Unresolved trauma led Lakila to drugs, now she helps others
Lakila Akindola’s recovery from substance abuse has been both a test and testimony of her faith.
It’s a journey she started on seven years ago. She talked about it with The Royal Gazette as part of National Recovery Month, which is observed around the world each September.
“I started using heroin and cocaine when I was 29 years old,” she said. “My drug of choice was heroin, but I also used cocaine for many years.
“I wouldn't say that in the beginning I had a desire for the drugs, but a desire to escape unresolved emotional pain and trauma. Both of my parents had struggled with addiction and this obviously affected my childhood and upbringing.”
Prior to her drug use, Mrs Akindola had a career in social work, specialising in addiction. Her desire was to help those who suffered like her parents and she went off to school as a recipient of The Duperreault Fellowship, “a scholarship trust that provides funding for educational and training opportunities for individuals in the field of substance abuse”.
“I was determined to have a better life and to be a part of the solution and so I had accomplished obtaining a master’s degree in social work with specialisation in addiction,” she said.
Despite all her training, she too turned to drug use to escape her own unresolved trauma.
“At the time I first tried heroin I had just assisted my dad with getting himself into treatment. The weight of all that my family had been through was just too much to bear and the problem was that I had spent so many years wearing masks that said that I was OK.
“I know that it seems strange that I would turn to the very thing that had brought all of the trouble in my family, but my mind convinced me that if I tried it I might find relief. I didn’t imagine that I would end up like my parents.”
It led to a 13-year on and off again battle with addiction. Along the way she signed up for multiple treatment programmes and made several attempts at sobriety.
“I had initially tried going abroad for treatment but my sobriety only lasted for short time spans because I did not have any true local support for ongoing recovery,” Mrs Akindola said. “I ended up becoming a client at Turning Point Substance Abuse Programme where I had previously worked as a social worker.
“Like most addicts, I carried a great deal of guilt and shame around my addiction and this was multiplied for me in regard to my profession. I know that my friends and family were heartbroken and at a loss of how they could help me when they saw how bad my life had become. I came to a point where I realised that if I was going to recover, I had to do the things that I would have encouraged a client to do in the past.”
In May 2014 Mrs Akindola attempted treatment for the third time with the methadone maintenance programme at Turning Point.
“It was at this point that I started to take my life and my recovery seriously; I guess you can say that I surrendered. I did all that the programme had to offer but I also sought the support from the wider community of 12-step support meetings.
“While I understood addiction from a textbook perspective, living it is another story because, as they say, who feels it, knows it. I had to learn recovery from the hearts of others who had been through it themselves.”
It was at this point that she also surrendered to a “power greater than herself” for help on her journey.
“In recovery language we speak about a higher power and while I began my journey very estranged from my God, the journey brought me back to my Christian faith and belief system.
“I went back to church – while still on the methadone programme – and after some time God started showing me that he also wanted me off methadone and back working in the addiction field.
“I know in my heart that God protected me during the years that I lived in active addiction. I could tell you the stories, but they are all the typical stories of someone who wakes up on a daily basis believing that they need heroin to survive.
“In the end I really just wanted to die and the worst wasn't even the drugs but the loss of my hopes and dreams to live better and to do better.”
Through recovery Mrs Akindola has been given a new opportunity – to pursue her professional goals and reignite the passion for the dreams she lost through her addiction.
“In June 2018 I re-entered the addictions field at The Women's Treatment Centre,” she said. “In 2019 I began working casually at Turning Point, where I had been both an employee and client. This turned into a full-time job in 2020.”
While still in the process of completing her application to become an internationally certified addictions counsellor, Mrs Akindola has been certified as a professional coach by the International Association of Professional Recovery Coaches.
“Addiction treatment programmes around the world have created various positions for people with lived experience in addiction,” Mrs Akindola said.
“There has been much professionalisation of the field however it's clear that the voices and the stories of the people who have ‘been there and done that’ matter. Bermuda has not yet taken hold of fully integrating these roles into our treatment continuum.”
To fill that void, Mrs Akindola has created Radiant Recovery Coaching.
“I have a heart for all people struggling with addiction and especially people in professional positions who feel that they have to cover up both their addiction and then also their recovery. We may all need a counsellor or therapist at times, but the greatest strength for many is the lived experience and success of others who have also struggled.”
Radiant Recovery Coaching provides confidential help to anyone seeking relief from substance abuse and the mental and emotional toll it takes on lives.
“The theme of Radiant Recovery Coaching is that our best, brightest and most beautifully authentic versions of ourselves await us in recovery. I would love to partner with people in need who are seekers of enlightenment, empowerment and elevation to overcome addiction,” Mrs Akindola said.
As she continues to navigate her own recovery, she relies heavily on her wide support system to keep her grounded.
“I am so grateful to my church family at New Creation Worship Centre, Turning Point and Pathways Bermuda; most of all, tremendous gratitude to the rooms of recovery in Bermuda and the men and women in these rooms for impacting my life and showing me that recovery is possible.”
Her advice to anyone who is struggling is that recovery isn’t easy but it is possible.
“From a spiritual perspective I would tell them that God says, in Jeremiah 29:11: ‘I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ What the enemy meant to harm us, God turns around for our good,” Mrs Akindola said.
“When I think back on the first day I used heroin I see destruction, but I have now lived to see the redemptive power of God working and moving in my life.”
Follow Radiant Recovery Coaching on Facebook or contact Lakila Akindola directly: 777-0913; email@example.com