David is 43 years old and and unmarried. He had a long history of substance misuse and gives his account of being a participant on the Enhance Living course.
What is the Enhance Living course?
The course was prepared and delivered by Dr Em Perera, a clinical psychologist interested in psychological resilience and brain training. The course was ran weekly over 8 weeks, and each day lasted 2.5hrs with a short break in the middle.
The Enhance Living course uses ACT, an evidence-based approach. This is shown to be effective in helping people with substance misuse behaviour; as well as other difficulties including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, post-traumatic stress and physical pain.
Interview with David
Why did you choose to come onto the course?
Since being clean, I’ve been getting support for over 4 years. I’ve always benefitted from what I’ve been given. I’ve always put the effort in and used what they suggested. So my counsellor recommended this course and thought it would be good for me.
What difficulties have you been experiencing?
I’m an ex-user. I’ve been using substances since I was 9 years old. In my 20s it got really bad and I was on heroin as well. I stopped using 8 years ago, but I still struggle all the time, feel guilty about what I’ve done, how things are in my life. I was told I had a mental illness: “disease of addiction”. So I didn’t feel normal.
What have you got from coming on this Enhance Living course?
Coming to this course, I see that I’m human. It showed me how the brain is programmed to work. I’ve been telling other people what I’ve learned here. What we feel is just normal but we just don’t know how to cope.
I used to think that my problems were due to my ‘disease of addiction’ and now I know it’s how my brain works – it’s been a big eye-opener. All the years I took drugs I never learnt about feelings and life. Now I’m learning about my thought processes. Now I accept my brain for the way it is; not trying to run away or feel I’m damaged.
There is emotional damage but I can live with it. I can heal and get better from it. I thought the drugs had caused irreparable damage. On this course, I realise I’m a human being – and it’s been a huge relief!
I can tell that others are no different to me. So, there’s no difference between my neighbour and me; she hasn’t needed to use drugs but we are the same – human!
It’s given me answers coz I struggled with the idea that my mind was damaged by the disease of addiction.
What would you say to other people who might be going through similar experiences to you?
I would say ‘do this course!'. Especially if they don’t know what’s the matter with them. I wasn’t taught this in school. I didn’t go to school, so I never learned about the brain. The information about the brain and how it operates was really useful to me.