When I was born, my Dad was already in jail. He was very protective but like a stranger to me really. In the estate I lived in he was feared by the community, and by me too. When he was back in jail it was like a holiday for us. I was very close to my Mum though, although my sister was always my Dad’s favourite.
I grew up in a difficult environment and when I entered secondary education I was put in a specific class because of my Dad and his reputation but I generally liked school. When I was in Year 9, aged 13, I had my first drink and by aged 14 I’d started smoking cannabis every day which I eventually came to like better than alcohol. To be honest it made me feel free – it took all the fear away that I’d felt my whole life. I also met my oldest daughter’s Mum at this point and by the time I was 16 I was a Dad.
When I left school, I went to college, my Mum and Dad separated and at this point in my life I remember that all I could think about was the weekend. I’d go to college during the day and wait for my friend to finish too so we could go and get stoned in the car park.
Once I’d finished my plastering course I started working for my cousin but I was still drinking every day and once I broke up with my daughter’s Mum, I drank even more. I’d get drunk in the van going out to do jobs for work and later on ended up starting to take cocaine.
This is when I got involved in different types of activity to fund my addiction and as a result I was sacked from my job. I have numerous convictions for alcohol related offending and at one point was at court two to three times a week.
After a breakup that broke my heart, I isolated myself from everyone including my family. Drugs and alcohol were my coping mechanisms and my head was a mess. When I was 22, my Grandad died and this broke me. A few weeks later I stole a car whilst under the influence of drink and drugs and crashed at 115mph. My mum was devastated, and I was lucky to be alive.
Once I had recovered, my probation officer asked if I had ever thought about going to rehab and to try and please my family (and get away from some of the people I owed money too) I went to a rehab in Somerset for 3 months and then moved to Bristol. I stayed sober during this time so that I could get a house but then relapsed and started drinking and taking drugs again with friends I’d made.
I started working for someone who grew cannabis which meant drugs were readily available to me and after a while started to grow my own in my loft in my new house.
At this point in my life I was worse off than before rehab and was in a cycle of dependence. When the police raided my house and found the drugs my life in Bristol was over. I was charged and sent to Crown Court and while I was waiting for a court date went back to Middlesbrough to live in my Mum’s house. Here I continued using drink and drugs and ended up in a pretty bad state and during this time I met my current partner. After a snooker game one night, I woke up the next morning and I’d lost my phone but I had my partners number written down. I called her and we went out for a date – I was honest with her about all I’d been through and she accepted me for who I was. When she became pregnant I started to think she deserved better than me. I knew it was time to change, for good this time.
I went to Foundations and met my key worker and while waiting to see if I could enter rehab I attended all the community groups I could and engaged with my keyworker.
Eventually I received word that I’d got my place in the Recovery Connections rehab programme and detoxed. Everyone was so supportive and I felt like I was ready. I worked through the 12-step programme and my coach helped me to break myself down and build myself back up again. Every member of Recovery Connections was approachable and helpful. It was hard, but all the people I’d seen over my 20 years of addiction couldn’t help me and this was my chance. I was still in rehab when my baby was born and the team were so supportive in doing everything they could to help me bond with him – including changing me from residential to day care.
I’ve been sober now since 19th April 2017. Once I completed the programme, I became a volunteer and then completed the ambassadors programme. When Recovery Connections advertised for Recovery Worker jobs I applied and got it!
I wouldn’t be where I am today without Recovery Connections. My recovery has given me relationships with all of my children, a job that I love and an opportunity to help other people get the opportunity to live their best lives as their most authentic selves.