FROM ADDICTION TO ABSTINENCE – STEPHEN’S STORY
“I didn’t realise at the time that I was becoming addicted to the drugs; all I knew was the drugs were blocking out the bad feelings.”
I was first referred to drug services at age 15 or 16. I’m 32 now and when I look back on what my life used to be like I can’t believe where I am now.
When I was a kid I saw my mum being beat up a lot and both my parents taking drugs. They didn’t know any better but they weren’t there for me. My dad was then stabbed to death when I was 5, so I grew up without a father figure. Even through everything I still missed him and sometimes I felt like I wanted to be where he was. It was hard.
My older brothers used to spend all their time out doing bad things like drugs and crime; they didn’t want to play with their younger brother. I knew where they used to stash their drugs so when they left the house I’d go and use it like I saw them do. I didn’t realise at the time that I was becoming addicted to the drugs; all I knew was the drugs were blocking out the bad feelings. When you’ve not had love from a young age these feelings seem to help you.
When my brother was put in prison the drugs stopped coming into my house, so I started coming out of the bubble I was in. My belly was always rolling, I was sick and couldn’t get off the toilet. I started pinching drugs like Valium from my mum and pinching from my dearest to buy what I needed. I’d do whatever I needed to just to stop feeling ill.
Things got worse and I started taking crack cocaine, then Valium and ended up on heroin. You name it, I’ve tried it. All the years I was taking drugs I spent time living in squats, on the streets, in places where people pin up [injected], even sleeping amongst dirty needles. I’d sometimes lay there and think about a better life but I didn’t know how to get myself there.
I’ve been in and out of prison since I was 15. I used to want to be where my brothers were – that was my mindset then. When I went into prison and came back out into the community I’d do art classes and music lessons etc but I wasn’t ready to change my ways, so I’d continue committing crimes and go back to prison. Then a few years ago, my mum passed away. She made us all promise on her deathbed that we’d change our ways, so when I was released early from prison the last time something clicked in my head and I knew this time would be different.
I was successful getting into accommodation with the Wallich and the Dyfodol team in prison sent my paperwork to the Dyfodol team in the community, so when I was released I had someone to work with me – that was John.
John has been amazing for me. He always listened to me and didn’t pressure me into anything. I found I could really open up to him because he’d let me speak and he gave me hope that people can recover and go on to build normal, happy lives. He was just someone who was always there for me. He made me feel less lonely, which is a big deal when you’ve always been alone.
John helped keep me on the right path when I was going through the 12-step programme. He gave me confidence that I could complete the programme, which I did; I even got a keyring and a certificate to show I completed it. One of the 12 steps is to know that no mind altering substance can control your body. At the time I was still taking Methadone but I knew I wanted to come off it. I wanted to come off fast because I wanted a better life but John always reminded me to be safe.
I’ve been clean for two years now. I have my little nephew back in my life now and my sister, my family and some amazing friends. My friends don’t take drugs and all support my recovery. I try my hardest to stay positive all the time because I now have a life I could only dream of before.
I used to think about drugs and money all the time but today I don’t think about them. I think about healthy things and making good memories. I enjoy walking, looking at the plants outside, fishing and spending time with good people. When I have a hard day now, it’s nothing like the hard days I used to have when I’d be sitting alone, crying and clucking for drugs. I didn’t know how to pick myself up back then but I do now and I can finally look at myself and appreciate who I am.
*Stephen’s image has been changed to protect his identity.