Drink and Drugs News DDN October 2019 | Page 7

More on stigma at: www.drinkanddrugsnews.com Andy, one of the many inspiring participants of the campaign, tells his story ‘ThingS are So differenT now...’ past Share our belief! ‘Forward has been supporting people with criminal backgrounds or drug and alcohol problems to turn their lives around for over 25 years,’ says Forward Trust CEO Mike Trace. We know that if we show a belief in their ability to make a positive change, and give them the opportunity to prove themselves, they can do amazing things. We back up this belief by aiming to have a high proportion of all our staff, apprentices and volunteers with ‘lived experience’ – either a history of drug/alcohol problems, or of offending. Currently, a third of our 400 salaried staff, all of our 20 apprentices, and 80 per cent of our 150 volunteers, report that they are in one of these categories. We want the general public and employers to share our belief in this untapped potential and do something to support people to be more than their past. www.drinkanddrugsnews.com It started how it does for so many: I was a social drinker. Like a lot of people, I started drinking in my mid to late teens, but it started to escalate in my early twenties. Then I started to get into drugs as well and things just spiralled out of control from there. I lost relationships and jobs because of my drinking and using. Soon I felt like I’d given up and my addiction became even more entrenched. I started committing crime and was in and out of court all the time. I first went to rehab in 2003. I stayed completely sober for three months, but deep down I didn’t think I had a problem with drink. When I moved into my own place, I struggled to pay my bills and I soon turned back to drink, which led back to drugs. Although I was in a better place, doing my best to look after myself for the next few years, I couldn’t let go of drugs and alcohol altogether. In 2015, I moved from Sheffield down to my mum’s house in Surrey, where I was still drinking and using. She tried to help but I still wasn’t ready to change. The grief of my dad dying in October that year made my addiction worse. I just couldn’t put drugs and alcohol down and things were getting steadily worse. Then I had one of those life-changing conversations with a friend and something inside me clicked – I knew I needed to get sober. That was in February 2016, and I haven’t touched a drug or a drink since. Around the same time, I was introduced to Transform Housing and Support, who supported me into one of their dry houses (supported accommodation where residents must remain free from drugs and alcohol). With the support of a friend I made in the Transform house, I learned to cook and look after myself. A month after I got sober, I started volunteering and attending fellowship meetings. I’ve found this has been so helpful to my recovery – giving me a structure and a purpose to my life. Since I found recovery, I’ve got back into things I used to like but hadn’t really had the time for – like fishing and cycling. I loved fishing as a child but in active addiction, it just fell away. Now I go whenever I can – either with a friend or by myself – it’s a really great way to have some quality thinking time. In 2017, a friend introduced me to The Forward Trust. They supported me to start a level 2 qualification in peer mentoring and also ‘meet and greet’ training. I now do meet and greets for them – meeting a Forward prison client at the gate on the day of their release and supporting them with things like appointments and getting to rehab or supported accommodation. I also volunteer in a charity shop and cheered on Forward fundraisers at the London to Brighton bike ride. It was such a great day and I felt really proud to be involved in the charity – plus I love cycling! It took me a long time to get where I am today, but I’ve worked hard and things are so different now. I cycle every day, even when it’s raining cats and dogs! Once I’m on the bike, it’s like a form of meditation for me and really helps me to switch off. I’m giving back to a great organisation, learning new skills and I’m hoping to apply to do Forward’s apprenticeship scheme soon. My mum is so proud of me and how far I’ve come, and I’m proud of me too. I’m living proof that people can change their circumstances. October 2019 | drinkanddrugsnews | 7