Other than seeing some youtubers “draw my life” I had never really had any experience with or seen the purpose of this whole “life story” idea. My first time hearing one was on my 2nd day in treatment. I listened as a guy read his out, obviously distressed and ashamed of reading his past actions out to the group. After hearing his and learning I would also have to write one and read it out to the group, I initially panicked. I’m only 21, I thought I don’t have anything of interest really talking about – ohhhhh how wrong I was. I laid out a timeline of my life and particular events that stuck out to me. While writing I thought fuck it, I knew it was a unique experience and possibly the only time in my life I would get to do this, and have no fear of judgement (I mean less so than if this was done on the outside, I hardly knew these people at the time).
I was so nervous to read it out. My voice was trembling as I began, in front of the whole group. I began. “My name is Sumaiya, I was born in 1996..”.
There were a couple of things in there that I NEVER mentioned, processed or discussed with anyone. I thought I would never need to, you know how sometimes you just figure you will carry some stuff with you to your grave?
It got to one part and I mumbled “I’m not sure if this is relevant” as the anxiety was building up. Anuk, my focal therapist, shook her head and told me to carry on bluntly. As I spoke I felt the tears starting to come to the surface in my face and my voice trembling more. I managed to get everything I had written on paper, out to the group.
Peoples reactions were astounding, and they gave feedback that I really needed to hear. People echoed that EVERY bit was relevant. Andy, a 40 something year old heroin addict, who I later heard was crying (as many people were apparently ahh) during me reading it out, spoke of how it was incredibly humbling to hear and that it was a reality check for him. I gave him a different perspective on addiction. From the viewpoint of a child who was constantly around a lot of chaos growing up.
My response was that events happened and I reacted to them the way I did, suppressing my emotions with my addiction, and I knew I had to take responsibility for where I am now.
Anuk feedback and said the whole point of the exercise is to look for faults, reasons and excuses and I had some faults, some excuses, but a LOT of reasons for being here. Other people thanked me for my courage and bravery – 2 other people said I inspired them to be as raw and open when it came to their turn to do their life stories, and lay EVERYTHING on the table no matter how scary it is. People in the group who were parents in the group shared it made them reflect on their actions, how their addictive behaviours may have affected those they hold closest. They all thanked me.
Afterwards I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. Again, I bared myself completely to these people and was accepted. Just a few days ago I was so sure I didn’t belong there. I was still scared of what was to come next though. But because of this exercise, in future group therapy sessions, I was able to make sense out of my life for the first time; it was like connecting pieces of a puzzle. It helped me understand why I am the way I am, and most importantly what to do about it now.
Like I said, I’m not looking for blame or to just self pity my way through recovery. I’m ready to accept the past and embrace the possibility of a better future.