Sharing the lived experience of people who have accessed our residential services

Residential rehabIn light of the release of the new drug strategy and as part of its Making Rehab Work report, Phoenix Futures is sharing the lived experiences of people who have accessed its residential services to reinforce the need for equality of access to residential treatment across the country.

Andrew’s Story

I was born and grew up in Stockport, it wasn’t a bad place to live and I was mostly a happy kid. I had a good upbringing from a loving family, my Mum was a dinner lady and my dad worked for the Post Office. 

Around the age of 13 I had a few difficult experiences, I lost my Nanna and then someone else close to me died, I felt really down, I didn’t know how to process my emotions, so I never spoke to anyone about how I was feeling. 

As the time went on my mental health was getting worse, it escalated when I was mugged, which really knocked my confidence and made me feel more anxious. I started smoking weed and drinking to manage my anxiety and disassociate. I was finding it hard to cope, especially at school.   

Drugs were a part of the culture where I was growing up, it was what we did at the weekends to have fun, I was 15 when I first started taking amphetamines and times were good despite me having dropped out of school early as I was really struggling with my mental health. Years later drugs were still helping me to escape how I was feeling and the monotony of working night shifts.

Then, my relationship with my girlfriend ended and this sent me further down the spiral of struggling with my mental health, feeling depressed, anxious and using drugs to cope. I started taking out loans so that I could buy more drugs, then I started taking out loans to pay back the loans and buy more drugs. I was heavily in debt, addicted to using drugs and suicidal.

I was 23 when I first sought help, initially I went to my GP and he was really supportive, he referred me to Mosaic, a young person’s drug and alcohol service in Stockport, he also called me regularly to check that I was ok. I really appreciated him being so caring and not judging me, it’s not easy asking for help. 

After a few months of going to groups I was still using and was desperately unhappy so when my key worker suggested rehab, I knew that this could be the opportunity that I needed to change my life and get better. I was awarded funding for 3 months and arrived at Phoenix in Summer 2019

After 3 months were up and I was making good progress, I applied for extended funding and was awarded another 6 weeks. I felt lucky to get extra time, there were people that I was in treatment with that really struggled to get funding at all, some had to wait years and were then only given 3 months. One man that I met said that he had to relocate to a different postcode area to access rehab as the town where he was from originally wouldn’t fund rehab placements. Whilst the access process was smooth for me and I felt fully supported and encouraged first by my GP and then by my keyworker at Mosaic, I understand that the process is not the same for everyone and that doesn’t seem fair. 

Rehab worked for me, it was super difficult and challenging, but it helped me to learn to laugh again, my confidence grew, and it changed my life. It’s been nearly two years since I graduated, I am living in Phoenix supported housing here in the Wirral where there is a big recovery community, we all support each other. I am volunteering with a local youth club, I play guitar in the church band and am looking forward to getting back into work. 

Christmas is coming up and I am excited to spend it with my family, I have a brother and two sisters and love watching their faces as they open their Christmas gifts. I am playing guitar in a candle lit carol concert at the church this year. I feel so lucky that I have been able to get my life on track and for all the support that I have received especially because I know that not everyone gets that opportunity. 

Read the full blog post here.

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