Addiction, Health, Behaviour Change | CGL

Sam’s Story

I come from a dysfunctional family. Both my parents were alcoholics, so when I was 12 I entered the care system and moved into a children’s home. I seldom saw my parents either at the home or when I moved to supported accommodation aged 15. I have suffered from anxiety and stress most of my life.

Around the age of 14, I started drinking at weekends to mask my pain, drinking until I blacked out. I would wake up the next day not knowing how I got home. Then I got a job as a nursery nurse and started partying at the weekends – binge drinking and taking drugs like ecstasy. When I reached my late 20s, I realised I had a problem with my lifestyle and went into counselling. This opened up many emotions and memories, which triggered more drinking.

At the age of 29, I fell pregnant. I was living in Glasgow, but in 2006 I moved with my daughter to Edinburgh, thinking this would help me. Instead, I started drinking again and taking cocaine. I was working three days a week, but my lifestyle was impacting on my job. I made mistakes at work and I was given warnings about my conduct.

I played on my depression and was signed off work for a year. It was my flatmate who pushed me to get help. She was worried about me and my daughter.

I was put onto Antabuse (a drug used to treat alcoholism) and in 2011 I started the Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP). I was dishonest and didn’t feel I really understood what LEAP was about, because I still had my flat, a car and my daughter. I didn’t feel that I was as bad as the others there.

I was free from drink and drugs for a year, before I had a relapse. I went back into LEAP, but this time I was beginning to understand what was wrong with me.

I started volunteering with LEAP and after nearly two years of sobriety I came close to getting a job, but then I relapsed again. After a while, I stopped drinking again, fell pregnant and managed not to drink throughout my pregnancy. But after, once I’d stopped breastfeeding, the anxiety and stress came back and the drinking began again.

In 2018 I came to Change Grow Live. I was referred through a social worker and was assessed at the Edinburgh South East Recovery Service. I was in debt so Change Grow Live put me in touch with the Edinburgh Community Help and Advice Initiative (CHAI) to assist. I also received counselling and was encouraged to participate in groups.

My keyworker Ellie has taught me relaxation techniques and mindfulness and she also introduced me to a recovery mobile app called Breaking Free. I have had a few blips, but Ellie has always been there for me and encouraged me to keep in contact. As soon as she heard I had had a blip, she texted me straight away - which was great as I felt ashamed and embarrassed.

Change Grow Live has also encouraged me to become a service user representative which is something I really value. I didn’t think I’d be allowed to because I’d had these blips, but I was told I wouldn’t be excluded. I attended an event in York where I met other service users and staff and the whole experience was positive and encouraging. I felt I learned so much. It made me feel important and worthwhile.

I have been put forward for other training and soon I will be doing the Foundations of Recovery group programme. Eventually, I would like to work as a support worker.

I feel I am making progress.