Addiction, Health, Behaviour Change | CGL

Nick's Story - Volunteers Week

Nick's Story

Growing up I was a typical lad. I wouldn’t say I struggled at school, but I wasn’t the most committed pupil. I had plenty of friends from all different backgrounds, although I always felt that I struggled to fit in with any of them. I come from a very loving family and I grew up with everything you could really need to be set up for a successful, happy future.

Throughout school, I was absolutely obsessed with music! It wasn’t long before me and my friends started sneaking into raves. It was here where I discovered drugs and began to take ecstasy, speed and cocaine.

Once the raves were over, we’d go back to my friends and carry on the party. At least that was what I wanted. We’d get back and everyone would fall asleep. Well, everyone except me. I’d always feel the need to go out and continue using the drugs alone and I’d take what was there until I’d run out and not be able to get anymore. I soon realised I was different from everyone else and quickly learnt that once I started, I couldn’t stop.

Cocaine always took precedence over the other drugs. And by the time I was 18 I was using cocaine up to 4 times a week. This started to take a toll on my family when I’d take money to fund my habit. When money was tight, I began to use mephedrone as this was a cheaper option to get high.

I was always able to find employment, but I could never hold a job down due to my drug habits. Then the time had come when I realised, I’d had enough. I needed change and my brother was serving in the Royal Navy. I came to the belief that the Navy was the answer for me to make the changes I needed. It would get me away from the drugs and teach me how to become a good and honest person.

One day, during my basic training I collapsed with severe abdominal pain and I was rushed to the hospital. In the hospital, they discovered I had perforated stomach ulcers, appendicitis and pneumonia. I remember the doctors asking me if I had ever used drugs because I was ‘much too young for ulcers.’ Unsurprisingly, I lied and replied “never”. I quickly came to the conclusion that the methedrone had caused this and I swore it off for life.

After a while of recovery leave, I came back, completed my training and went to sea. My cocaine habit resurfaced almost instantly, and my alcohol consumption had also increased. I was drinking whiskey or rum with my breakfast and I became really depressed when my ship returned to the UK.

Returning home with no job and no immediate job prospects, cocaine took the lead on my life. I was using daily, committing crime to fund my habit and I hated myself. I had become the person I always swore I wouldn’t. This is when I first approached Change Grow Live. At the time I knew nothing of addiction or recovery, I just knew I couldn’t stop using, my life had become hell and I needed help!

I was supported into rehab and I went along both willing and excited to start my new life. I spent nearly three months abstinent there and I was introduced to 12 Step Recovery. On the day of my leaving I was adamant this was the beginning of a new life and things would never be or get as bad as how they had been before.

I stayed sober on the train from Liverpool to Hull, but the thoughts were there and within an hour of being home, I was alone in my bedroom with a bottle of spirit and a quantity of cocaine. For the next four years, I was completely powerless over both cocaine and alcohol. My family relationships completely broke down and I was getting evicted from home after home. I could see myself on a daily basis destroying not only my own life but the lives of my family who at this point truly believed that I was going to die through my addiction and fast, and to be honest I was hoping that day would come sooner rather than later.

I remember the final day I used like it was yesterday. I was empty. I felt like I had lost all my emotion; sitting in an empty flat alone in crippling drug debt and knowing I had a broken family. I was just sat there in a corner absolutely scared to death, completely resenting every cell in my body. And that’s when it happened… I got this overwhelming feeling that it was all over. This feeling that made me believe I didn’t have to be scared anymore. I got up, left the corner of that room and went to the first 12 Step meeting I saw was available and I asked for help. And from that day to this I have been completely free from my addiction.

A couple of months into my new life I decided I wanted to help others living life in addiction find a new way. I thought about the help Change Grow Live had given me when I needed it most and approached them to see if I could volunteer. The staff was very understanding and helpful and give me a position volunteering quite soon after as a Peer Mentor.

I would say volunteering has been the most positive and rewarding experience of my life so far. I have completed a recognised qualification funded by Change Grow Live and I have received help and support every step of the way. Volunteering has not only given me an insight into the workings of drug and alcohol treatment, but it has also given me skills that I will use for the rest of my life. Through volunteering, I have been able to see the organisation from a different perspective and I knew that this would be somewhere I would be happy to work and somewhere I can achieve my goals, too.

Throughout my time volunteering with Change Grow Live, I worked alongside partner agencies and gained even more experience by working with a probation service and a local hostel. This really helped expand my knowledge of multi-agency working and now, through volunteering, I have achieved paid employment as an Apprentice Recovery Coordinator at the Change Grow Live service in Hull. With the continued support and hard work from the Volunteer Coordinator, I now have my start to a career helping others recover from addiction.