My name is Darren. I am 37 years old and I’m an addict in recovery. Simply you are reading this because of ICM; they have given me freely the gift of life. More so they have given my family their life back too. I have had many personal problems in the past, some that I was not even aware of at the time but ICM, Back on Track and now Shelter have given me their time no matter what my problems have been. I have been supported in every single step of my recovery.
As I grew up, I experienced abuse within my family. My parents had separated when I was 1-year-old so I lived with my dad in the week and lived with my mum at the weekends. This was the norm, I was loved and all in all, very happy. Then I realised I was different, I wasn’t normal like the other kids, I lost my innocence almost overnight. I tried to ask why, but I never got any answers that helped – “this is the way it is” and “stop crying like a girl” was what I heard, so I wore my first of many masks. I became a lone survivor, I found comfort in isolating myself from others and learnt to isolate whilst in the company of others. All I ever wanted was a family that stuck together no matter what. Secondly, I wanted one true friend.
At school, I loved to learn, I excelled and I always wanted to please the teacher. I had to get it right and felt rejected if I ever failed. Then in high school aged eleven I found alcohol and drugs that the older respected gangs were using. I started using cannabis and soon became a dealer; those I wanted to be a part of accepted me. I realise now that I wanted everyone to like me but I wanted the choice of who I hung around with, I wanted to control everything. I loved to party and use alcohol and drugs, I never wanted the party to stop, and for me, it didn’t.
I went straight into working with my dad at a company, which was a fantastic job and a job for life. Aged twenty I found a partner and we started a family. On the outside life couldn’t have been better, I had so much but the reality was that I was full of fear, always had been and to escape my reality I was still using drugs. At thirty my life was a mess, I was facing a prison sentence due to conspiracy to fraud; I needed to earn more money to cover my tracks. I lost my family, my home, my job, and most of my wider family and friends.
My addiction was now in full swing; I’d hit the RED BUTTON. I was using Class A’s 24/7 and ended up in prison – continuing to do drugs again straight out of the prison gates. I viewed prison as a business, happy to put me on any given course but I never had the chance to see a councillor – which I requested on numerous occasions. I served my sentence wanting my life to change for the better but all my problems were still there and now, due to my conviction, even worse. My life couldn’t get any worse, the cycle continued, so full of fear my solution was to go straight back to drugs. I lived in a hostel but this served as a learning centre to fund my addiction, I struggled to pay my rent, the drugs always came first and I found myself on the streets of Manchester. I started to commit crime daily, I had destroyed every relationship I’d ever had and I truly felt like this was my only way to exist. I wanted to be dead on a daily basis for over a year. I was then arrested and sent back to prison – at least I would be fed and have a roof, ‘mothered’ let’s say.
I was given a twelve-month probation order and my mind set was 100% negative. I resented everything…life, but my officer saw something in me although I didn’t see it myself. She was the first human being who I gained trust in. She told me about a client who had found a new way of life after being with ICM. I was referred and then became a service user at ICM – Jason was my appointed worker. This was the first time I saw something I truly wanted, someone who was living life a new way, who had lived experience, and who I could relate with on a personal level. Still more interested in drugs though, I found it challenging at first to engage with ICM but through them I became a service user at Back on Track. I was also using some other services – going to the gym with a peer mentor for support and getting a bus pass. What made a world of difference to me was the fact Jason never gave up on me no matter what, but he made it clear this would be the hardest thing I’d have to do and also that this service was no free ride. “Trust me bro you can have all I’ve now got” he said and he kept coming back to me.
Over time my trust and confidence in others at ICM built the same in me. At last, I had a base identification of ME – who I was. I found the HUB a safe place; I started CBT therapy at ICM, which helped give me a mental understanding of my thoughts. Taking part in courses at Back on Track I started building relationships with many people. I was then asked to be a part of the ICM Service User Forum, which for me was massive. It has given me a chance to have a voice – A voice that is heard and from this, changes take place.
I was recently invited to be on the panel interviewing GROW Trainees for ICM and Shelter and this experience has given me so much. A working environment where everyone is an equal, even me. I got an insight into the reality of people – just like me, wanting the same for all, a better way to live. The opportunity to give back, that was given to me. The gift of life.
I proudly announce that I am 6 months clean today for the first time in 27 years. I have made new true friends and see ICM and Back on Track like a Family – one that sticks together.
(A grateful frightened little boy who’s now finally learning to grow up again)