Natalie Ashby, family team lead for WithYou in Cornwall, shares one man’s road to recovery.
Father’s Day is a time for family and for celebrating the dad, grandpa, and paternal figures in our lives. But for many, Father’s Day is a reminder of what they have lost, and for some, of what they never had.
Families like Bill’s can relate. Bill has four children – the eldest is 15 and the youngest is seven – and they live in Cornwall. This Father’s Day there was music, laughter and celebrations – but it hasn’t always been that way.
Bill is recovering from alcohol and drug issues with support from WithYou, a national drug, alcohol and mental health support charity. His issues nearly cost Bill everything; his family, his home, his livelihood, and sadly, they did play a part in him and his wife separating. However, With You has been his lifeline, stepping in with a holistic approach to support Bill in his recovery, improve his mental health, and reignite his family life.
Where it all started
Back in 2019, Bill outwardly had it all; a family, stable job, and a home. However, behind closed doors life was quite different – it was chaotic and both Bill and his wife relied on drugs to function. Bill’s wife was also ill and he left his job to become her full-time carer. Sadly, the pressure took its toll on them all and Bill realised, just in time, that something had to change.
After a particularly difficult time, Bill and his wife separated, but it was complicated as the two oldest children aren’t biologically Bill’s. Desperate to keep the children safe and together, Bill called social services and the children were put on a child protection plan. Following the advice from social services and the children’s school, Bill returned to the home, but from this point onwards, his mental health and drug issues worsened.
The hard road back
‘When I was using, everything was okay,’ recalls Bill. ‘Having had a full life before using, I knew that I didn’t start at the bottom, but I ended up there. I wanted to get back to the man I used to be, the one who played in gigs and loved music and laughter, but I didn’t know how to do it.
‘I’d heard WithYou was the place to go if you wanted to stop using drugs. The team at WithYou supported me and my wife to get us to a place where we could improve the life of our children. They helped me to organise myself and structure my time and worked closely with our social worker making sure there was clear communication between all the professionals who were involved with our family.
‘I was struggling with depression and anxiety so I couldn’t think straight. Natalie, my family worker, and Lucia, my support worker, facilitated my recovery, not just from the drugs but from the trauma I’d suffered. For almost a year they worked so hard. But it was complicated – both my wife and I had our own issues. I relapsed in a major way.
‘It was crunch time. I was told social services were going to take the children. It was clear my wife and I couldn’t continue as we were. Natalie and Lucia talked me through my options. I could put the children into respite care while I went into rehab, or I could leave my wife, deal with my drug issues and keep the children.
‘I’ll never forget Natalie telling me that I was going to face six months of hell as I focused on my recovery, but after that, we’d be able to work towards my future with the children.
‘Natalie and Lucia worked so well with social services and that made a huge difference to my relationship with them. They made sure all my paperwork was correct and advocated for me at every turn.’
A struggle, but not alone – facing trauma head on
Bill temporarily left the family home and went to a recovery centre. It was a vital step for the future of his family and keeping the children together. But it wasn’t going to be easy.
It is estimated that 40 per cent of people struggling with substance misuse also have a PTSD diagnosis.* To fully equip Bill with the tools he needed to overcome his drug use, he needed to feel empowered to overcome the trauma he faced.
‘Natalie gave me strategies to improve my mental health. She told me that to do the best for my family, I had to treat my own trauma and focus on my recovery – only then would I be in a position to help my children to heal. I wanted so badly to have my children and get our family back together.’
Many of the parents supported have experienced trauma in their lives – be it from childhood or into adulthood. Using alcohol or drugs is not a choice and when in a place of despair, people self-medicate using alcohol, illicit substances and prescribed medication. Here at WithYou, we support parents like Bill to put their lives back together and we’re currently supporting nearly 50 families across Cornwall county. Piece by piece, they rebuild and heal from past traumas.
Music and laughter return
‘In spring 2021, I got a call from social services to pick up the children from school. They had removed my wife from the home and I was able to move back in. There’s no way this would have happened without WithYou. I consider myself very lucky. I was gifted a team of people who are remarkably good at their jobs.
‘Without my support workers at WithYou and my wonderful social worker, I’d never have been able to put everything back together. I’ve been supported every step of the way. Even when I relapsed there was no judgement – just a focus on getting back on track.
‘Music now fills our home. We laugh. We dance. We sing. I’ve started a guitar-building business and I’m volunteering for a local charity mentoring young people. The kids are happy and I’m so grateful I get to watch them grow up and support them with whatever life throws their way. This Father’s Day I took some time, in amongst the mele of the day, to be grateful for my kids and for the support I received to have many more days like this.’
*For more information about the link between PTSD and alcohol issues, click here: www.ptsduk.org/the-link-between-ptsd-and-alcoholism
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This content was created by WithYou