I am a…

0

Supporting people and changing lives

People work for people – whatever your job, whatever the industry, the ultimate aim is to improve people’s lives. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the substance misuse sector and related health and social care fields.

Having the right team enables treatment services to help people change their lives for the better – and in some cases can make the difference between life and death. Healthcare workers are the vital connection between people looking for help and the services and treatment they need; their interventions can transform the lives of not just the individual in treatment, but often their families and loved ones too.

I am a...

Find out more about people's experience working in the field.

Neil Ainslie is manager of the Jericho Society, a drug project in Derby. Read Neil’s story.

Leanne Smullen-Bethell is head of house at Phoenix’s National Specialist Family Service. Read Leanne’s story.

Carol* is a volunteer working with a community drug service in Berkshire. Read Carol’s story here.

Iain Gray is a commissioner who is also in recovery. Read Iain’s story here.

Aisling* is a nurse/prescriber working for the HSE in Ireland. Read Aisling’s story here.

Sean Higgins is a recovery champion at the Kairos Community Trust. Read Sean’s story here.

Charlotte* is a volunteer at a community drug service in the South East. Read Charlotte’s story here.

Different strokes for different folks

People working with those experiencing problems with drugs, alcohol and other addictions do not necessarily fit into a neat category. They are likely to be based in a diverse range of settings – the inspirational youth worker; the probation officer who took the time to make a connection; or the housing support team who were able to identify problems and offer an appropriate and accessible route to help.

Substance misuse workers can be the vital link to ensuring that a person accesses the specialist treatment that they need. As well as providing the appropriate direct help, they are part of a network of specialist treatment workers operating in community, residential and, increasingly, online settings.

View the latest vacancies on 

DDN Jobs

Please tell us about your career.

How I became a substance misuse nurse, by Ishbel Straker

I never thought I would become a substance misuse nurse – law was my initial career choice. But during my training to become a barrister I worked on a dementia ward to pay for my tuition fees. That was when I began to realise that I couldn’t envisage doing anything else.

Read Ishbel’s story here

Learning from lived experience

In line with the varied settings and roles, the staff supporting people come from a range of backgrounds including medicine, social care, psychology and counselling. People with lived experience are an important component of the workforce and, with the right training and work experience opportunities, bring knowledge and empathy to many roles.

Many people have been inspired to work in the field, either by their own personal experience or those of a family member, friend or colleague. Those undergoing treatment say that seeing someone who has been in the same position as them and turned their lives around was inspiring, as well as encouraging.

DDN magazine goes to people working in all areas of the sector and is also read by many of those who are on their own treatment journey. As a free magazine there are no barriers to reading it and contributing to it, and it is the forum for everyone who is involved in addiction treatment. 

We want to hear from you!

Your experience informs what we do, so we want to hear your story about working in the sector. Let us know how you came to work in your current job – what inspired you, what is your background, and what do you find rewarding and frustrating? Do you have any advice for anyone considering a similar career? Tell us as much or as little as you want to! Your contribution will be very welcome.

Star shape featuring job titles in substance misuse field

The latest jobs online

DDN magazine is the place for recruitment for the treatment field. We have a variety of vacancies across the country from a wide selection of treatment providers.

Please visit the jobs page to view the latest vacancy, or contact ian@cjwellings.com for details of advertising for your next star!

 

 

 

Careers, training and development

Not sure where to start?

Find out about training and the career options with our

training and development guide.

                         

Leanne Smullen-Bethell is head of house at Phoenix’s National Specialist Family Service, where people can seek treatment for their substance use problems while staying together as a family.

To anyone considering a similar career, I would say: if helping people is your passion, then go for it. A career in addiction services can be the most rewarding job of all. Knowing that you can help someone who is broken to rebuild their life is just amazing. You get to meet lots of really interesting people and have the privilege of hearing their stories and being a part of their recovery journey. What can be better than that?

Read Leanne’s story

 

—————————————————————

Neil Ainslie is manager of the Jericho Society, a six-month residential drug project in Derby with aftercare and resettlement.

