I moved up to Leeds from London in the Autumn of 2015. My drinking and using had wrecked my life. Because of over 30 years of using, I had lost my job, home and latest relationship. Depression, anxiety and a sense of utter failure weighed me down.
Luckily, just as I was about to become homeless at Christmas, I found somewhere to live. I had hoped that living near my children would help, but by the beginning of the new year even they had started to refuse to see me.
My deteriorating condition left me ill and desperate. In addition, that was when the accidents started happening. Blackouts, falls and injuries. After one bad fall, I ended up in A&E and was told if I had been 2 inches taller, I would have broken my neck. In the end, I went over to see my new doctor up here, and told her I didn’t want to be alive anymore. She was sympathetic but very firm. I was told that if I carried on the way I was, I would be dead within a year, and would die badly and alone. She did give me a bit of paper with a phone number on it and said – “give these people a ring”. It was Forward Leeds, (who I had never heard of). Normally, I just threw bits of paper on the unopened post pile and did nothing. This one time, I rang up, and my life has never been the same since.
I went initially to Seacroft and was first assessed by a guy called John, who signposted me very quickly to an induction with Justin, a recovery champion. Within a week, I had started attending the SMART meetings and the NA group that were running there. My first steps to my new life. By lucky chance, I also met another guy called Darren, who ran the RAMP course and I got a place on what would turn out to be the last one at Forward. The 24 session Recovery and Motivation Programme is a very successful and powerful tool to help people in addiction and it is a terrible shame that it had to be dropped due to lack of funding. The sooner it is brought back the better.
Within weeks, for the first time in decades, I knew without doubt what I had become, and what I had to do. I started begging to go to re-hab, and as soon as possible.
As Spring turned to Summer, I was put up for a possible place in St. Annes in Headingley, but was told that I would have to engage with everything I was asked to by Sohail and my new keyworker Gemma, and attend every meeting and group. I did all this and more, even though I was still using excessively.
I met Sharon, the manager at St. Annes for an assessment, and again basically begged to be taken in as quickly as could be arranged. I think that if you want something badly enough, and are prepared to do whatever it takes, whatever you are asked to do, it shows how serious you are. I was given a date to go in at the end of August.
I drank away the last few weeks wondering if I would even stay alive long enough to make it to re-hab, but on Tuesday 30th August, I crawled through the door of St. Anne’s with the last stinking hangover I have ever had and prayed “never again!”
The week detox and 13-week re-hab were hard, but life changing. I learnt a new way of life, met a lot of new people and made some very close friends. The staff are amazing and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you are prepared to give it all you’ve got.
When I came out in December, having completed the 14 weeks, I realised that the real hard work was just starting. I had seen people drop like flies while I was in there, and several more fell off the wagon within days or weeks of being back in the outside world. I was determined not to be one of them.
Forward Leeds aftercare is freely available and I joined every group I could and enrolled on every course I could fit in. From Step up to construction with Lucy to Progress Group with Graham, along with my regular3/4 SMART meetings a week as well and a couple of courses at Swarthmore
After 3 months, I felt ready to spread my wings a little and attended 3 months of courses at Northern college, including Peer Mentoring and intros to counselling and criminology.
By the end of the last course I realised that I had no idea what to do next, so amongst other things, I attended an open day at Leeds Uni, also arranged by Graham. I was so taken with the uni that I have enrolled for and am probably starting a 4-year Ba in Social Science course in September. In addition to this, as well as trying to complete my smart facilitator training and getting a few days’ work here and there, my days are so busy now that I can’t imagine blowing it all for the sake of a drink and going back to the beginning again. Also. I am still motivated by the faint hope that one day I might have my children back in my life.
I am not a particularly strong or self-disciplined person. I just wanted to get clean more than anything I have ever wanted before. If I can make a go of it, then so can anyone. I have no idea what the future holds for me, but I know one thing, life is better clean…