PERSONAL JOURNEYS

YOUSSEF*

Case study 1
Youssef is 29 years of age, single and born in Morocco. He is currently unemployed and lives in the Stoke-on-Trent area in Restart supported single person accommodation. He moved to the UK when he was 9 years old as his mother was keen for him to benefit from Britain’s superior education system. His father who he says was [physically] abusive to him, stayed in Morocco. He says:

“I was a little s**t in school and didn’t do well at all. I left with 4 GCSEs at grades D to F. From there I went to College where I studied IT and Maths. I found I enjoyed cooking and when I was 17 years old I moved to Bristol to become a Chef. I was good at it and before long I was a Commis Chef in a 2 star Michelin restaurant. By the time I was 19 years old I was at the top of my game. I worked in the best places and was even a private Chef for a while earning a fortune. I served the top people and my customers and clients included celebrities such as footballers and film stars. The trouble was, the hours are long and it is extremely hard work!”

“To keep up, like 90% of other Chefs in that industry I was using cocaine. Not just occasionally, but lots. It was not unknown for the Head Chef to prepare lines of cocaine for his team, just to keep them going. Things were OK until I met a girl and when it broke up I was in a mess. I was still taking cocaine, which was costing me £300 per day. My head went, I eventually went back to my mother and family, who sent me to my father in Morocco on a one-way flight – despite the fact that he had abused me”

“Eventually, my visa ran out and he sent me back with £1,000, which I quickly spent on drugs. After a while, my mother kicked me out and I ended up in a hostel on a downhill spiral. I tried to kill myself and was desperate for support such a respite from my life and rehab. But you can’t get this on the NHS. You need money to pay for it and my benefits of £146 every two weeks was being spent on crack cocaine. I eventually moved in with a cousin and I put my CV online.”

“In a short time, I was headhunted by a 3 star London restaurant. In a short time, I was back earning £58K a week. I has suits and a car. I had the ‘life’! BUT the work was hard and the hours were extremely long. I became so stressed and needed more cocaine. After a while, my hair started to fall out and I went back downhill. Without warning, I just moved to the West Midlands to a flat. I had borrowed a family car and after a while they reported it stolen as they could get in touch with me. The Police caught up with me arrested me. I went back to my mum, as I had to get out of where I was living as I had robbed a Crack dealer of £3,000″

“I would have been stabbed and killed if I had stayed there. I still however needed lots of cocaine to survive the pressure. After a while, I went completely off the rails and the Police arrested me after a ‘stand-off’ when I had a knife and was cutting myself. I was charged with lots of offences and ended up in Dovegate Prison. It was there that Restart found me somehow. I only had a 6 week sentence and would have been homeless when I was released and I couldn’t go back to my past. My mother is controlling. My father abuses me and a crack dealer wanted to kill me.”

“I was met at the gates by my support worker and taken to Saltbox in Burslem. Paper work was completed and I was given the keys to a flat! Wow! I also had the support I had been begging for in the past. A whole team of people to support me and be there when I needed them.”

What are you looking for now from Restart? “My flat first as it is somewhere safe for me. I want the chance to meet other people. Good people, not those involved in drugs from my old life. I want someone I can rely on. Someone I can trust to be there to support me when I need it. And the right support, such as career support – how to get a job that I love and won’t kill me”

What are you going to offer? “No drugs. I won’t abuse myself – I won’t go back to the person I was. I have been on a college course about mental health. I want to get a job. I have lots of time to put into me”.

Why does Restart work for you? “The first thing is accommodation. Somewhere to feel safe and secure and warm at night. It is also the support package that is available, covering things about drug abuse and how to look after health. Then there are practical things such as help to get a job. I suppose the key thing is ‘time’ – time to understand what I really want and time to go and get it for myself”.

