‘They should have taught us this shit in school, because if they had done maybe I might have spent more time in the classroom instead of standing outside of it’

Discovering myself after Substance Abuse 

It wasn’t until 18 months after coming out of the mental institution from drug-induced psychosis that my recovery or discovery journey truly began.

That being said, looking back, I didn’t have the time or the appropriate support at the time. I’d recently left a coercive and controlling relationship. I was still trying to adjust to life as a single mum and got by with a weekly support session from a CPN (community psychiatric nurse).

In the early days, I took each day as it came, motivated by the fear that I never wanted to return to that dark place EVER again.

My recovery journey really started when I met who would be my manager of a 5-day rehabilitation centre in Sheffield, on a counselling course I was attending.

He’d suggested that I come down and try volunteering at this project. At first, I was a little reluctant after all my desire at that time was to work with young offenders. I had nothing in common with those attending the program because they were recovering from heroin and crack addiction. In comparison, my drug of choice had been a dance scene drug called Amphetamine. He’d also told me stories about some of the great lengths some people had gone to obtain drugs, such as selling sex or robbing their families and communities and I’d done neither of those things.

I simply didnt see the connection. Little did I know then that it didn’t matter what the substance was; the journey of dependence was still the same.

Eighteen months clean, I was there in a volunteer capacity; I was there to support those people in the program. But they didn’t know that while I sat with them in all the personal development workshops, I was learning and that their personal stories were helping me.

I didn’t realise that the group work sessions were entwined with questions and techniques commonly used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, also known as (CBT) . Which teaches you coping skills for dealing with different problems and how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings, behaviours and actions.

It had never occurred to me to ask myself how or what I thought or how this might have impacted my reaction to certain situations. I recall saying in a workshop once

‘They should have taught us this shit in school’.

I vividly remember feeling bitter and short-changed by an education system that was supposed to equip me with the skills and knowledge I needed to transition into adulthood.

Other than English and maths I couldn’t see the point of any of the other subjects such as geography, French or German, because travelling abroad wasn’t for the like of my family or me, in fact, the furthest I’d ever travelled at the time to was Cleethorpes.

I resented that I couldn’t do woodwork or metalwork because I was a girl. The only other non-academic class that was offered was cooking, typing or sewing lessons, which I hated.

It never occurred to me that all the foundations of my beliefs or values that I had about myself that had been slowly accumulating over the years were primarily based on my own limiting belief and lies based on society’s social norms that had been drip-fed me, such as

  1. You leave school
  2. Get a job
  3. Fall in love
  4. Get married
  5. Get a house
  6. Have some kids and live happily ever after

It turns out I did it all back to front anyway.

In those workshops, I learned to recognise and understand that my motivation to please people came from years of rejection from my father. Or the feeling like I felt like I was the only person who felt like  ‘odd one out or the misfit’ came from the fact that I couldn’t articulate my feelings or emotions, which left me feeling constantly misunderstood and, as a result, would lash out.

Over the years, I have had hundreds of lightbulb moments when I’ve been able to figure out that my past mistakes or failures weren’t because I was a failure. It was because I didn’t have the emotional insight nor the coping strategies that might have helped me to navigate myself out of negative situations.

I have worked hard to understand and unpack some of the ingrained limiting beliefs I have acquired since I could walk and talk. Note I said some – because I’m still unpacking some.

I have learned to sit with my emotions, including the uncomfortable ones while trying to understand their meaning. Note this doesn’t always work in practice

I’m still working on loving and liking myself and trying not to compare myself with others. Note, some days are better than others.

I’m forever conscious and mindful about how much time I spend reflecting over my past story of ‘what could have been’ or romancing about a future of ‘what ifs’, and instead, I try to live in the present moment. Note this is a full-time job in itself.

The bottom line is that we are all unique, and we are all on our own journeys. What worked for me might not work for somebody else, but I thought I would share some of the resources that have helped me on my recovery/discovery journey.

Feel the Fear and do it anyway, by Susan Jeffers, used to be my bible in the early days

I then came across Nancy Kline’s – Time to Think, which made me realise how if we gave ourselves a little more time and space to think for ourselves that we all can find the solutions to our own problems –hence the slang reference  #haveawordwitheesen

More recently, ‘Think Like a Monk’ by Jay Shetty has been my go-to bible; in fact, I should be getting a discount on how many times I have purchased this book for people in recovery.

And finally, one of the BEST things that have ever happened during my recovery has been the discovery and power of writing. I often refer to my pen as my therapeutic wand because it helps me manage my overthinking mind. I have reams and reams of handwritten notes and journals full of rambling words that might not make sense to some people, but I have learned it doesn’t matter because all those words have helped me make sense of myself.

I learned long ago that society wastes so much time and energy working on acquiring money, job, status, flash cars, clothes, and fancy holidays sold to us by society in the hope that they might acquire internal peace. Unfortunately, much of this is a lie and isn’t true because the most valuable thing we can ever work towards is working on ourselves.


Love Fordy


I don’t write for financial reward or gain. I just want to help share my lived experience with others hoping that it helps. And I just love to write, so if ya fancy getting the occasional email (NO SPAM) with the most up-to-date blogs from yours truly, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the main page.

One thought on “‘They should have taught us this shit in school, because if they had done maybe I might have spent more time in the classroom instead of standing outside of it’

  1. Great stuff, Tracey. As someone who has recovered twice from severe psychotic breakdowns, 25 years apart, I totally agree about the power or writing for mental health and stability, as well as therapies such as CBT. For me now, having devoted years to trying to be a published writer, the power of writing comes less from outpourings in journals (not that this isn’t useful) but from the crafting to make my writing the best it can be and try and get it out there, get it read. By shaping your experience into a book that will touch other people, you are healing yourself in the process. Keep at it Fordy xxx

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