PERSONAL JOURNEYS

PHIL

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*

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*

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*

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. 

REFERRALS >

You can make a direct referral for anybody who has a background of offending or about to be released from custody and is at risk of homelessness.

DIRECTORY >

From education and employability opportunities to Foodbanks and benefits advice, find local places, groups and services that can help you get back on your feet.

BE A LANDLORD >

If you have a private property to rent in the Stoke-on-Trent area and would like guaranteed rent from a socially responsible tenant, get in touch.