When I was younger, I was obsessed with football. Most of my mates were hanging around in parks smoking and doing drugs but it didn’t interest me, I just wanted to play football. When things went downhill for me, everyone said they were surprised it was me. I wasn’t the one expected to go down the road I did.
I always had the opinion that drugs were dirty and at the lowest end of the stick, so when a friend of mine started dabbling in heroin again after leaving rehab, I backed away from him. But, life got tough and he asked me one day to try it [heroin] because it would help me. I was at a stage where I was curious I guess, so I did smoke it and he was right, it blanked my mind.
I didn’t go flat out smoking heroin from that point but I did start using it more and more when I felt angry or something had upset me. I saw it as a way to solve my problems until smoking no longer worked for me and injecting took over. Injecting is a dark world.
I remember my 21st birthday but from then until my 31st I can’t really remember much. I spent a lot of that time trying to fund my habit, passing out a lot and always feeling scared that using would kill me, but I couldn’t stop myself. I was so wrapped up in it I thought I couldn’t survive without it.
[Over the years] I went into rehab 14 times. I got really good at getting clean but rehab never helped me sort my real issues out. The drugs were never my problem. I was my problem. I’d come out of rehab and everything would be alright for a while. My life looked good from the outside but when I was alone I’d be in turmoil. I’d think people around me were lying to me and that my partner never really liked me, so I’d turn back to drugs.
When the drugs stopped working I’d take more and more until I lost my job, my relationships, my home. I’d take myself off to sleep in a bag inside a shop doorway because I wanted to be alone and have no one bother me and me not bother them. An addict’s life is always fearing “the rattle”. I’d say the majority of people out there dream of a life without the drugs but they’re terrified of the rattle. What makes you better makes you worse!
I was caught shoplifting to fund my habit and taken into the Police cells. Part of my conditions to keep me out of prison were to engage with Dyfodol. My caseworker at the time was good; he came and met with me and my parents at our house to talk them through what was going to happen and how he would try to help me. I’d lost the trust of my parents so it was nice of him to come and do that. That was the first time I engaged with Dyfodol but since then I’ve been back and forth with them for 15 or 16 years.
The last time was last year. I was in a right mess after some issues where I thought my past was going to damage what I’d built since getting clean again. My head went and I took a load of drugs all at once. I’d had enough of destroying my life over and over and didn’t want to start again. When I woke up in hospital something had changed in me. I knew I couldn’t go on like this and felt fed up with ‘enough being enough’.
There was a warrant out for my arrest at the time, which my partner (she didn’t leave me) convinced me to hand myself in for. I did and went into prison for where I got the drugs out of my system. I came out to Dyfodol and went onto a methadone script. My new caseworker, Gemma, was good. I had the same argument with her that I’ve had with Dyfodol since day one; that I wanted to go on a low dose of methadone and come off quickly. Gemma knew I had my mind set so worked with me to support me in a way that worked to keep me safe.
She was always there for me to talk to and provided support when I needed it. Without Dyfodol and organisations like Narcotics Anonymous I don’t know where I’d be now. I could be dead.
I’m now abstinent and working part-time. My employer is a great guy who’s really supported me and adapted work around me. I owe him a lot. I’m sponsoring someone now, supporting them through the 12-step programme.
Life is better than I’d have ever thought it would be because of how settled I am. I’ve finally found me and that’s worth more than anything. I know I’ll be alright now regardless of what happens in life because I’ve built up the skills I need to be able to cope when times get hard.