Meet the new Mental Health and Wellbeing Specialist at Unsubtle Skulls

Hey, I’m Richie Paxton, the new Mental Health and Wellbeing specialist at Unsubtle Skulls.

What you see on the outside isn’t always what’s going on within someone. I was the master at hiding behind one of the many masks I had and always appeared to confident, outgoing, and full of life.

Following a few traumatic events in my life when I was 18 which basically, I didn’t deal with, it led me down a slippery path of addiction, firstly a problem with gambling, which totally controlled my life from late teens until late 20’s. It was my escape, my coping strategy but caused havoc and left lots of destruction on the way. Not only for me but for friends and family as well. And although at the time I didn’t realise I also had an unhealthy relationship with alcohol and my use of recreational drugs had started to become more common.

Throughout all my struggles I was always what I call a functioning addict. I’ve always worked in Health and Well-being but often found myself so invested in helping others when I was falling apart on the inside – you ever heard of the saying ‘wounded healer’, well that was me. Always trying to help everyone else but not my-self.

I used to teach exercise classes to groups of up to 60 and work with a wide range of people from kids all the way up to older adults with long term health conditions. Many would think to do this I was full of confidence, but this was one of the many masks I could wear and simply pretend all was well and good and put on a performance often masking my inner pain with humour and banter.

Alongside this I played football to quite a decent level and always found myself surround by teammates, footballer was the second mask and because I was quite good, I often felt wanted and needed by managers and players. So, where it appeared I had loads of friends on the surface I felt very isolated and withdrawn on the inside.

By the time I was 28 I had zero self-worth, and at that point I decided one day when it all got too much, I would commit suicide. It was something I thought about often and planned it all out in my head. This was the same time that my first son was born, which might sound crazy as it should have been one of the happiest times of my life, but instead I was causing pain and suffering everywhere I went and thought they would all be better off without me, and nobody would miss me.

A few years later my second son arrived but by this time the gambling addiction had manifested into alcohol and drugs and not many days went by when I didn’t do one of the three things in was of escaping reality.

I reached out for help a few times and things would help in the short term, but I would slowly slip back into old habits. At this point I was admitting to the gambling been an issue but was in complete denial about the drink and drugs.

At 32 I really tried to get a grip of the gambling and had long period of abstinence, but I had simply swapped the gambling for drink and cocaine.

At 33 I had a relapse, and this really hit me hard, and I now thought this would be the time to carry out what I had been fantasying about for the previous 5 years. I had hit my own rock bottom, a feeling where I truly believed the world would be a better place without me. A visit to the Tyne bridge, mentally and emotionally wrecked I stood on the bridge and cried. A woman approached me and said these words “I’m not sure what going on for you right now, but you might feel like dying now but I’m sure you don’t want to die for the rest of your life”, tears poured down my face and I new she was right.

That was the moment I was ready to change.

You might be thinking that you don’t see that as being lucky but had that never happened then I would never have had the courage to seek help and change my life around.

A period in rehab was to follow and this was what give me the foundation to have a better life. Hours of counselling and personal development was to follow. I knew I did not want that old life and things had to change. It’s not been easy, and I have had to face up to the shame, guilt and destruction I left in my wake through 15 years of addiction.

But I felt I could use my experience to help others, I never truly connected with a therapist until I met one who had a remarkably similar journey to me, he gave me hope, inspired me to be better and most importantly showed me change was possible.

Years of personal development and a counselling degree was to follow and the opportunity to work with and learn from amazing coaches along the way has brought me to this day.

New values in my life are the corner stone of everything I do and what continue to drive me forward. But if you take one thing from my story is change is possible if I can do it anyone can.

Watch out for more blogs and interviews on our website coming soon
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