Growing up was difficult and quite chaotic at times. I remember feeling really ashamed and didn’t like myself. I saw the world as a hostile place. I quickly learned if I shouted louder and fought better that would keep people away – I didn’t want people to see the real me. I was quite popular and had lots of friends but wasn’t close to anyone. I felt alone. I was always up in arms against the world.
When I started using I felt better. Nothing else mattered and I was complete. It was just alcohol and hash at first but I moved on to harder drugs quite quickly and addiction took over. I would do anything for money for drugs which included shoplifting. I got my first remand in Corntonvale when I was sixteen. Life was pretty much a cycle of making money and getting drugs. One day I woke up to find my boyfriend dead beside me from an overdose.
I felt scared, alone and angry. I went into a Detox centre but I didn’t care about anything anymore. I was asked to leave as my behaviour was really bad. Five days later I had a hit of Coke and had a massive brain haemorrhage which led to a stroke. I was paralysed down my right hand side and couldn’t walk or talk. I was 27.
I spent a year in the Southern General re-learning to walk, talk and live again.
New hope, new accommodation and new challenges
After I came out of hospital I went into a supported accommodation place. I had lost my home while I was in the hospital – they just changed the locks. I got a new house in the West End that I have now managed to maintain for 11 years. I stayed clean for four years, went to college and on holidays. I was really living life.
Then I had a number of health problems for which I was put on opiate medication. I was off and running again. This time I went into a rehabilitation service. I knew what I had to do: you have to look at your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and make changes.
Volunteering and new work
I do voluntary work now and I’m so passionate because it changes people’s lives.
To become a Peer Volunteer for the Simon Community we did 12 weeks training. The training was brilliant and it helped with my confidence and self-esteem.
I even had the confidence to apply for a Hepatitis C Community Trainee position with Waverley Care. I was really nervous going for the interview. I went to the Simon Community to pick up my training certificates beforehand and was told to “just be myself and that’s what I did. Waverley Care phoned that afternoon to offer me the position: I think I screamed! I couldn’t believe it especially as I thought that I had messed the interview up.
I have been at Waverley Care a couple of months now. I’m working with people affected by Hepatitis and I use my lived experience to help empathise with others. I have fitted in with the staff team and I’m learning all the time. They are also helping to put me through my SVQ3. There have been challenges but I’m facing them and reflecting on what I could have done differently. Sometimes I can’t believe how different my life is.
This past year has been amazing. I’m even learning to drive which I thought would never happen as I only have the use of one hand. I can do anything I put my mind to. From a wheelchair to four wheels driving around and from prison to presentations with my work: Now that’s what I call living life!