Matthew Brincat successfully completed rehab for drug addiction in 2014 and has been clean ever since. He is now writing a book of prose and poetry about the transition from rehab back into everyday life. This is his story.
Family, schools, society – they teach us how to read and write, how to work out algebra, etc. But they don’t guide us in how to deal with our emotions. Since the dawn of mankind’s intellect, there have been those that ask questions (philosophers, physicians, physicists, etc.), and those that just follow instructions.
I was one of the ones that didn't read the instructions. I would let myself be absorbed by what is in front of me, and let it guide me.
"Heroin presented a solution to the problem. It numbed the pain, put my mind to sleep"
When I was a child, I didn’t fully resonate with my family, my name and my body. All those things felt foreign and distant. At the time, I already had some form of recognition that I was more than these things. I already felt like my body, and all that came with it, was just a small part within the infinite scheme of life.
Although I had, and still have a loving family, it was painful to feel alone among them. To feel the need to express things that you think no one else feels puts you in a dark corner of total loss. I thought that people would think I am crazy if I expressed myself, if I told them what was experiencing, and the visions that life offered me. I felt that what was within and around me was too great to understand.
When I tried to reason and understand things, I got lost in frenzied overthinking, of which I ended up having no control of. Heroin presented a solution to the problem. It numbed the pain, put my mind to sleep, and made me to a certain extent – sociable.
It wasn’t the smoking of cigarettes, the party drugs, alcohol, peer pressure (as defined my most of the so called “scholars” of this sector), that led me to inject heroin into my body. It was the pain, caused by trying to be what I am not, that led me to that.
My addiction started from the start of 2002, till June of 2013. It was a rollercoaster of high and lows, twists and turns, overdoses and random sex – all contained within a drowning state of mind. They say that the addict after a while starts to chase that first high. And in fact, there’s nothing like the first kiss, except the first hit. They call it “chasing the dragon”.
After my first overdose, I was no longer chasing the dragon, I was chasing death. When I nearly died from my first overdose, I wanted to bring pain to the people who loved me. I wanted to die, to find out who would cry at my funeral. I wanted to die to stop the pain once and for all. I knew what I had to do, but I was a coward. The truth is all I wanted was attention.
"I wanted to bring pain to the people who loved me. I wanted to die"
In the last months of 2012 I started to inject cocaine. If heroin made me somehow manageable socially, cocaine swept all that away – I was desperate and in a constant state of fear. Money, and other resources, were running out extremely quickly. Soon I was left with only one option in my field of vision – the family jewellery which my parents kept at home.
I started by selling what was mine. When the last earing was also gone, I said to myself; I'll just make it look like a robbery.
And that’s what I did, with all my cowardice, and lack of experience. Once I'd carried out the fake robbery, I went to my dealer to score, knowing that at one point my parents would shortly return to their ransacked home. They would find the place turned upside down, and will eventually start to call to see where I am.
That's exactly what happened, and after a half a dozen hits, I decided to answer the phone, and go home, high and trembling like a kite. When I got home I saw that the police where there. I found my parents, and my aunt crying. My brother had a stern face. He falling to pieces. “What did you do?” he asked me.
The police started asking questions. They were of course not satisfied with my answers, so they directed me outside of the house, and into their car. I can never forget that moment…I felt – liberated. Finally, all this would come to an end.
I went into rehab after spending three months uncontestedly in jail. My first night at Cordin Correctional Facilty was spent with some twenty-five sleeping men in one cell. Since I had taken methadone, I had to be transferred to the Forensic Division in Mount Carmel Hospital, where I was to be monitored by a psychiatrist, and a staff of nurses.
"I spent my days in prison observing the behaviour of others, writing about it, and about all the feelings that were being triggered inside me"
My lawyer was simultaneously advising my family to apply for bail, so that I didn’t have to spend more time behind bars. My family didn’t like the fact that I was in prison, even though they were the ones who reported me to the police. The truth is, I was thankful that they did. I didn’t want to get out until I was free from methadone.
I asked my family to bring me some books, pens and a journal. And that's how I spent my days in prison; observing the behaviour of others, writing about it, and all the feelings that were being triggered inside me. I watched documentaries, read books, and put my emotions on paper. That was where I met my feelings face to face for the first time. From then onwards, I no longer looked at them as executioners, but as guides.
Rehab was next for me. I entered a programme October 2013 until January 2014. They were four months of deep introspection, filled with more writing, drawing, and self-expression. I was discovering my true self, leaning about the capabilities I thought I never had. I started making friends, connecting more and more with my family, and instead of trying so hard to understand my surroundings, I started listening to them. Everything was telling me its story, and I used my pen to translate those stories into poetry.
I chose to do rehab at the OASI Centre, in Gozo. I had friends that had got clean that did their rehab there, and I knew that the programme there was based on spirituality. That's what I was searching for, from the beginning…that connection with the god within me and around me.
When the day to return home came, I felt excited – a sense of freedom and achievement took hold of me. Deep within me there was a sense of undisturbed peace, calming me. That peace is me, the “me” that was prepared to experience life, greet emotions, new friends, and be curious about how my journey would unfold. This time by trying to understand less, and listen more.
In rehab, I was introduced to the NA (Narcotics Anonymous) – a group of addicts that support each other with their individual experience. They were ready to hear me out, and guide me. They were my support system, and with their encouragement I started going to social events, and getting out more. They became a group of true friends, whose main concern was the health of each concerned individual.
"The root problem was the pain caused by trying to be someone that I am not"
The people in my life kept coming – I kept making new friends and entering new circles. I stopped smoking by my own free will, started again, and then stopped again – just like any other smoker who struggles with the habit. I drink alcohol socially, knowing my limits. I have been with people sniffing cocaine and smoking marijuana, without the least urge to indulge again. I am able to do that, because I've realised that the drugs are not the root problem. The root problem was the pain caused by trying to be someone that I am not.
I have transformed myself from an unsociable introvert that hates the world and himself, to whatever I am now. And for that I am grateful.
My mind wants relentlessly to speak to you.
Yet my heart has nothing to say...it is simply silent.
For even the most beautiful of languages, is foul in its description of Love.
So here I am, laying peacefully in the eye of the storm.
...here, I am with you, and Love.
(dedicated to Phillipa)
For more information on Matthew Brincat's writings visit his Facebook page. His book will be published before summer 2017.