Rachel Bannister on struggling with addiction: “You just need a hand to hold to see you through”

 Addiction is something that happens to other people, isn't it? Not to professional, educated, middle class women like myself. Before my own struggles with addiction began, the stereotyped depictions from 1980s government awareness adverts of people who lacked the will and determination to "just say no" pretty much summed up addiction to me.

Small wonder then that as I approached middle age, I hadn't once considered the possibility that drugs, whether illegal or on prescription, could be something that could become a problem for me. I never once imagined that I'd face emotional pain so strong, so unbearable, that a foul tasting yet addictive green liquid would gradually become a normal part of my everyday existence. Or that I would find myself compelled to take it so often and increasingly in such large amounts that on one occasion I would wake up in the resuscitation department at our local hospital.

The enduring judgments around addiction in our society have long been a problem. But I hadn't expected the stigma and lack of understanding I faced to be present even within healthcare services.

From comments I received about having "to be careful with junkies like you," to an inability or unwillingness to make eye contact, some of my experiences in healthcare services left me with a feeling of shame so strong it simply strengthened my resolve to hide what was clearly a situation of my own making. Instances like these only served to deepen the shame and secrecy I felt around my increasingly dangerous behaviour, and made me think that it was something I must deal with or endure alone.

Read this excellent article in the British Medical Journal 'opinion' here