A recovery story

Submitted by a teacher

The year 2005 was one of the worst of my life. Annus horribulis doesn’t even come close. It is hard to know where to begin because so many threads in my life just disintegrated.

I went to India with my Israeli girlfriend Elvira. We met whilst we were both travelling in South America five years earlier and formed a very close relationship. Indeed I lived in Israel for a few years, became an Israeli citizen and had to face down Israeli generals when I was called up to the army there. By the time we went to India all was not well. Elvira was starting to want to explore herself and other relationships – I was more interested in settling down. I went to Varanasi to learn to play Indian flute, she went to take a yoga course. Whilst I was learning tom play the flute I contracted TB from my flute teacher. While Elvira was learning yoga she fell in love with a fellow yoga student. I failed to ask her to come and take care of me, she failed to prioritise me over the yoga student – I ended up feeling dumped.

I had to take powerful anti-biotics for several weeks to recover from the TB. When that was over I continued travelling around India and went to Kashmir. There my rucksack, including my wallet and passport were stolen. So there I was stuck in northern Kashmir with nothing but the clothes I was wearing. Fortunately a soldier, then a monk and later some villagers took pity on me and I was able to travel and obtain a temporary passport and eventually make my way back home.

What now? I was homeless, jobless and not in a relationship. My health still felt fragile. Clearly the first priority was to get a job. Without a job I couldn’t rent a place to live because letting agencies had no basis for believing I could pay the rent. So I started to apply for jobs – doing pretty well anything that could earn me money in London. I had experience teaching English as a foreign language and working in a travel agency. I applied for half a dozen different jobs for which I felt qualified. Nothing I was not invited to an interview – I was getting nowhere fast.

I went to a three day meditation group in Wales that was a useful interlude, but did not provide any lasting resolution of my difficulties. I felt I was running out of options.

I decided to visit my mum and step dad and take a break from sleeping on friends couches and writing job applications. I felt awful about myself. I felt that my confidence had been shattered by losing Elvira and by failing to find any sort of job. I just wanted to be looked after for a while and gather some energy to engage with the world more positively.

As it happened my mum and her husband, John, had recently discovered ecstasy. They had been to a few parties where it was available and they loved the experience. So when John saw me looking so gloomy he suggested that he and I have an ecstasy pill each and just have a good time. My mum didn’t join in, mostly I suspect because she was so worried about me – she had found my illness, loss of Elvira and other troubles in India very distressing. So she went off to write some more of a book she was working on leaving John and I to enjoy ourselves.

I have always found it easy to talk to John and as the ecstasy started to take effect I found myself talking about the cycle of no job, so no home, so no address, so difficult to fill in application forms, so no wonder that I was not being successful trying to gain employment. As I spoke I realised that a key background feeling was that I had really lost confidence in myself. John found it easy to empathise with this – not only because by now we were high on ecstasy, but also because he had suffered from worthlessness when he was a young man. As the conversation continued I found myself talking very openly about what had gone wrong between Elvira and I and how this had left me feeling inadequate as a man. Just talking about it all felt as though I was letting go a very heavy burden. It also helped that John was able to tell me about times he had been similarly devastated by the break-up of previous relationships. Indeed he suggested it was something that all the men he knew went through.

As the effects of the drug wore off I noticed that I felt lighter. There was no answer or solution to the web of problems and issues in which I felt completely enmeshed. But having put them all out in our conversation I felt I had a better perspective. That included an understanding that things would eventually get better – and that I was not the worthless wimp that I had felt 6 hours earlier.

Now comes the interesting bit. Over the next week I applied for another five jobs – and I was invited to an interview for all of them. What is more I was offered three of the jobs – so suddenly from a complete failure I had a choice of where to work. I am convinced that what made the difference was the shift in my energy state that occurred during the ecstasy trip. The process of grieving the loss of my relationship with Elvira continued for a while, but I no longer felt that the loss meant that I was no good or an inadequate man. I’m grateful to ecstasy – not just for the good times but also for helping me realise something good at the core of who I am.