After a night of partying in a gay club, Sam Thomas finds himself in bed with his Valentine’s Day date. The night takes a turn when his date transforms into a beastly creature. The next morning, confused and hungover, Sam discovers that his date has no recollection of this. In an attempt to shake the night off as a bad date, he plunges further into drinking.
I first met Sam Thomas in January 2021 when he sent me his manuscript. When I read it, I knew it had loads of potential but wasn’t quite there yet. I sent some notes to Sam about what needed to be done to make the manuscript work. Which was essentially: Go deeper.
In November 2021 he sent the revised manuscript. Months went by as we were busy promoting Blade in the Shadow. In February 2022 a new intern started working with Guts, Vivien Celina. She read and reviewed every single submission in my inbox. Literally hundreds. It took her a month. Sam’s landed in her top ten list. In March I finally read his revised manuscript. I was so impressed with what he’d done that I offered him a contract.
Sam’s memoir, Smashed Not Wasted, emerges from the hard-partying gay scene in Brighton, UK. The one where club hopping and quick Grindr hook-ups are the norm. And excessive drinking is often a way of life. In Sam’s case, he said no one really even knew about his. He was a professional and ambitious entrepreneur, who even in his heaviest drinking days went to the gym every day.
I’m so proud of Sam for having the guts to share his story. For his persistence and determination. For going deep and telling all. And equally proud of him for his two and a half years of sobriety. As of yesterday, 143 weeks. Well done Sam.
I asked Sam to write about how he got started writing his memoir, which includes his path to recovery. I’m delighted to share this with you today.
xx Julianne, director at Guts
I Might’ve Been Smashed But My Experiences Were Never Wasted
By Sam Thomas
There’s more than one way to do recovery and there certainly isn’t a ‘right way’, or one that suits everybody. I never went to rehab (I was scheduled to go twice but never got there) and I never subscribed to any recovery programmes, like Alcoholics Anonymous. For many, like myself, there’s a growing trend for people to navigate their own recovery, by doing it their way.
In November 2019, when I detoxed for what I hoped to be the fourth and final time, I’d got bored of having to drink to prevent alcohol withdrawals. I was bored of the anxiety attacks the morning after. Bored of apologising for my actions. Bored of the repeat cycle that was never-ending. In the end, I had gotten bored out of my addiction. While boredom was my starting point, there were many reasons that prompted my decision to turn my life around once and for all.
Anyone who has had a history of addiction — or knows someone who has — will know that recovery is not a one-stop shop. There is inevitably a period of trial and error before someone ‘splits the atom’ in their recovery. In reality, it takes many years to reach that point. For me, when I detoxed the first time as an inpatient at City Roads in London it was simply a test run to give sobriety a try. Rather naively, I thought the purpose of a detox was to ‘reset’ things to start again. Looking back, it was an indicator I wasn’t ready for a life of sobriety just yet. What I realised from speaking to the other residents was that hardly anyone detoxed once and was sober for life. For the record, I relapsed just four hours after discharge.
Three psychiatric hospital admissions, being sectioned by the police, many A&E visits and suicide attempts later, it was miracle I survived. After three and a half years of being stuck in a revolving door, there were many things that made me want recovery, but boredom was definitely one of them.
Throughout my life and career, I’d been put on a pedestal for my achievements but also persecuted for many things. Ironically, in 2009 I set up a charity for men with eating disorders aptly named ‘Men Get Eating Disorders Too’, following my own experiences of bulimia. My involvement ended in 2018 after I spiralled into alcohol addiction. A shift from one challenge to another, like neat and tidy book ends.
What I learned during that period of my life is that society isn’t always as understanding towards those with addiction as they are towards eating disorders. “They’ve only got themselves to blame,” “They brought it on themselves” and “Only they can change,” were statements that had become familiar to me. It seemed people suspended their willingness to be compassionate and show empathy towards those with addictions. What’s more, I began to understand that some people believe such individuals will remain forever in the grip of their cravings: “Once an addict, always an addict.”
Fortunately, I recovered — or should I say — am recovering, which is continuous. No-one around me expected it, least of all myself. Well actually, I did, but I knew I had to do it my own way, in my own time. Like the famous Winston Churchill expression, “when you’re going through hell, keep going”, I literally kept running and running through the burning flames.
In November 2019, after admitting myself to hospital, I detoxed for eight long days. It was there, from my hospital bed, that I spoke openly about my experiences of addiction for the first time on Twitter. Without realising it, I was also reaching out to others going through similar struggles, the #RecoveryPosse who share their experiences and offer peer support.
Over the course of this admission, I learned an important lesson: recovery never works in isolation. While recovery is a lonely journey, it’s not as lonely as an addiction thriving in secret.
Before I was discharged, I thought of the title for my book and gave myself permission to begin exploring my journey. On my final ward round, I told the doctor I planned to write about my experiences to support my recovery. By making this commitment to myself, it empowered me to stay on the recovery track and I haven’t looked back since. Only when I began to own my story, did I feel I could share my experiences without shame or apology. Yes, I might’ve been smashed for the best part of eight years, but I was never a waste. And nor were any of my experiences that led me to where I am today.
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Smashed Not Wasted is the story of Sam Thomas’ journey to recovery from alcohol dependency, exploring the triggers that led him down that path. This is Sam’s debut memoir and is due for publication in April 2023.
Pre-orders are now available from Guts Publishing: gutspublishing.com/product-page/smashed-not-wasted-paperback