Wednesday 30 September 2020

Euphoric Recall

Someone sent me a polite message via Twitter earlier in the summer. He introduced himself as Aidan Martin and said he wanted to flag up a book he had written - Euphoric Recall, a memoir of his childhood and journey through addiction. Because of my recent work on childhood trauma, he piqued my interest.

Book cover of Euphoric Recall by Aidan Martin
Aidan's book fulfils his dream of becoming a writer; a dream he nearly gave up on when he was an addict. It took two decades to conquer his addictions to hard pornography, alcohol and drugs. His book, which publishes tomorrow (1 October), refers to a higher power that helped him overcome his demons. "I am not an airy-fairy guy in the slightest nor am I religious," he tells me. "But I do believe I am on a journey and am being guided and protected on it." 

My own book about the toxic impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) was published in May by Public Health Wales and is freely available. The book consists of interviews with practitioners - who help others to overcome adverse experiences - as well as people with lived experiences of trauma, like Aidan.

Euphoric Recall begins with a powerful account of how Aidan was sexually abused as a teenager by an older man. Aidan met his abuser, Derek, via a chatroom on the internet, aged 14. Mistakenly, he believed that Derek was a friend, someone who understood the anguish he was feeling as a suicidal adolescent living in a working-class neighbourhood in Scotland. Aidan had no idea he was being groomed. Although he was streetwise and tough, he was also heartbreakingly naive. 

Aidan emailed me the first three chapters and the book begins:
I stood outside of that McDonalds with my heart racing. It was a dark winter evening and I could feel the cold air sharply stinging my cheeks. Lying to my mum about who I was meeting didn't feel great. What was I supposed to do though? I could hardly tell her I was actually here to meet a man I had been talking to on the internet instead of the 'friends' I was allegedly meeting. I was only fifteen. Still in school. As she drove off,  I felt a horrible sense of having betrayed her. Writing this now I feel it was an even greater betrayal to my younger self. I was already on the way to ending my childhood innocence and yet I had no idea of the impact those moments would have on my entire life.
As a mother, I sat with my heart in my hands as I became immersed in his traumatic early life - how he used his addictions, including alcohol, to drown out the misery in his head. "Blackout drunk, that darkness, that horrible fucking darkness that followed me everywhere was lifted," he writes. "Alcohol was like my weapon against it. My medicine. All those thoughts of killing myself, wondering how you actually make a noose, were gone."

Tackling trauma

Aidan's memoir is engaging and poignant, particularly as he writes with such honesty and humour about his troubled childhood. His story has the power to pull readers into his world... into his violent secondary school, where vicious fights broke out most days, and into his home where he had a challenging relationship with his dad. In short, Euphoric Recall helps us understand how trauma can blight a young person's life. 

"I wanted to tackle all my traumas," he told me. "But it is greater than that. People are dying in record numbers from drug-related deaths in Scotland. Suicide rates are through the roof. I believe addiction is stigmatised and stereotyped and even shamed."

In one of my own interviews for the ACE book, I spoke to Liz Gregory, joint head of the child and family psychology service for NHS South East Wales. She made the point that "people's stories are so much more powerful than anything you can write in a research paper". Euphoric Recall is a good example.

Aidan, now clean, works as a mental health and addictions worker in Scotland. He also is studying social work at a master's degree level. The turning point in his own journey was a mixture of factors, including recovery meetings for addicts, therapy, volunteering and getting an education later in life. "I have had to re-learn and unlearn many things and am still a work in progress at age 34." 

Click here to order Aidan's book, Euphoric Recall 
Click here to read about the science of adverse childhood experiences

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