I was a resident of Jericho house in Greenock in Scotland in 2004. I came down to volunteer in 2006 and am now the project manager. We have 11 volunteers, who are all ex-residents, and four full-time staff; between us we have achieved around 45 years abstinence. 

The moment our clients arrive they agree to be completely abstinent from all mind and mood altering chemicals. We have nine residents at any given time and we support them to go through any cold turkey with understanding, empathy, one-on-ones, group therapy, chats, hot baths, identification – or whatever they need really!

We have an insight and first hand experience into every step, from when a resident arrives to when they move out. We have truly walked a mile in their shoes and they know this from day one. We understand their mindset, which people without addiction issues usually can’t quite comprehend.

People with addiction issues generally know this and find it hard to expose their irrational, fearful, compulsive and insane thinking patterns to them, so are shocked when we openly discuss this and have a massive depth and insight which brings hope to their lives – sometimes for the first time in many years. We give them hope – ‘if they can overcome this and break the cycle of addiction, then why can’t I?’

Tell us about your day…

There’s never a dull day. My latest shift was a privilege, as always. We had staff handover as always, where we discuss every resident in depth, and then I allocated the daily tasks to the appropriate staff. One of our newer guys had a family death so I had a chat with him to make sure we can all support him as best we can. 

After that I talked to one of our longer residents about the possibility of him writing a letter to his ex-partner with the hope he may at some point reconnect with his seven-year-old son. Then a chat with another resident about him deliberately lying to us about social distancing while he was on a family visit and reminding him of the importance of honesty and trust in relationships and how this was a big part of one of his previous relapses.

See the latest vacancies at DDN Jobs.

Then on to another resident who is from the Asian community, about his fears around the expectations of his family members and how hard he felt it was going to be to bring the principles of recovery back to his home. I then needed to talk to an ex-resident about how to handle a situation (and the family trauma) relating to his cousin who had overdosed and was in a really bad way. 

After that was a meeting with my business manager about expanding our service, before a chat to one of my volunteers about how to conduct himself whilst answering the Jericho House phone, as he was a little dismissive to a potential service user’s brother.

What do you find most rewarding?

I love seeing people turn their lives around, reconnecting with their families and going on to be productive members of their communities. I really love to see them helping others the way they were helped!

What would you like to change?

I would like to see more financial help available for places like ours. We are a charity and rely on volunteers to make our great work possible. We generally run at a loss and are experiencing real financial difficulties.

What’s your advice to anyone considering a similar career?

If your heart’s in it, then go for it. If you are going to work with people with addiction issues then it should be taken deadly seriously as addiction is a killer. The rewards are beautiful – but for every good story there are two not so good. Good luck in whatever you do.

—————————————————————

Carol* is a volunteer working with a community drug service in Berkshire.

I volunteer two days a week on a training placement to become a recovery worker. I do a lot of my training on e-learning in the drug service. I assist the substance misuse nurse run her weekly alcohol support group and help service users read material, and I scribe for them when needed. I also assist the recovery workers with things like phoning service users and making appointments. During lockdown I have not been at the service, and have done refresher drug and alcohol training via Zoom.

I also have another voluntary role supporting an inmate with substance misuse issues at HMP Wormwood Scrubs.

What do you find most rewarding?

Helping the service users through their recovery is very rewarding – also, learning via work shadowing the clinical recovery workers and the consultant psychiatrist in the dual diagnosis clinic. 

What would you like to change?

I’d like to be able to offer more one-to-one appointments with service users, especially for those who dislike support groups. It would be good to be able to offer more ongoing support as well, especially when service users relapse.

What’s your advice to anyone considering a similar career?

It’s an extremely interesting, challenging and rewarding career.

*Not real name

—————————————————————

Iain Gray is a commissioner who is also in recovery

I’m based in a local authority, at the London Borough of Southwark. My role involves commissioning services, contract monitoring, partnership working and strategic planning. I’m also Tier 4 Panel chair and involved in rough sleeper outreach commissioning. There’s a constant fight for funding. The parts of my job that I find most rewarding involve contact with service users.