HARRY*

Case study 2
Harry is 27 years old. Single and born in the Stoke-on-Trent area. He is currently unemployed and lives in the Stoke-on-Trent area in Restart supported single person accommodation. He says:

“‘I didn’t do well at all at school. My mother had a drinking problem and my father didn’t really support us. I left school at 13 having not really been a regular attendee. At that time I was into petty crime and anti-social behaviour in the area where I lived. I suppose I was a real nuisance with no prospects. By the time I was 15 years old I got a job in a local car wash, which I held onto until I was around 21 years old. My mum died when I was 16 years old and I went to live with my sister”

“When I was about 17 years old I was in regular trouble with the Police for crimes such as car theft and shoplifting. I was also smoking weed and was heavily into drink. My sister eventually kicked me out and I became homeless. I was ‘sofa surfing’ for quite a while, sleeping on friends settees and the like. I was not a nice person when I was drunk and could be very violent. I went to jail in the end when I was around 18 years old for a Section 20 assault and for missing probation appointments.”

“This went on for a while, getting into trouble and messing the Probation Service about. The last time I was in prison I met with someone from Restart as I was going to be homeless when I left. I have to say things went better from this meeting onwards. I was met at the prison gates by my Support Worker, who then brought me to Saltbox. I didn’t have the time or opportunity to go to the pub for a drink. After filling in some forms I was given a key and moved into shared accommodation with a female.”

“That didn’t work for me as she didn’t tidy up after herself and was a pain. We just didn’t get on and it wasn’t working for me. However after a while, after paying y bills and showing I was reliable, I moved into my present Restart accommodation which is all mine. It is much better and I am settled for now. I feel as though I have a fresh start.

What are you looking for now from Restart? “Number one is my home. Somewhere which is my own. As safe place. Next is support for getting work. I want to work and afford my own place. Also, someone to chat to when the going gets rough or complicated – someone who has the time to listen to me. I want my independence for the first time in my life. Making my own decisions for my reasons. Not someone else’s

What are you going to offer? “First of all, I am going to behave and pay my bills. Prove I can stand on my own. I am going to attend all the courses I can to get a job. In one way I am going to ‘bake a cake’. Restart is providing the oven and tools I need to make it. I am going to put the ingredients in and make it on my own. I am going to put some icing on the top, which will be some of the nice things in life, like real friends and have a real family around me. And I want this cake ready for Christmas – ready to start icing it.”

Why does Restart work for you? “Number one must be my home, where I can feel safe. Number two must be the support systems in place to help me help myself. Number three is their reliability – they are always there when and where I need them. I have never had all of these things in my life before and am so grateful!”

FOWLER*

Case study 3
Fowler is 44 years old. Single and born in the Wolverhampton area. He is currently unemployed and lives in the Stoke-on-Trent area in Restart supported single person accommodation. He is the father of four children to two women, none of whom live with him. He says:

“I left school when I was around 14 or 15 years old and lived with my mother for a while in a refuge as my parents split up as my father was violent to her. I guess I was a ‘NEET’ (Not in Education, Employment or Training) at 16 years of age as I didn’t have a job, I wasn’t in training and I wasn’t in any education. I got into a bad circle of friends and was into petty crime. Theft of cars, shoplifting etc. After a while, I became homeless and was literally living on the streets of Wolverhampton aged 17 years old. This was through winters and the cold weather.”

“Eventually, I moved into a hostel and met a girl. She got pregnant and got a council house. We had three kids together and were OK. Then without warning, she went to meet a friend and never came back. She left us all. We were kicked out of the council house as it was in her name and she had taken herself off it. I couldn’t work and we all ended up in a hotel. After a couple of years, she came back and the kids moved in with her. I was ‘single’ again and became a self-employed painter and decorator. I was doing OK and met another girl. She got pregnant and moved in with me. Them my father got cancer and moved in with us so I could care for him as he
died.”

“The trouble is, it was awful and he used to cry out in pain. As a result, my partner left me with our child. She couldn’t take it and moved out. This meant I couldn’t work as I had to look after my father on my own. The bills mounted up and I got into debt. Everything spiralled out of control and I lost the house shortly after my dad died. I ended up homeless and back on the streets of Wolverhampton. It was awful again. I was cold, lonely and often dirty and lost weight and my fitness. I started drinking to lessen the pain and started taking cocaine.”

“This had to be paid for and I had to steal to eat and pay for the drink and cocaine. I got caught lots of times and wanted to go to prison so I would have somewhere warm to sleep and some decent food. But they more or less said – ‘You’re not having it that easy Fowler’, so I kept stealing until I finally went to prison. It was there that I asked for support getting a home, as I knew I would be on the streets when I was released. If that happened I would instantly slip back into my old ways. I would need to steal and am not sure my health would have stood up to it. I would have been alone.”

