Dying until I climbed a mountain
A mountain’s spirit helped me heal Tim Bennett, 49, from East Sussex
Standing in front of the mirror, I stared into my own eyes. They were wide with horror.
I didn’t recognise my own reflection. Years of drug abuse had taken their toll on my now skinny and skeletal physique with sunken cheeks and sallow skin. ‘I’m dying,’ I muttered. I’d woken up night after night with palpitations, a racing heart. Knew it wouldn’t be long before my body gave up completely.
It was why I’d avoided looking at a mirror for months now. But I couldn’t put it off forever - so here I was, looking at a man who, at under seven stone, was half the weight he used to be.
It was time for me to confront the truth.
I was an addict and alcoholic.
The problem had started in my early 20s, when I tried marijuana and found it helped with my shyness and low self-esteem. It had proven to be a gateway drug. Now, more than 10 years later, I regularly used cocaine, ecstasy, mushrooms, prescription drugs and alcohol. Cannabis was a thing of the past, something I could no longer tolerate as it induced crippling anxiety. I’d stopped eating, had my first alcoholic drink as soon as I woke up. I’d blacked out countless times and woken up days later, often with broken bones.
From the outside, I seemed OK. I was married, and passionate about my job as a social worker for disabled children. Ironically, I may have appeared clean-living, as I’d always been interested in alternative therapies and the esoteric. I’d even studied reiki, becoming a seconddegree practitioner.
When I was fully immersed in reiki, I’d actually been able to see golden, sparkling energy. Now the golden glow had completely gone from my life.
I’d hit rock bottom – but I still had a chance to turn my life around. A friend had gone through a rehab programme in Cape Town. He said it had been hard, but worth it. It was
worth a try.
Sipping a beer in Heathrow airport, I wondered what I was letting myself in for.
But to my surprise, I didn’t find rehab as hard as I’d expected. I was so ready to change my life, I actively embraced the twelve-step programme and intensive psychotherapy.
As part of my recovery, I trekked up Table Mountain. Sitting and quietly meditating at the top, I was suddenly immersed in a sense of enormous power, of strength, of love. I realised I was connecting with the mountain itself. It was the most profound and humbling moment of my life. I came down from that mountain a changed man.
I knew then that I’d never want to touch
The golden glow had gone from my life
On the edge: Thin and ill At peace: Happy and sober