Change Grow Live – health and social care charity

Jo's story

Back in 2010 there was a big change in my life and everything just snowballed. I was misusing prescription painkillers and drinking more than I used to, coupled with an eating disorder that had been with me since the age of sixteen. During the last nine months, I made four attempts on my own life and had two stays in a psychiatric unit.

I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I’d always worked, I was sustaining my life, and I didn’t owe anybody anything. It took someone new coming into my life to actually highlight the behaviours that I was exhibiting and say ‘you’ve got a problem’ and if you ever want to do something about it, you call me. That turned out to be a lifeline.

I was mentally broken and finally I made the call that would ultimately save my life. The following day I checked into a rehab. I ended up staying there for 6 months.

As I was working for the council at the time, I was terrified of them finding out about me. I knew they were going to know I was in rehab and would need to come and do a visit, in line with their policies and procedures.

I was riddled with guilt and shame, but my colleagues didn’t judge me at all. I was supported back into work straight from rehab on a phased return, and that’s when my recovery really started.

Now the good thing about recovery is you get your feelings back - the bad thing about recovery is you get your feelings back! You have real joy - seeing your first sunset, having your first belly laugh. But you also get the bad, ugly and indifferent feelings.

I still get times when I think ‘wouldn’t it be nice to just have a few glasses of champagne at the party…’ but then I fast forward that tape, and I know it wouldn’t just stop at that….

Addiction kills people. I should be dead – that’s my reality. Doctors said to me, ‘you are lucky to be here given what you’ve done to your body’. That was six and a half years ago and now life is good. I’ve had a complete lifestyle change.

I’m now working with an amazing team at CGL. Everyone’s got your back here. Recovery has shown me that I need to do something that’s going to make my heart sing - something I’m passionate about. As part of my role, I get to celebrate the tiny little changes in somebody. Seeing people light up - that is the thing that brings me joy. It’s about the service users and making sure they get the best service when they walk through that door.

Who’d have thought I’d be using my own experience of despair and degradation to help others! It blows me away at times.

You don’t have to take it to the depths. You don’t have to take it to that point where you’ve lost everything. You don’t have to go that far. You can get help and you can change. It is possible.

It’s like a buoy floating on the sea – you’re just about keeping your head above water. But there’s that inner part of you that knows things have got to be different to this. You have to listen to that part of you and go for it. Life without substances is difficult but it’s worth it. I get to recover and my family recovers from me.