“Thankfully, I was met by someone from Restart and on release I was met by my Support Worker at the gates. This was so important as the temptation to ‘go for a drink’ was real to me! We went to Saltbox where after filling in some forms I was given the keys to my flat. I share with somebody, but this is OK by me, as I mix well with other people and he is OK. We respect each other’s space and privacy. I am now so much better in myself. I walk a lot, watching men fish on the canals, and chat with them about what they have caught – or more often, haven’t caught! Restart have sorted a gym membership out for me and it is really working for me. I have somewhere positive to go to. I get to meet and see decent people. I am getting really fit and I’m careful about what I eat and drink. I feel so much better about myself and my wellbeing.”

What are you looking for now from Restart? “Number one is the roof over my head. Then I want help to help me pay for the necessities such as food and heating. I also want help in moving on. Getting a job and becoming independent. I still need counselling support, as I have so many issues to deal with.”

What are you going to offer? “Effort and love. I am putting all of me into me and cleansing my soul. I am going to be ‘normal’ and prove I can pay my bills. I am going to keep my place tidy. I am going to keep attending the gym and look after my health. I am going to get lots of fresh air and clear my head. I am going to attend every course and career guidance session on offer. I am going to become ‘normal’.”

Why does Restart work for you? “Time – they are giving me time to sort myself out and have the tools to become normal. They never judge and are so patient. Nothing is too much trouble and they fully understand where I am in my life and what needs to happen to help me help me to get there.”#

What are your aspirations? “My OWN place first. The Restart property is great, but I want my own place, where I am fully responsible for what goes on in it. I am also looking for steady employment, so I can stand on my own feet. I would then like a car to get about. And I want to keep going to a gym and plan to take up fishing – whether or not I actually catch any fish!”

PHIL

Case study 4
Phil has been using drugs for over 28 years and never really felt settled anywhere. He has moved around the country for most of his life, trying to start fresh and stop using substances. “This never worked as I always took my head with me and it would always lead me back into drugs.” 

Just before moving to Stoke, Phil nearly lost his life due to drug abuse. That’s when he realised he needed to make some drastic changes. “I heard about Restart through an employee and good friend, Steve, who happened to be my mentor at NA (Narcotics Anonymous).” 

Phil was given an assessment appointment where he spoke to a member of the team about how the service could help. “Dave filled me with confidence in the service and was really honest about possible housemates I would be sharing with. He did say, however, that Restart would take into account my needs.”

Phil moved into a Restart house not long after his assessment and is spending a lot of his time volunteering at the service. He talks about the Restart team: “Support from Alison has been immense, she is more than willing to help me. I volunteer nearly every day. Ev is unbelievable, the support she gives me is really appreciated and I class Ev as a friend.”

One of the struggles Phil faces is being around people that are using. Although he gets on really well with his housemate, he feels that being around housemates that use drugs tests him on a daily basis to stay strong. To overcome this, he tries to keep active. “I have helped to start an NA meeting that is held at the Saltbox offices. I am grateful for a roof over my head and a room of my own. Volunteering also keeps me busy – I do this to give something back. Making a house look nice for someone gives me a buzz as I am able to make a difference.”

“Restart has given me a new start; it’s given me a real value with regards to working. I like the opportunity to support other people by volunteering.”

JOANNE*

Case study 5
Joanne, 46, has a history of struggling with substance misuse that has led her to lead a fractured, unhealthy and disorganised life. She isn’t alone in having been in the Restart multiple times. She first came to us in November 2015 when she was released on licence having been convicted of offences including possession of a Class A drug and burglary.

In the following months, Joanne engaged well with the programme and stayed free from both alcohol and drugs. With help from her Restart support worker, she also rebuilt a relationship with her sister who she had been estranged from. Joanne left Restart when she moved in with her sister while recovering from an eye operation.

However, Joanne’s overall health began to deteriorate further and, when she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, she turned back to using substances as a familiar coping mechanism for the depression and anxiety she felt as a result. She had also developed agoraphobia.

