A 43-year-old mother of three with a history of drug and alcohol addiction and domestic violence told a government minister how a detox programme saved her life.
She spoke to Health Minister Daniel Poulter when he visited Brighton Housing Trust (BHT) yesterday (Thursday 6 June) to learn about the charity’s work with drug addicts.
Dr Poulter, who worked as a hospital registrar in Brighton before he became an MP, met BHT and NHS staff as well as some of the people being helped.
The 43-year-old former addict had five in-patient detoxes, which had all led to her relapsing, before being assessed by BHT Addiction Services.
She said: “I lost everyone, everything I held dear and 26 years of what could have been the best years of my life to alcohol and addiction.
“I was a dead woman walking when I arrived at the Detox Support Project. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually broken. DSP took me in and held me.
“The sense of relief to finally feel safe and cared for is overwhelming.
“As you gradually and gently physically and mentally detox, the staff and volunteers who are recovered addicts, plant the seed of hope – hope for a better life not ruled by drink and drugs, darkness and misery.
“As the days turn into weeks your courage, your strength grow, you begin to see, you begin to believe that anything is possible.
“You see others arrive full of despair and desperation and you see those who were once hopeless alcoholics/addicts, now volunteers who give their time to help the still suffering addict.
“They give you hope, belief and faith that a better life in sobriety awaits.
“The Recovery Project is a place of discovery, a place of real life miracles and in my experience has saved my life and saved me in every way a person can be saved.
“Were it not for the Recovery Project there is no doubt in my mind I would not be here to write these words today.
“The obsession to drink and use has been removed. I wake every day feeling free, instead of feeling full of fear, full of dread.
“I have regained the ability to trust and to be trusted. I have regained my self-worth, my dignity, my self-respect and my confidence.
“I have learnt how to laugh again. I am free and I am happy. Above all else, I have hope and faith for the future that my dream to be a good mum to my sons will come true.
“Coming into the Recovery Project has also given my sister (the gateway to my children) hope, hope that she will get her sister back.
“The Recovery Project has given me the chance to rebuild bridges, to rebuild my family, to rebuild my life.”
Dr Poulter also heard from a 47-year-old former addict who had several previous engagements with local drug and alcohol services.
She describes her childhood as chaotic and volatile. Her brother committed suicide at the age of 23.
She previously tried the Recovery Project and was abstinent for three years before getting into a relationship which led to domestic violence and relapse.
She said: “I am an addict who picked up drugs at 11 years old. Drug use was quite normal in my family, as my mum was an addict and my dad used to smoke weed all the time.
“I didn’t have a secondary education, as I was expelled from school at 13 years old.
“My drug use progressed swiftly over the years using benzos, barbiturates, heroin and crack cocaine and before I knew it I was injecting these drugs.
“I’ve got children that have suffered massively as a result of my using, as have my family and other people in my life.
“My using took me to jails, institutions and also death, as I’ve had several overdoses and was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital twice.
“I was an addict of the most hopeless kind who could not stop using for anything.
“Since coming through BHT Recovery Project I’ve managed to start rebuilding my life.
“After getting through a difficult detox in hospital and getting to the project absolutely battered and shut down, I’ve started to grow in confidence.
“As it is requirement that we attend fellowship meetings, I’ve begun building support outside of here and have made solid friendships – especially with women. That’s something I once struggled with.
“I can now set healthy boundaries for myself, which for me is something I never even knew about before coming into treatment.
“I get an opportunity to start working through the 12 Steps which gives me a firm foundation for my recovery, and I’ve learnt that I don’t have to be alone.
“I’m building relationships with my family again, and looking into doing voluntary work.
“None of these things would have been possible for me if it wasn’t for all the work I’ve been able to do by coming here.
“I owe my life to God and the Recovery Project.”
Dr Poulter visited BHT to learn more about its work and the work of the NHS in combatting the alcohol and drug problems in Brighton and Hove.
Until recently the Brighton and Hove had the highest rate of drug-related deaths in the country.
Dr Poulter listened to Dr Giles Allen, from the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, as well as Blythe Crawford, manager of BHT’s Addiction Services, and Brian Sudway, manager of the Recovery Project.
Dr Poulter said: “Community projects like Brighton Housing Trust’s addiction service not only help those struggling with addiction to recover – they also ease the pressure on the NHS by reducing demand on hospitals from a very vulnerable group of patients.
“I was pleased to see the excellent work here in Brighton, and to hear that long-term rates of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction resulting from an abstinence-based approach to treating addiction remain high.”
BHT chief executive Andy Winter said: “What clients value about our approach is the level of responsibility given to them in the running of the community and the trust we show in their ability to do this.
“That is the cornerstone for the success of the service.
“A focus of our Addiction Services is the role played by current and former residents in delivering the service.
“This includes ‘Recovery Buddies’, former residents who return to mentor new residents, enhancing the service provided by paid staff.”