Chris' story

Chris started using drugs when he was 14 years old. Although not diagnosed until much later, Chris was suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition which can cause impulsivity, short temper and poor concentration. For Chris, ADHD felt “like a washing machine in my head”. He found that drugs helped him cope with his thoughts, so he started using cannabis and alcohol. This soon escalated to include ecstasy, cocaine and, ultimately, heroin.

Chris’s drug use led to crime and, in 2001, he was convicted of GBH, receiving a three-and-a-half year custodial sentence. After leaving prison, Chris’s drug use continued to grow until he reached the point where he was heavily dependent on using every day. “All I wanted to do was smoke heroin… before I knew it I needed £50 just to get up”.

By 2012 Chris was in crisis. His physical and mental health was deteriorating, his teeth were rotting away, he was gaunt, breathless and sweating constantly. “I just felt completely worn out – it was just wearing me down.” Chris realised he had to take action. He began attending Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and then completed a detox programme at Windmill House in Surrey. On completion of the detox programme, Chris moved to one of Transform’s dry and drug free houses. For the first time since he was 14 years old, Chris was free from alcohol and drugs. He attended the group meetings and one-to-one support meetings with Transform staff and successfully got through his first Christmas in recovery. However after about six months he relapsed and started to use heroin again. Looking back now, Chris can see that he wasn’t able to handle his feelings. “I wasn’t ready for the emotional side of recovery – that was what got me.”

“Transform has helped save my life. Without them there would be more victims of crime and I would be in prison or dead.”

Having relapsed within a dry and drug free house, Chris had to leave the property. At the same time, it was apparent to Transform staff that Chris was sincere about his recovery and that he had been making good progress. Chris clearly still needed Transform’s help and without it there was a very real risk he would become homeless and return to full-blown heroin addiction and possibly crime. We offered Chris the chance to move to another Transform shared house on the understanding that he recommit himself fully to his recovery. Over a three year period between April 2013 and November 2016, with the support of Transform staff, Chris worked hard on his recovery, gradually developing his confidence and independent living skills until he reached the stage where he felt ready to move on to his own self-contained flat with Transform. 

Initially things went well, but after several months Chris was seen entering his home by his previous drug associates. They began calling at his flat and, very quickly, Chris was drawn back into his old pattern of behaviour. His addiction returned full force and his flat became a known meeting place for drug users and dealers in the local area. Police raided his flat and he was arrested. Chris sees this time as being his “rock bottom” where he felt nothing but “shame and guilt… It was me messing my life up – no one else. I realised I had to make a change.” Transform offered Chris another chance. If he was willing to give up his flat, relocate to a new area so he was away from old drug associates, engage with the substance misuse service and re-commit to his recovery, then we would offer him a place in one of our ex-offender shared houses. Chris took up the offer and started to attend meetings with the substance misuse service, where he was prescribed an opiate substitute to help him cope with his cravings. That was just over one year ago. When his case came to court in March 2019, Chris took full responsibility for his actions and was given an 18 month probation order with a 9 month suspended sentence. 

Chris has been drug free during that time, taking only prescribed medicines. He attends weekly ‘SMART’ groups run by iAccess which focus on coping with thoughts and feelings, and managing cravings in recovery. He also attends weekly probation meetings and undertakes voluntary work every Friday at a local dog shelter – something which he loves doing. As he explained, “Everything I was doing 12 months ago I’ve tried to change… [I’m feeling] a lot calmer. Content with what I’m doing as I’m doing the right thing. If you do right, you feel right”. For Chris the past year feels “like a new era, a new chapter. I’m looking forward to the future with optimism.” 

Chris sees the fact that Transform has never given up on him as a key factor in the progress he has made. For Chris, "Transform has helped save my life. Without them there would be more victims of crime and I would be in prison or dead. There would have been a lot more pain and suffering.”

 

Keyworker Comment: 

Paul, Chris' Keyworker

Chris was very chaotic when we first met him. He had previously lived with the Farnham Team but following a relapse he was asked to leave. We were able to house Chris in a space for ex-offenders at the time as he had a history of offending.

Chris engaged well with the support we provided despite not being completely abstinent from drugs or alcohol. There was a concern that he may have ADHD which was confirmed following an assessment by the Adult ADHD Team.

He finds shared accommodation quite difficult and needs a lot of help and support around making this work. Chris’s long history of addiction has also been difficult to manage at times but with patient and persistence he has now been free from illicit substance misuse for eight months.

Chris’s main support need has been around his substance misuse and reducing harm to himself. We have also helped him attend appointments with the local drug and alcohol team and liaising with them, support with all DWP benefits, setting up and maintaining voluntary work, support to set up and complete a barbering course, reports provided for courts. Support to get to health appointments and engaging with the adult ADHD clinic.

When Chris’s flat was raided by the police, staff empowered him by giving him the chance to give up his tenancy and move into shared accommodation with a higher level of support. We treated Chris with respect by understanding his difficult situation and offering him solutions. We encouraged him to take responsibility for his actions that led him to his involvement in the offence and helped him to see the changes that he needed to make so that he does not end up in the same or similar position again.

We have always seen the potential in Chris to make positive changes to his life. Chris’s pleasant manner and willingness to engage in the support has meant that despite the difficulties we have been faced with at times we have not wanted to give up and have continued to support Chris to move forward with his life.

Chris shows a lot more insight around why he has used substances for so long and we have observed that Chris has started to use the tools he learns from SMART recovery meetings and puts them into practice. This is enabled him to abstain from illicit substances and a life with out chaos.

We hope to see Chris live a fulfilling life without substances and to eventually move on to independent accommodation.

Paul, Chris' Keyworker

Chris was very chaotic when we first met him. He had previously lived with the Farnham Team but following a relapse he was asked to leave. We were able to house Chris in a space for ex-offenders at the time as he had a history of offending.

Chris engaged well with the support we provided despite not being completely abstinent from drugs or alcohol. There was a concern that he may have ADHD which was confirmed following an assessment by the Adult ADHD Team.

He finds shared accommodation quite difficult and needs a lot of help and support around making this work. Chris’s long history of addiction has also been difficult to manage at times but with patient and persistence he has now been free from illicit substance misuse for eight months.

Chris’s main support need has been around his substance misuse and reducing harm to himself. We have also helped him attend appointments with the local drug and alcohol team and liaising with them, support with all DWP benefits, setting up and maintaining voluntary work, support to set up and complete a barbering course, reports provided for courts. Support to get to health appointments and engaging with the adult ADHD clinic.

When Chris’s flat was raided by the police, staff empowered him by giving him the chance to give up his tenancy and move into shared accommodation with a higher level of support. We treated Chris with respect by understanding his difficult situation and offering him solutions. We encouraged him to take responsibility for his actions that led him to his involvement in the offence and helped him to see the changes that he needed to make so that he does not end up in the same or similar position again.

We have always seen the potential in Chris to make positive changes to his life. Chris’s pleasant manner and willingness to engage in the support has meant that despite the difficulties we have been faced with at times we have not wanted to give up and have continued to support Chris to move forward with his life.

Chris shows a lot more insight around why he has used substances for so long and we have observed that Chris has started to use the tools he learns from SMART recovery meetings and puts them into practice. This is enabled him to abstain from illicit substances and a life with out chaos.

We hope to see Chris live a fulfilling life without substances and to eventually move on to independent accommodation.

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