Joanne’s increasing substance use left her homeless when her relationship with her sister who had been caring for her broke down yet again. When Restart housed Joanne a second time in September 2016, she determined to settle down. With help from her support worker working closely with her probation officer and services such as Lifeline, she found the resolve to stop using drugs altogether, although alcohol was still problematic. Sadly, during this time, Joanne was also diagnosed as having Hepatitis C.

Despite the setbacks, Joanne was finally determined to quit drinking once and for all and was referred to an in-house detox service, which she completed in March 2017. Having come so far, we are working to secure ground floor accommodation for Joanne, whose debilitating illnesses now severely affect her legs.

Restart continues to support Joanne on every step of her journey of transformation, from going for medication reviews to finding support groups for Parkinson’s who can help her develop better mechanisms for coping with her illness. While she is helped to remain abstinent, there is every chance that Joanne will achieve her goals and be able to live a healthier life in the future.

MICHAEL*

Case study 6
At 48, Michael has had a pattern of self-destructive and criminal behaviour that has lasted for many years. He came through the care system as a child and moved into the criminal justice system as he got older. The trauma of his experiences in childhood was instrumental in his descent into substance misuse, and what followed was a long period when Michael was in a revolving door of custody and offending.

In December 2015, Michael came into the Restart service having left prison and finding himself homeless. As part of his Restart induction he completed an Outcome Star, designed to assess his current status and monitor progress with regard to key aspects of well-being such as substance use and offending, mental and physical health, socialisation and activities, and home and money management.

During the ongoing process of mentoring and review that Restart uses to build life skills, esteem and behaviour modification, Michael’s support worker has noted that he has made significant improvements in all areas including his ability to control substances (he has stopped using drugs altogether) and in his emotional and mental health. Michael’s meaningful use of time has also improved since he is now engaging with other services and support groups including One Recovery and Lifeline.

Michael feels that he has benefitted significantly from being in the Restart service and is very grateful for all the support he has received. In his own words, he now believes that “ … anything can be achieved if hard work is put into it, and even a quite chaotic lifestyle can be changed.”

DAVID*

Case study 7
David’s case is undoubtedly one of the tougher ones. His offending background includes convictions for burglary and violent behaviour. As such he is in the Integrated Offender Management programme whereby the police, probation and other local agencies carry out progress and monitoring checks on the more prolific offenders in their community.

This is David’s sixth time with Restart, having been evicted twice and returned to custody a further three times while in service.

Unfortunately, there is something of the inevitable about David’s story. He came from a family background that was blighted by alcoholism, and due to his dyslexia he never fully engaged with the education system, making it difficult to find work when he left school. As is the case with the majority of those who come through Restart, David developed issues with drug and alcohol abuse which fuelled his offending, resulting in the loss of his freedom, his ability to work and, ultimately, his wife and children.

Now 35, David realises that he can no longer live the way he has been doing for so many years and that “… prison is a mug’s game.” 

Since coming back into service on his last release from prison in December 2016, David has made exceptional progress. He has attended Lifeline sessions and has remained entirely alcohol free since his release, and has even withdrawn from the Methadone programme having totally detoxed. He has not re-offended and is fully engaged with all agencies involved in his rehabilitation including attending meetings and appointments.

David’s Restart support worker has helped him through the processes of registering for benefits and coached him to take ownership of his finances and the running of his new home. He is now working towards his CSCS card which will enable him to work on building sites; having not held down a job for 12 years, he is determined to get into proper work with the aim of moving onto independent living.

Such is David’s progress that BBC Radio Stoke featured him in an exclusive interview to hear about his efforts to turn his life around with the help of Restart. They plan to revisit him every so often to check on his progress, and this has given him even more motivation to achieve his goals knowing that a whole city is invested in his recovery.

Perhaps the biggest and most important milestone for David so far is that, after five years, he is now sober and sorted enough to be allowed contact with his children. For David, hopefully this time really IS the time.

*  Part of rehabilitation is putting your past behind you and no longer letting it cloud your chances of future success. We would never want to put stumbling blocks into the path of anybody’s moving on. To that end, we change names where appropriate whilst still allowing their stories to inspire others. 

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