My early life story is one of profound lows and essential choices, but also of resilience and recovery. This is also my tale of experiencing addiction, my own reality. Today, I am only 26 years old, but reading my story might make you believe I've lived much longer—or perhaps, lived multiple lives. And in a way, I might have. Because I truly believe I've been given a second chance at life, something I am immensely grateful for.
It all started very early in my life. As a child, I looked up to my twin brother, Henri, seeing in him a better version of myself. He excelled in school, had more friends, or received tutoring while I had to see a psychologist. It felt like I could never measure up to his level. This sense of inadequacy was further intensified by the loss of my best friend, Olivier, to cancer at a young age. Losing someone at such a tender age leaves a mark, even if you don't fully comprehend it at the time. Not long after, in the second grade, I also lost my grandfather. Although I never knew the version of my grandfather before he suffered a stroke, he was dear to me. My grandmother still keeps the drawing of how I depicted his casket and the roses on it, finding it touching and beautiful how, at such a young age, I tried to cope with such a significant loss. It was a way for me to express my feelings, but I concealed my grief from others. My grandfather was someone with whom I shared special moments, like watching FC De Kampioenen together in bed. His influence on my life was profound; I still use his lighter, perhaps even considering it an excuse to keep smoking. The loss of these two individuals left me with an unconscious sense of abandonment.
As I grew up, I vividly remember the feeling of not belonging during my school years. This escalated in the fifth grade when I was bullied by a group of girls. I sent a letter to a friend who was away at camp, and I received one in return. However, the contents were nothing like what I had imagined. They insulted me one by one with the most unimaginable things for girls who weren't even teenagers yet. This was a moment when my self-worth truly began to waver, and I started 'people-pleasing' to be accepted. I've always sought the affirmation I never truly received. Even now, I struggle with it. The feeling of repeatedly feeling abandoned and always being the black sheep dominates my memories of school. A period during which the sense of not being good enough developed more and more. It remains a significant challenge to love myself, to have self-confidence, to believe in myself, and realize that I am good enough. I am a loyal and enthusiastic person who can sometimes be a bit too much, but I always have the best intentions.
My entire school career was quite turbulent. I wanted to attend the college in Waregem for my high school, just like my twin brother Henri. However, my mom didn't think it was an excellent idea and tried to persuade me to pursue a different direction better suited for me. Unfortunately, the bullying followed me here as well, just like in elementary school. Only this time, it was more about my clothing choices and appearance. They always found a reason why I didn't quite fit in. Everything I said or did seemed to be "wrong."
To escape this situation, I decided to go to a boarding school in Wallonia, hoping for a fresh start. But there, too, I was bullied, this time because my French didn't really sound like French. Once again, I felt like I had failed. I desperately longed to belong somewhere and decided to return home, this time to the school at the college in Waregem, where I gradually began to feel a bit more at home. Here, I started drinking, not because I really wanted to, but because I thought it would make me more popular. After trying so hard for so long to belong, it was about time that it actually became a reality. But everything started going wrong here. During this period, I made choices that would have fatal consequences later. It's a part of my life I'm not proud of, but it's so crucial because without this part, I wouldn't be who I am now. I hope that by sharing this part of my story, I can help others.
Like the beginning of many bad stories, I got involved with the wrong friends. Gradually, I started using drugs when I went to university. I was an easy target, said yes to everything, and lost myself in a world of alcohol and drugs. I was a master at manipulating people. I would literally do anything to get alcohol and drugs. My life became a whirlwind of parties and blackouts, and I no longer wanted to live in reality. At no moment. Yet, somewhere in my subconscious, I realized I was on a very wrong path. At one point, I even considered calling a rehab, but there was always a reason not to seek help.
My addiction led me to desperate acts, including theft from family members and damaging my brother's car. My parents also went through a hellish period. I made their lives so miserable that they saw no other way out than to kick me out. A heartbreaking decision for them. But even that didn't bring me to my senses, and I continued living in a haze of self-destruction. Even though this should have been a turning point in my life, it took a while for me to realize that I really needed help. And that I couldn't wait much longer.
During this hellish period, my brother was living with me in the dorms. I remember standing outside the door in Ghent, vomiting, and begging for help. Henri's reaction was cold: 'There's the door.' I realized I had reached the lowest point in my life, and if I ever wanted to change, it was now or never. His rejection and disgusted look were the last straw. Finally, it hit me that I needed to change. At the lowest point in my life, I finally sought help.
I decided to go to South Africa to detox. There, I confronted my deepest demons and ultimately found the strength to get clean. Now, 4 and a half years later, I am proud of my recovery. The consequences of my addiction were too significant to ignore, and I learned to cope with my demons. I felt so defeated, unaccepted, and alone that I even hoped not to wake up anymore. Suicidal thoughts have always haunted me, and I remember leaving notes on the stairs for my parents as a child with messages like 'I don't want to be here anymore.' That dark aspect of my life has always been with me; I just had to find a way to deal with it.
My story is intense, but I share it to help others. I want to show that even when you're at the lowest point in your life, there is always hope for recovery. There is always hope for change. My story is not just a testament to my own struggle, but I hope it can also be a source of inspiration for others facing similar issues. I want to show that it is possible to claw your way out of the deepest valleys and make a new beginning, even if the road is difficult and bumpy. There is always hope, even in the darkest moments of life. I am proud to be almost 5 years clean and hope.