Groomed, abused and plunged into a world of addiction in West Lothian, advocacy worker Aidan Martin tells his story in Euphoric Recall
ADDICTION, abuse and a two decade battle with his demons left 34-year-old West Lothian author Aidan Martin looking into the abyss many times in his life. Groomed as a teenager, he turned to drink and drugs as his coping mechanisms during a 20 year ordeal that only ended last year.
It's a journey that he has charted in his no-holds-barred memoir, Euphoric Recall, published by Guts Publishing earlier this month. Today, Aidan, from West Calder, works in advocacy, representing people caught in the lifestyle he has now left behind.
"The advocacy work I do is for anyone with substance issues," he explains. "My role is to act on their behalf, to be their voice when liaising with the local authority, government, elected members or other related services."
It's a role that his personal experiences make him uniquely suited to as anyone who reads his book will discover. Euphoric Recall opens as the 15-year-old Aidan prepares to meet a man who had been grooming him since the age of 13 for the first time, however, as the book continues, it becomes clear that he was a troubled child even before that incident.
"I went to a very good primary in West Lothian, Peel Primary, but high school was horrendous," he recalls. "I don't think I was nurtured at high school but I discovered I could write – when, on my dad's side of the family, his mother passed away I wrote a poem and everybody loved it. When I left school, my mother used to say to me my dream was to write, but then I got heavily involved in drugs and forgot about that ambition. Even so, the older I got, going into my teen years, when I felt very dark and suicidal, poetry became my outlet for that too.”
Aidan's problems actually started in Primary Six he reflects. "One time, I nearly got suspended from Primary when I snuck out a hammer – me and my friends were always fighting against the odds with a bunch of council lads at school. I was always part of a group that were ‘The Inbetweeners’, but I was someone who would never back down, so I'd always get mouthy and throw myself into the fray."
If that incident should have served as a was a red flag, arriving a Secondary proved traumatic for the 13-year-old.
"Inveralmond High school was like going to a young offenders institution, it was never about education it was always about survival. That was the point of my life when I started going to extremes - I was drinking straight whisky, vodka and Buckfast at 14 paid for from my paper round and pocket money. The school held a lot of children from different areas, a lot were from working class families and a lot were troubled problem kids. I was one of them. It was all about fighting all the time."
It was in this environment Aidan first started thinking about killing himself. "I fantasised about hanging myself although I never acted on it. School was certainly a trigger as was the fact I grew up in an area that I loved but had a lot of violence and I really struggled with not knowing who my biological father was. In hindsight, I can piece that together now but I spent a long time searching for that part of my identity."
Leaving high school at 16 with no qualifications, Aidan admits that he went straight into a lifestyle of substance abuse, albeit one that was exacerbated by an incident of sexual abuse that had taken place a year before.
"It took me almost 20 years to say that I had been groomed. That I was vulnerable, suicidal, messed up," he says. "Someone like him, who knew I was struggling with my step-dad, who I call my dad, and knew that I was broken-hearted about not knowing my biological father exploited my vulnerability. Through phone calls and in online chatrooms he had become a sort of fantasy father."
When they finally met Aidan records in his book how the man sexually abused him in a local hotel. The father of two continues, "That was a huge trauma because he remained in my life for some time longer. It left me confused about my sexuality and I got even more into substances - weed, eccies, speed."
Watching a family member cope with serious illness for four years, at which point they lost their battle, left him even deeper in despair.
"I was in so much pain over that... substances were my escape but I don't think I even realised how bad it had become."
Despite his mental health now spiraling out of control too, Aidan managed to hold down his job as a debt collector for Sky TV. When his employer discovered he was struggling, they tried to help.
"They were fantastic, they knew my family because my mum had worked there for 14 years, so they knew what we had been going through and supported me with counselling."
As his substance abuse continued, he began self-harming, cutting the top of his arms with knives. "It was for attention and control,” he explains. “I didn't know how to deal with my pain and I wanted to die but I didn't want to die as well, if that makes sense. It was a short relief but I didn't feel any better for it."
At 24, a former work colleague offered him an escape, inviting him to visit him in Canada and perhaps find a way of making a fresh start.
"I was functioning but my relationships were falling apart, I'd run up £15,000 of debt and my mental health was deteriorating - I went to Vancouver where Alan Stirling gave me a lifeline, he knew I was drowning. He was an ex-cop who I had worked while debt collecting. I guess he was another father-figure, only a healthy one. I intended to go for six months but I was still a user addict so I ended up coming home after three months."
He adds, "That was the beginning of me turning my life around, I just didn't know it at the time."
Enrolling at West Lothian College, Aidan did a starter course in Health and Social Care, "In Canada I had volunteered in homeless hostels. It was the first time I enjoyed doing something for other people. By this time I'd also started going to recovery meetings, so for the first time in my life I was starting to think that I might have a possible future."
When, a short while later, he became a father for the first time, however, Aidan, found himself relapsing.
"When my son was born I had it in my head that he was going to fix me but I couldn't stop using. That made me feel like a complete failure," he confesses.
After a three day cocaine binge he suffered a breakdown, fearing he would follow in the footsteps of his own absent father. He found himself, balanced, ready to jump from a bridge in Ladywell being talked down by a police officer.
"That police officer saved my life and one of the things I want to do is meet him to thank him. He treated me with dignity and as a human being, not the down-and-out I felt like. He got me to talk about college and my son and he told me that I didn't start college for no reason and that my son was going to need me in his life. If I could find him I'd hug him and thank him. I'd love to meet him."
With his addictions coming under control, the occasional relapses became less and less as Aidan slowly left the lifestyle behind. The last lapse was two and a half years ago and led to him finally getting the closure he required on the abuse he suffered as a 15 year old.
"I had taken my recovery for granted and got arrogant, cocky and complacent but that brief relapse was what led me to go to the police to report the abuse. The shadow I had carried round all my life was no longer there after I reported him."
Consequently, today, at the age of 34, Aidan feels free for the first time in his life.
"Writing the book was the best thing I have ever done for myself, so freeing. My son is now heavily involved in my life, I respect his mother, I have a fiance, Sam, who is fantastic, and we have a three-year-old daughter. I also got my Honours degree in 2017 and am now half way through my Masters in social work," he says proudly.
And he has a message for anyone currently finding themselves facing the same issues he has done in the past, "Don't give up. If I had killed myself the times I wanted to, none of this would be happening now. Recovery does exist."
Tomorrow: Don’t miss Groomed – the first of four extracts from Euphoric Recall
Euphoric Recall, By Aidan Martin, is now available from Amazon, priced £9.95