‘David’ has been in recovery for more than six month months after receiving help from Forward Leeds to deal with his history of drinking.
Here he shares his story and looks ahead to a future without alcohol.
“I started drinking alcohol at an early age, I think I was about 14. My friends were all drinking and I thought it was cool, there was also a lot of peer pressure, so I started too.
“We all kept on drinking throughout school, like most of our class mates, and there didn’t seem to be a big problem with it.
“Once I finished school I went away to live in York. My Grandad was ill so I went to look after him. It was a really difficult situation for a 16-year-old to be in, I felt like I didn’t really have anyone to turn to for support. Drink became that support.
“I remembered how great it used to feel to drink when we were younger so I turned to it to help deal with my situation. I was always between York and Leeds so I didn’t really feel like I belonged anywhere, the drink helped with that.
“After a year and a half my Grandad passed away, I came back to Leeds. But I also bought the drink with me. It helped me to deal with the fact that he had passed away, I didn’t really know how else to deal with it. But I realised that drinking wasn’t the solution so I sorted myself out.
“At the age of 18 I stopped drinking by self-detoxing, it was hard but definitely worth it. I didn’t have a drink for six and a half years.
“At the age of 24 I started drinking again. I went back to drinking on a daily basis, heavily as well, and the alcohol started to control me again.
“When I was 25 I committed my first offence – I committed armed robbery, I was drunk when I did it. I got caught and went to prison for six years. I managed to get out after three years. But I didn’t have any sort of support network when I was released.
“The only support I had known for a long time was alcohol, so I went back to drinking again. But I did manage complete my licence for the offence.
“Three months after I had completed my licence and had been discharged, I re-offended. I hadn’t had any support with my alcohol use so I committed attempted robbery due to my drinking. I was handed a three year, eight month sentence.
“After 22 months I was released on licence. Six weeks after I had been released I drank two cans of lager. I felt terrible, I asked myself: ‘What am I doing?’
“The Drug Intervention Programme wanted me to re-enter Detox, but eventually they decided to refer me to the sustained recovery team at Forward Leeds. It made all the difference – it was definitely what I needed, rather than another detox.
“I managed to develop a support network through Forward Leeds, which has been essential in helping me to maintain my abstinence.
“Carla from the sustained recovery team played a really important part in helping me to maintain my recovery. We worked on relapse prevention techniques to make sure I have the mechanisms to cope and knew what to do if I was feeling that I might relapse.
“I also attended AA meeting,s which were really great in supporting my recovery. Being able to speak to other people who have been in the same situation really makes a difference.
“I managed to build a support network which I didn’t have before. The lack of support that had after getting released from my first offence was why I carried on like I did.
“Forward Leeds offered me opportunities in education, training and employment. I worked with Joy, the ETE co-ordinator which helped me build my confidence and realise my potential.
“Joy was great and showed me what opportunities were out there and encouraged me to pursue my ambition – using my experience to work with those in addiction and support them into recovery.
“Carla and Joy encouraged me to enrol on courses and training that interested me and that would help me to realise my ambition. I started my IAG course in April, one day a week for 13 weeks.
“The course gave me training opportunities, as well as the chance to do a placement at a hostel, which I have continued to do since my course finished in June. This will help me develop my skills and hopefully lead to volunteering and eventually employment.
“I have now moved out of the bail house into my own place through supported accommodation. I have been reduced from high-risk to low/medium-risk by my probation worker.
“I found the best way to improve myself was just by being honest. My workers weren’t there to trip me up, they were there to help me, to support me to achieve my aspirations.
“I was positively discharged from the Drug Intervention Programme and Forward Leeds in April and I have been enjoying life to the full since.
“Forward Leeds aftercare and sustained recovery offer is brilliant, I couldn’t have asked for anything better. They supported me when I most needed it and gave me the confidence to start a better life for myself.
“I wake up everyday buzzing and can’t wait to see what the future will bring.”