always a linear process. For some, it takes more than one attempt at treatment. At Clouds House we do not associate relapse with shame or failure, and this also reflected in our bursary policy. For more information about relapse see our article in the advice and resources section.
What stood out most starkly for Christos before checking into Clouds House was how lonely he felt. Addiction is a progressive condition, with its consequences getting worse over time. It had ruptured his relationships with his family. His mother, once his biggest supporter during his recovery, had reached her emotional limit. His father no longer spoke to him. When relapse struck, his relationships with friends and partners dissipated. Most of all though, Christos felt alone in himself. Each relapse and recovery cycle left him feeling hopeless and demoralised. His sober identity was fractured, and his life didn’t make sense to him.
That’s when he reached out for help. “I couldn’t be with myself anymore,” he says. “I wanted safety. I wanted a reprieve from myself, and to feel safe and away from addiction and all its troubles. Clouds House provided me with that.”
This time he knew that change needed to come from within:
“This was my first real attempt to find self-awareness. The group therapy sessions were an opportunity to find out who I really was, to consider my shortcomings and the places for improvement through the 12 Steps. There was so much stuff that was glaringly obvious to my peers, but not to me. I just thought I was a normal person that had a drug habit. It was through the recovery process that I realised I was far from perfect. I learnt things about myself that I wasn’t aware of.”
Christos says that a huge part of the change in him was getting to grips with the seriousness of the condition, and the need to put the work in: “The most important thing I learned was the need to engage with the program head-on. You cannot simply sleepwalk through the recovery process. The first time I entered Clouds House I got the first glimpses of what a self-aware person was. But the second time, I learnt the importance of having a structure in my head, and that maintaining this structure was essential to the recovery journey.
Christos learned that in order to have meaningful relationships with others, he first had to establish one with himself: “One penny drop moment I remember was about my relationships. Even though I had a boyfriend I was deeply unhappy. I discovered that external relationships won’t fix you.”
Addiction thrives in isolation and ultimately can cause complete disconnection from others, and even from yourself. Christos learned how to reconnect and re-engage with himself first: “Clouds House was a transformative experience for me, as it helped me find self-acceptance and self-love.”
When he left Clouds House for the second time, he made use of the extensive after-care and support network available. “There was a lot of support after I completed my treatment at Clouds House.
My councillor Jo was available to continue therapy online and there was also the option of attending an after-care group in London, and you could continue with your councillor.” After-care is now available online to those leaving Clouds House, which has remained open throughout the pandemic.
Over 2 and a half years later, still clean and sober and living a fulfilled, happy and productive life, Christos closes with a note of caution and word of advice for those leaving treatment: “ou must be developing a relationship with a Higher Power, using the 12 Steps, connecting with others, speaking with your sponsor, and attending your meetings.”
At Clouds House we believe that everybody should have access to treatment no matter their financial means.
Christos attended Clouds House on a part-self funded, part-bursary scheme.