I was born a heroin addict. My dad was one of the biggest dealers on the South coast. I hated my life growing up. A life with drugs was the only life I’d ever known until I came to Turning Tides.
I was a bit of a recluse as a child but left home at 16 and traveled around a bit before settling back to the south coast. I met my partner and we had two wonderful children and I became a parent helper in my kids’ pre-school. My partner was a dealer – it wasn’t a good relationship and we soon spilt up. Going to the wrong registry office on my wedding day was probably the best mistake I’ve ever made!
After we split up I started drinking heavily and didn’t go back to work. I only recognise now, since having had counselling, that I had a nervous breakdown. Social services took my children into care, they were 5 and 7 years of age. I did go into rehab for a while, as I thought it’d help me to get my kids back, but I quickly learnt that it wasn’t as simple as that. It was at that point that I should have got my life together but instead I went the other way. Just before the final hearing in Court, I took cocaine and heroin – it felt like it had stopped my heart from breaking.
I quickly became a heroin addict and needed a lot of money to fuel my addiction. I never felt like I could shop lift – I always felt like I looked too suspicious and at around 30 years old I started running drugs. I was eventually arrested for possession with intent to supply. I couldn’t be reclusive as a drug dealer and the life kind of took me out of myself and made my life a lot more sociable than it had been before.
I’ve since read about cuckooing and recognise that it happened to me. Cuckooing is where gangs travel to towns and befriend vulnerable people, only to take over their home and use it to deal drugs. I owed my first dealer a lot of money, but he was normally fine about. Sometime later a new dealer was sent down from London and he was much more threatening. He scared me, stole the keys to my flat and let himself in when he wanted – he sexually and physically assaulted me.
It was entirely my mistake getting into drug dealing but I hit rock bottom and for a long time I really wanted to get out but couldn’t see any way to – I really didn’t want this life anymore. I really thought that they’d either end up killing me or I’d go to prison for a very long time. I was really scared.
A good friend of mine told me that my life had to change and so eventually I plucked up the courage to go to the police and they put me into protection.
I’d like to say that my life then changed course, but it didn’t. Firstly, in a new town, I had to go to the Council to declare myself homeless. They did offer me a room in a hotel, but they didn’t allow dogs and I felt that my dog was my only true friend in the world at that time so instead I was able to sleep on a sofa at a family friend’s house. That didn’t work out – the friend came on to me and I wasn’t interested so he threatened to kick me out. In the end, I had no choice but to leave. Fortunately, he agreed to keep my dog, but I had absolutely nowhere to go.
The night shelter was full with only two spaces for women and so I slept for three nights in Iceland’s car park. I was a drug addict, I was very unwell at just six and a half stone, continually coughing up black stuff – I hit rock bottom and wanted to die. I started to access Turning Tides’ Community Hub for food and a shower. A friend I bumped in to, kindly offered me a couple of nights on their sofa and I think I slept more than 24 hours non-stop! I was completely exhausted after three nights sleeping on the street.
With Turning Tides help the Council eventually offered me a hotel in Hove and for six weeks Turning Tides gave me a travel warrant so that I could continue to access the Hub and attend various appointments. At the Hub a client told me about the Recovery Project and how much it had turned their life around and I knew instantly that was where I needed to be.
I had two interviews and on the 5th February, I was offered a place. I was unbelievably happy – I was given my dog back and moved in.
I have spent the last 18 months in the Recovery Project. It’s not like rehab, you can still go out between certain hours, but you must be back at a certain time, and you do have to be abstinent as we’re randomly tested. You cannot mess up!
I did relapse once but with regular counselling and someone to talk to all the time in the hostel, I gave myself less than a month to turn myself around again and I did.
The support workers are amazing. If I ever feel low or need to chat, they are always there for me. The project is sociable, we all have to take it in turns to cook, staff do welfare checks if you spend too much time in your room. The last 13 months have been the longest I’ve ever been clean from illicit drugs in my entire life.
I don’t have to lie, to steal, to cheat, to sneak around, to live underground or live in chaos anymore. I can be me. I’ve cut myself off from my old life, my old friends because my life has changed so much and I don’t want to go backwards. I don’t want those old triggers. I could never go back to my hometown – it scares the life out of me.
I have half a chance at a normal life at the Project and although I’m not ready to move out yet, I am beginning to see future plans are possible.
I joined PACT and attend their monthly meetings and now help to deliver Co-production training courses for Turning Tides. I intend to do other training courses in the hope that these certificates will help me get a job in the future. I eventually want to work with addicts to inspire them that if I can do it, if I can change the course of my life, then they can too.
I want my family back in my life. My daughter now talks to me. She had no idea that I was in a Recovery Project for heroin addiction – I wanted to protect them and was terrified of being prevented from having contact with them. I really hope that my son will want to re-connect over time. My dad comes to visit from time to time, he’s getting quite elderly now and so I have more patience with him. With counselling, I no longer blame my parents, my life is what it is and there is no point in beating myself up either. I don’t want to live in the past.
I do know that most people wouldn’t cope in my old life for more than 24 hours, but I have managed to live it for over 40 years.
But Turning Tides has turned my life around – they saved my life as I literally wanted to die when I first had contact with them. I now have a chance of a normal life – I really don’t want to mess this up.