Despite being streetwise, the internet was a new phenomenon. As a fear-ridden, suicidal lad struggling with my identity I discovered chat rooms. Here I met a much older man I call ‘Derek.’ I had no idea what was happening at the time, but Derek groomed me for a year. At age 15 I met Derek in person for the first time. The first of many encounters over the next couple of years.
I was exploited and sexually abused by Derek. Simultaneously I was getting caught up in a serious world of substance abuse, sexual addiction and street violence. By 16 I left high school with no qualifications, no hope and no self-esteem. I had no self-worth. No self-belief. Only the self-fulfilling prophecy that I was a failure. Years of serious drug addiction lay ahead. I worked my way through the uppers of ecstasy and speed until I found cocaine and fell in love. But it soon destroyed me.
At age 21 Derek was now long gone from my life but the trauma only grew. I had no idea how to feel. I self-harmed often. Every relationship I entered with women was chaotic, co-dependent or consisted of me manipulating them to continue my habit. I had no clue about intimacy.
At the age of 24 I finally found the rooms of a 12-step fellowship. For the first time in my life I knew I was an addict. I began to understand what was wrong with me. I had periods of abstinence. Weeks or months at a time. But it was enough for me to begin a course at West Lothian College. Not only did this college nurture my mind and educate me, they unravelled all the false ideas I grew up with about how worthless and daft I assumed I was. They helped put me back together.
I also began to volunteer supporting victims and witnesses of crimes during criminal trials. But I hadn’t fully conquered my addiction or mental health issues. By 27 I was now a father to an unexpected baby son. This sent me spiralling to a heavy relapse that led to a serious suicide attempt. I got clean again by dedicating myself to the 12-step fellowship and graduated my HNC in Social Sciences with an A.
At age 30 I was nine months clean and halfway through university. I was in my first ever healthy relationship with a woman. I was thriving. My baby son, now aged two-and-a-half, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. It was a crushing devastation. An horrific curveball no one could have predicted. But this time I had healthy structures in life.
At age 31 I graduated University with an upper class 2:1 BA Hons in Social Sciences: with criminology and sociology. My son was healthy and well. My partner was now my fiancée, and our baby daughter was three weeks old. We lived in a beautiful little home in a social housing scheme.
By age 32 I was 2.5 years clean when the unthinkable happened. I relapsed briefly but heavily. I had taken my recovery for granted. Graduating Uni, earning good money and getting a professional job went to my head. It took me six months to get back to my recovery fellowship. I have never taken my recovery for granted since.
After the relapse I knew it was time to finally face up to what Derek had done to me all those years before. I began intense therapy and finally took the step that had terrified me most. I reported it to the police.
Something else came over me after that relapse. Something inside told me to write a book. A crazy notion for a working-class guy just trying to stay clean one day at a time. At 34 I achieved something no one could ever have predicted. I became a published author. It was no easy task. 98% of the time I got rejected for my idea. Told it would never happen. That no one would read my book about addiction unless I was a celebrity. But a publisher called Guts Publishing took a chance on me.
In a few weeks I will be 35. My book Euphoric Recall has been out for three months. It has completely smashed every barrier possible. Critically acclaimed by best-selling, award-winning authors and addiction experts. Professionals and students alike are saying it should be added to reading lists at universities pertaining to addiction and mental health related subjects. I have given talks on podcasts, in prisons, to college classes and to the public. Either by zoom or within Covid-19 boundaries. I have written articles around men’s mental health and the invites keep coming.
Filmmakers have already approached me about potential documentaries and picture films. In fact, the book was motioned in Scottish Parliament as important pertaining to the discussion around the drugs-death-crisis in Scotland. That motion was supported. The book and my story has catapulted me to being involved in the national campaign to tackle the problem.
Later this year I will graduate from a master’s degree for social work and I am already halfway through writing my next book. I will move into my first ever bought home and my son is now cancer free. So my message is this. Recovery does exist. Please don’t give up. If I had killed myself all the many times I wanted to then none of this would be happening. And I know 12-step fellowships aren’t for everyone which I completely understand. But they saved my life over and over, when there was no help out there for me. They never abandoned me, and I will never abandon them.
Epione wants to personally thank Aiden for his courage to courageously share his personal story of child sexual exploitation and reach out to all survivors and offer hope that recovery is ALWAYS possible. He invites us to consider the environmental and social aspects of trauma which ofter lead to disconnection and vulnerability to addiction (drugs, sex, and violence) as survival mechanisms. Now a father, published author, and aspiring social worker he is a leading voice in key discussions around the drugs-death-crisis and in Scotland.
If you would like to collaborate with us and share how you have overcome trauma and how you have been recovering, please get in touch with us at email@example.com – We look forward to hearing from and seeing you in 2021!