A Life in the Days of Kieran, Recovery Worker

Kieran Judge compares days from two parts of his life: before and after recovery.

A Day in the Life of Kieran – After Recovery

I start my day with a protein shake: a concoction of kale, peanut butter, milk, oats and protein powder. It tastes nicer than it sounds. I’ve become a bit of a health freak since getting into recovery from drug and alcohol abuse and I guess it’s these new ‘healthier obsessions’ that motivate me to get out of bed these days. I’d like to say something nobler, like helping others or saving the world, but that would be lies.

Actually I’m bullshitting myself. One of my main motivators is helping people at the ARC Rehab Centre in Cosham. This is a surprise to me because I’ve always believed I’m not a ‘people person’. In truth, helping others helps me in my continued existence.

My life seems fairly mundane now in comparison to my chaotic drinking/using days. This used to bug me early on in recovery but now it’s ‘life on life’s terms’, as they say.

After facilitating a group on acceptance at the ARC, I purchase half a cooked chicken and some rice for lunch, giving me sufficient protein and carbs for my gym session with my gym partner, Dan, after work. We compare ourselves to a combination of sitcom brothers, Frasier and Niles, and Del Boy and Rodney from Only Fools and Horses. We laugh at ourselves as we conduct our routine yoga-like stretches – opposed to the routines of macho muscle heads – and prepare our ‘Diet Plan’ worthy protein shakes with pints of full-fat milk. We have to mock ourselves or someone else surely will. I came into recovery at eight and a half stone and six foot, looking like a POW. After two and half years of regular gym sessions, I’m now a healthier twelve stone of ripped muscle (I wish).

In the evenings I can be found indulging another of my obsessions — watching back to back episodes of the series ‘American Horror Story’. Before that it was ‘True Detective’. The genre I prefer is usually thriller demon, which appeals to the darker side of my personality.

At around midnight I take my hot water bottle encased in a pink fluffy cover (an ironic gift rather than a reflection of my style or taste) to bed. I fall asleep listening to Radio 4. I try to switch it off mid-Shipping Forecast before my ears are offended by ‘God Save the Queen’. I can picture my Irish Catholic dad cursing me as a ‘Black and Tan heathen’, which always ensures a peaceful slumber.


A Day in the Life of Kieran – Before Recovery

Coming round from a black out, or being aware of the fact that my eyes are open and not feeling one hundred percent, or even fifty percent, prompts me to realise I need to replenish my blood alcohol levels.

I have little or no recollection of whether or not I have any drink left, or whether there are funds to get drink. I stumble towards the fridge, in the boots and jeans that I slept in, to check if there are any cans of Tennants Super left.  I usually have one under my pillow to wake up to in case there isn’t a cold one in the fridge, or in case my flatmate has beaten me to it.

Worst case scenario I open my warm can of Tennants Super and roll a cigarette — even worst case scenario, from the butts in the ashtray. I usually try to get up at around 7 a.m. Each day is groundhog day, except for Sunday when we religiously curse the licensing laws for not being allowed to sell alcohol before 10 a.m. My flatmate, Dan, will stumble towards the fridge shortly after hearing my can open, or vice versa. We swore off heroin and crack cocaine a year ago and have stuck to it.

If there are three cans of Tennants in the fridge it’s a good sign we have some money. This means two of the cans are mine. I will stash one in my room and open the other. Dan doesn’t need to know there were three cans in the fridge. I’m not a complete bastard, I reason, I have left him one. I’m sure he would do the same thing.

I tentatively drink my first can, acutely aware of my stomach acid levels and the likelihood of being sick. If I can get enough alcohol in me within the next twenty five minutes, without being sick, the feeling of nausea will disappear and be replaced by a warm glow — serenity even.

Around  7.30 a.m. we make our daily pilgrimage to the off licence, making a pit stop at the chemist for Dan’s methadone script. It’s about a half an hour walk and we will have taken our warm beers from under our respective pillows to drink on the way. We will most likely be laughing and taking the piss out of one another, or otherwise be sulking over some minor disagreement:

‘You’ve had three cans. You owe me a can.’

‘You tried to take me for a See You Next Tuesday. I would never do that to you.’


‘Are you calling me a liar?’

And so it goes on.

We return home in time to catch the start of the Jeremy Kyle Show and unburden ourselves of the weight of twelve cans of T, each reflecting that we are pretty healthy for alcoholics/addicts – ignoring the fact that we are breathless and sweating and that the rest of the day will be just a blur.

Photography by Sarah Cheverton.