What would you like to change?

I would like central government to support us better and provide more secure long-term funding.

Do you have anything to say to anyone considering a similar career?

Don’t do it for the money. Always, always, always stay focused on the clients and their needs. And never give up fighting for them – they are worth it.

Aisling* is a nurse/prescriber working for the HSE in Ireland

I went to train as a nurse at the age of 28 following a relationship breakdown. I needed a new start and moved to London to do my training.

After five years on psychiatric wards, a community position came up that was specifically working with those who are homeless. Working in substance misuse was not always my plan but it seemed to have developed that way.

Tell us about your day…

I’m out in the community visiting homeless people at hostels and B&Bs, and also run two clinics in two main towns where they also call in. I spend a lot of time filling in forms for medical cards (as healthcare is not free in Ireland) and getting the homeless linked into certain services.

I go to two housing meetings every fortnight – they are called the Homeless Action Teams, where they assign the B&B/hostel beds. We work together as professionals advocating for a homeless person.

What do you find most rewarding?

Getting the health care set up is rewarding, as is getting someone a detox/rehab bed. Doing support letters for courts and disability benefits can have worthwhile results and doing dipstick drug tests is satisfying when you can give praise for having done well that week.

What would you change?

The housing part is tough as B&Bs/hostels are always full. The council can be difficult to get this accommodation from, as the staff often pre-judge the homeless person.

What would you say to anyone considering a similar career?

Be ready for many barriers that you have to overcome for this client group.

*Not real name

—————————————————————

Sean Higgins is a recovery worker/champion at the Kairos Community Trust, a residential drug service in South London.

See the latest vacancies at DDN Jobs.

I had over 30 years in active addiction and was lucky to be admitted into treatment via my local drug and alcohol service. When I was one year drug-free and sober I was offered a volunteer position at the same treatment centre. After three months I was put onto the permitted hours work scheme and enrolled onto level 3 health and social care, which I have now completed, and I am just about to start the level 5.

Three years after being admitted into Kairos I now work as a full-time support worker within the same treatment centre and feel I have found a purpose in my life. Giving back what was so freely given to me is a fantastic feeling.

Tell us about your day…

I complete referrals, assessments, care plans, risk assessments and care and risk assessment reviews with clients on a regular basis – we have the capacity to accommodate 24 clients and I have a caseload of six clients, whom I see weekly for one-to-ones. I also facilitate groups and workshops, which make up part of each client’s treatment pathway.

What do you find most rewarding?

Supporting individuals to achieve their full potential.

What would you change?

I would love to see more funding available for the whole substance misuse field.

Do you have anything to say to anyone considering a similar career?

If you are considering a career in this field then I would suggest that you try it out on a voluntary basis first.

Never lose sight of your own recovery – and don’t kid yourself that working in the field is your recovery.

—————————————————————

Charlotte* is a volunteer at a community drug service in the South East.

She volunteers two days a week on a training placement to become a recovery worker and does much of her training on e-learning in the drug service. 

Tell us about your day…

I assist the substance misuse nurse to run her weekly alcohol support group and help service users read material and scribe for them when needed. I also assist the recovery workers with helping with service users – telephoning them, making appointments etc. During lockdown I have not been at the service, and have done refresher drug and alcohol training via Zoom.

I also support an inmate with substance misuse issues at HMP Wormwood Scrubs – another voluntary role.

See the latest volunteer opportunities at DDN Jobs.

What do you find most rewarding?

Helping the service users through their recovery is really rewarding. I’m really enjoying learning via work – shadowing the clinical recovery workers and the consultant psychiatrist in the dual diagnosis clinic.

What would you change?

It would be good to be able to offer more one-to-one appointments with service users, especially for those who dislike support groups. It would also make much more sense to offer ongoing support, especially when service users relapse.

What would you say to anyone considering a similar career?

It’s an extremely interesting, challenging and rewarding career.

*Not real name