Natasha Wyer, now aged 41, left her job as a nail technician just before Christmas to focus on the charity, named after herself, which was set up a year ago and has developed into a full-time job.
She moved to Leeds 10 years ago after a 15 year catalogue of drug-taking, crack addiction, domestic violence, prostitution, theft, drink-driving and bouts of paranoid schizophrenia.
Having been clean for the last five years she has been helping people going through the same things as she did.
In addition to outreach work with the homeless and prostitute through local church projects, she now speaks in schools, colleges, churches, prisons and conferences in the UK, Europe and around the world, she has written a book, arranges rehabilitation programmes for addicts and during the COVID crisis has been organising food parcels and clothing for the people of Holbeck - where she now lives.
However, rewind 25 years to when she left home and went to live with a group of travellers before finding the depths of despair when she left her baby daughter in a crack den. She says she never thought “in a million years” she would be still alive never mind managing her own charity.
She told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I never thought I would be clean and doing what I am doing - no way.”
Born in Devon, Natasha was given up by her birth mother and adopted at two days old. She lived happily in Peterborough with her new parents until her dad had an affair and left. Natasha didn’t get on with her step-dad who would hit her, she had no confidence, failed her 11 plus and continued to struggle at school with no friends.
She said: “I could take the beatings but I could not take the words telling me I would never amount to any good, anywhere. This would become my identity.”
At the age of 14 she left home to be with her gypsy boyfriend who was four years older than her. She became pregnant and was forced by her family to abort the pregnancy five and a half months in.
She says this is where “darkness set in” and she started to take recreational drugs such as pills, cocaine and speed.
At 18 years old she had started smoking crack and fell pregnant again. Her baby was born in a pool of blood, five weeks early and Natasha woke up 24 hours later and unaware she was even in hospital.
She recalls: “I did not get addicted straight away but I remember the pain, the heartbreak, it was numbed. Crack is so intense, it numbs everything about you. It is like floating pins and needles. You don’t realise you have a problem until you try and stop.
“I got pregnant and smoked it all the way through. I was on a session for four days, she was born in a pool of blood. I remember being so ill I was vomiting from the crack, gas and air and everything else. I woke up 24 hours later and did not even know I was in hospital. I remember looking at this baby and thought ‘oh my god, please let her be okay’.”
The shock prompted her to stay clean for seven months but when one evening her boyfriend didn’t come home she went to look for him and on that night smoked the drug again and left her baby in a car seat in the upstairs of a crack house.
It was one of several extreme low points in a 15 year stretch of scoring, dealing, suicide attempts, sleeping with drug dealers, stealing, prostitution and being sectioned with paranoid schizophrenia.
It wasn’t until she was 29 that things started to change.
She was stood in a queue for a cash machine when she heard a church preacher speaking in the street.
Ms Wyer said: “I was not a believer, especially the way my life had started. I thought ‘there is no God’ - look at the state of me.
“I thought it was bible bashing, but the guy started speaking and it was like I took an arrow into my heart, I felt there was life within me.”
She went to church the following day - even though her first thought was still where she could get her next crack pipe - but the experience triggered her recovery.
Ms Wyer’s adoptive mother had moved back to Halifax where she was originally from and Ms Wyer followed her up north to leave her old life and friends behind. If she hadn’t she said: “I knew I would end up dying”.
She settled in Leeds, got married and despite a few relapses, she has been clean for five years and despite working with addicts, has never been tempted.
Her five children aged 17, 14, 10 and six year-old twins are all healthy and live with her at the family home in Holbeck.
Ms Wyer said: “I have been in crack houses around here and in Bradford and I look at that life and it scares me. I have been gone so long from that life. I have a healthy fear of it and even smoking a cigarette makes me feel sick. There is no way I want that life.”
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