Amateur angler

Keen cyclist

Recovering addict

Andy’s story

It started how it does for so many: I was a social drinker. Like a lot of people, I started drinking in my mid-late teens, but it started to escalate in my early twenties. I had money to spend and was too focused on material things. 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 getting caught – I was in and out of court all the time. In hindsight now, I can see that what I was doing was so linked to my drug and alcohol use – I’d get angry because of the drugs or alcohol and do something silly.

I first went to rehab in 2003. I got clean and 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. I’d managed to get a job and a relationship not long after rehab, but after I relapsed the relationship broke down and I started getting back in trouble to feed my addiction.

I’d have massive ‘blowout’ days and they kept getting worse and the consequences got greater

I did my best to look after myself for the next couple of decades and had my ups and downs – sometimes I wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d been. But, although I was in a better place, I couldn’t let go of drugs and alcohol altogether. In 2015, I moved from Sheffield down to Surrey, where I’m originally from. I arrived back at my Mum’s house still drinking and using – she tried to help but I still wasn’t ready to change.

In October that year, my dad died. I started attending ‘fellowship’ meetings (groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous) but I still wasn’t quite ready to let go of drugs and alcohol completely. If anything, the grief of my dad dying made my addiction worse. I’d have massive ‘blowout’ days and they kept getting worse and the consequences got greater. It felt like I’d just gone back to my early days of drinking and using. I just couldn’t put drugs and alcohol down. I also had to find somewhere else to live.

A couple of months following my dad’s death, after things had been getting steadily worse, I had one of those life-changing deep and meaningful conversations with a friend. I can’t recall exactly what we talked about, but something inside me clicked and I knew I needed to get sober. That was in February 2016, and I haven’t touched a drug or a drink since.

Both volunteering and fellowships give me a structure and a purpose to my life

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). They were wonderful and, with the support of a friend I made in the Transform house, I learned to cook and look after myself. Since then they’ve supported me into other accommodation.

A month after I got sober, I started volunteering. I’ve found it’s been so helpful to my recovery. I’m also attending fellowship meetings regularly too, and they’ve been invaluable. Both volunteering and fellowships give me a structure and a purpose to my life. Since I found recovery, I’ve gotten 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.

I’m living proof that people can change their circumstances if they’re just given a chance

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 if they’re just given a chance.

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