A man who took drugs for the first time aged 12 and spent decades battling addiction has revealed how reaching breaking point during lockdown convinced him to get clean – and now he is helping others do the same.
Nav Phoenix, 36, from London, has been clean for 15 months and he is now using his own experiences to establish a charity for those with addiction, sharing the news ahead of World Mental Health Day (10 October).
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Nav told Jam Press.
“Words can’t describe the feeling of saving someone’s life and watching them grow and turn it all around.
“Recently, I had a message from a 20-year-old who suffered with depression and a cocaine problem.
“He sent me a suicide note and asked me to post it on my Instagram so people knew what he had been through.
“I said: ‘No you tell your story yourself. But you tell it once you come through this. I am by your side every step of the way.’
“I told him I have been there myself. I knew the pain he was feeling.
“I said we would fight together and told him I would help him turn his life around.
“We set out a plan and now he is back in the gym, has moved out of the squat and into a shared house, got a job and is progressing in the right direction. He is also not using anymore.”
The dad-of-two started taking drugs himself as a teenager and believes his decades of living with addiction mean he can reach people who are feeling hopeless.
He said: “I was 12 years old when I first started taking drugs.
“I had a bad upbringing from my family.
“When I was introduced to drugs, they filled the hole that was missing.
“My drug use continued all through my teenage years and it spiralled out of control.”
Aged 17, Navid was driving a car during a crash that killed his best friend, Spud. Although he was charged with death by dangerous driving, he was later found not guilty, but the grief and court case saw his addiction escalate.
He said: “I didn’t want to be alive anymore, so I used to drink and take drugs from the minute I woke up until I passed out at night.”
Navid moved to Spain in 2006 and then back to London in 2007, where he then met his future wife Kasey, now 35.
Although he did try to stop in 2012 after setting up a double-glazing business with his wife, and again when the couple’s twins Parker and Poppie-Belle, both six, were born in 2015, the cycle of addiction continued.
When lockdown hit in March 2020, his drug use spiralled even further out of control.
He said: “Lockdown one was very hard for me.
“I went on an 11-week bender. I was in a bad way using all day, everyday.
“My wife got me a Zoom call with a professional who diagnosed me with severe depression, PTSD and cocaine-induced psychotic behaviour.
“I tried to take my life twice. I couldn’t see a way out of this hell I was in.
“My body felt like it was cooking from the inside out.
“My daughter heard me and my wife talking and she said ‘Daddy please don’t go to heaven’.
“I replied ‘I can’t promise that, we will all die one day’.
“Her face dropped so pinky promised I would walk you down the aisle. She said ‘how long is that?’ and I said ‘a very long time’.
“That day I made a choice to fight.”
He gave his wife his phone and stayed inside for three days to get the cocaine he was taking out of his system.
He slowly weaned off the tramadol he was taking as he was worried it was too dangerous to stop suddenly.
Now, 15 months on, Nav is clean, working as a life coach and he has written a book called The Rise of the Phoenix about his experiences.
He said: “It’s crazy how your life can flip 360 degrees in 15 months.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a hard road but I am now in such a positive place, a happy place and helping so many.
“I will push to help as many people as I can as I know what it feels like to be at rock bottom and have no one to help you out.”
Nav is aiming to create a forum for mental health, addictions and fitness and establish a charity to support others.
He said: “We really want people to see how you can beat these things and be happy. With our help, we will make it possible.”
Speaking ahead of World Mental Health Day this Sunday, Nav wants to encourage others to seek help if they are struggling with addiction.
He said: “To anyone in a bad place, just remember where you are right now is only temporary you can turn your life around.
“One thing we work on a lot is structure to your day.
“If you suffer from depression, the first hour of the day is the most important. If you get up, get dressed and leave your house even for a walk, go to the shop, then your day has started off well and will carry on that way.
“If you get up, go downstairs, sit down and don’t do anything, your day will go bad and you will start overthinking.
“I get up every day and get on my bike for 45 mins. That way I have already achieved something in my day. It’s all about setting your day up for a win.”
Over two in five men regularly feel worried or low, according to research from Mind, while 3.2 million people in the UK took a drug in 2020, reveals figures from the Office of National Statistics.
Nav added: “If you get diagnosed with a mental health problem, don’t think there is anything wrong with you.
“You can still live a normal life, you just have to learn to control it and learn to combat it.
“We can help you with this.”