I have decided to tell my story in the hope of helping anyone who is struggling with addiction, and feels there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
I was taking drugs for 28 years, so no matter how long or how much you are taking, I am proof that it can be done.
To this day I honestly do not know why I started taking drugs. In school I was very anti-drugs, I had a very happy childhood, so there was no event in my life that was the reason I started.
I was 17 when I had my first experience with drugs. There was a local youth club on a Thursday night and someone who I knew was selling speed. When I was 18 I started selling LSD in a local rave club. It started getting really rough in there, people getting held up in the toilets at knifepoint and robbed.
When I was 19 a group of us were arrested. This was the first inkling my parents had that I was involved in drugs. By now I was going out and going straight to work the next morning having not slept because I had taken speed.
I remember one night taking loads of speed in the local nightclub. When I went to work on the Monday, the supervisor took one look at me and told me to go home. I was in bed for about a week. That was the first incident I had around my mental health. I was convinced people were trying to come through my bedroom window and I imagined people talking about me outside the flat.
I was getting more and more depressed and paranoid. I started taking anti-depressants, I was having panic attacks and was staying in rather than mixing with people. The only time I felt ok was when I had taken speed.
By now the years were rolling by, but my drug taking was getting worse. I was ringing work regularly making stupid excuses, and eventually I got the sack. I was depressed for days on end scared to go out, or for there to be a knock on my door and I would have to pretend to be ok to everyone.
One night I was out for 3 days taking speed, cocaine and smoking joints. I started getting pains down my left arm, sweating and shaking badly. It got worse and worse until I phoned the ambulance and my parents. Until then I had done a pretty good job of hiding my drug use from my family, so it was a real shock for them to see me in that state.
The incident scared me senseless. This is when I had my first dealings with Ashley House, a drug and alcohol place which did lots of things to help people suffering with addiction. Eventually I convinced myself I could do it alone, but after a year clean I ended up back on alcohol and cocaine.
One night, I got a call from my mate who had moved to Liverpool. We were just chatting, and when it came time to hang up we arranged to meet the following weekend. The next day I got a phone call saying he had died in the night. He had taken heroin and drunk a bottle of whiskey.
Shortly after, my flat got raided and I went to prison. It was only when I got the police station and rang home I was told that someone had seen the police and rang my mum. When my mum went up the stairs my flat had loads of police searching it. She had a heart attack and was taken to hospital.
She recovered enough to go home a week later, and I went straight to prison. While away I had time to think about my life and all the shame and hurt I had caused my family.
While away I gained a couple of NVQS and completed a drug awareness course, which I enjoyed so much that I became a mentor.
I came out of prison with nothing and went to live with my parents for the first few months. A couple of weeks later I went out with a friend and had the ‘light bulb moment’. I remember thinking to myself how much of my life I had wasted and how much pain and upset I had caused to my family.
So the next day, July 17th, I put on Facebook that I was going to become abstinent. Shortly after I was told about Change Grow Live, so friend arranged for me to speak to someone about becoming a volunteer.
I was put on the peer mentoring course run by a team leader, Vicki. I also did night classes at college to gain NVQs in mental health, counselling and challenging behaviour. I volunteered for 15 months, and the experience I have gained has been priceless.
After 16 months I became a recovery champion. Now, I have my own flat and my dream job working at Change Grow Live, my relationship with my family is better than ever, and my mental health has returned to normal. I go to the gym regularly and have a nephew who is like a son to me. I’ve made new friends who have my best interests at heart.
Since the day I put the Facebook status nearly 2 years ago, I am still abstinent and going strong!
I want to thank my family and friends for the support they have given me, the family friend who first put me on to volunteering, and the amazing staff at Change Grow Live, who I have the honour of working alongside on a daily basis.
I hope someone reading this is inspired to change their life for the better and to know there are people and organisations such as Change Grow Live who are there to help.