Hugh (not his real name) is in his forties and has been attending one of Link Up’s men’s groups since March 2014. He had a drug addiction until he managed to get off them approximately ten years ago.
“Getting off the drugs isn’t just about stopping taking them, it’s about changing everything. I had to walk away from everyone I called a pal. I ended up feeling alone and desperate.”
Being part of the Link Up group created a positive ripple effect in his life. He developed a strong peer support network and positive relationships that have been a key source of comfort and help.
“It was a good laugh and no one expected anything from me or cared who I was or what my past looked like. I met new guys – guys that I can now call true friends… they help me to talk about stuff, and they help me to live.”
Whilst Hugh made significant positive changes in his life, he was still extremely vulnerable and experienced physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his son. This had a severe impact on his health and mental well-being and led to a relapse into drug use. Hugh started to buy Valium off the streets.
“Not very proud of myself but it’s what I did to try and forget and numb everything out. These vallies were well dodgy. I got the hit that I needed to forget but I also found myself completely out of it for most of the time. All I could think about was buying more and it was so easy to do that, all I needed to do was walk out onto the street.”
Hugh wasn’t eating properly and was using all the money he had to buy Valium. While he hid his relapse from his peers, people noticed a change in his behaviour and Hugh eventually told others in the group.
“I was low and if I’m honest I was scared about what they were doing to me. After two months of taking them, I knew I needed to get off them. I spoke to my drug worker who said she would look into getting me into rehab, but it was going to take time. I needed off them now.”
Hugh stopped taking Valium for two days and suffered severe withdrawal.
“It was horrible! I’ve never felt so helpless and alone. I found myself at the community centre, but if I’m honest I wasn’t going there for help, I was going to say goodbye. I’d had enough, I felt like I’d messed everything up, I didn’t think there was any point in living, but I needed people to know how much their support meant to me. I was crying, shaking, coughing and sweating. I saw [local Link Up worker and a friend] and I wanted to run away. I was so ashamed. I felt as though I’d let everyone down.
“That day was probably one of the worst of my life, but it was also kind of good. I sat in her office and she asked me if I was thinking about suicide and I said yes. The relief that came from that was big. That probably doesn’t make sense, but I felt lighter from saying it. We chatted for hours and by the end of the day I still felt horrible but I felt stronger. She said that she would see me tomorrow and I made a decision to make sure that I would see her the next day. And I did, I was still in a state, but I was one more day into being clean.”
Hugh has now been clean for ten weeks and, while he still suffers from anxiety, he knows that there are people who care about him that he can reach out to for help. Hugh now volunteers at the community centre and has been helped to find new, safe accommodation. He still attends the group where he receives vital emotional support and a strong sense of belonging.
“I’m much more confident now, I’m not saying my life is perfect ‘cause it’s not. I’m just saying that I know there’s people I can go to for help and I can come to the group and forget about all the crap stuff for a bit. That’s huge for me”.
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