Stuart is a Peer Mentor with a wealth of insight from lived experience. He writes here about how he’s shared his experiences and inspired others.
“My lived experience started from a very early age, I was bullied a lot during my school years, I just didn’t fit in anywhere, couldn’t find my place. I started smoking cannabis at the age of 11 to kind of fit in with older lads. Pretty much straight away, I started stealing to fund not only my addiction, but the lads I called “friends’” addictions too. Without realising it, I was being bullied by these lads as well.
Things escalated to a point where, at one point, I genuinely feared for my life. Within the space of about half an hour, I lost the only two “Friends” I had and was left with a cannabis addiction. From there my addiction started to progress very quickly, I just didn’t know who I was, what I liked, what my purpose in life was. I was committing crime daily; causing trouble, bringing police to the door. My mum couldn’t cope and I was sent to live with my auntie.
At the age of 14 I’d developed a reliance on other substances and my life was getting out of control. I eventually found alcohol at the age of 17 which then became my comfort blanket. It did for me exactly what I was searching for – complete oblivion and blackness.
In a number of years I was dependent on alcohol, I was homeless and begging, self-harming and attempting suicide. I’d hit rock bottom and something had to drastically change.
Somehow I managed to get into a treatment centre. At the time I thought that the only two kinds of people that got in to rehab were celebrities and millionaires!
It was the greatest decision I ever made and, without a doubt, saved my life. I struggled to begin with but it began my road to recovery. Then, through mutual aid groups I attended as part of my recovery I found out about Inspiring Change Manchester. I got some information about the program and knew I wanted to get involved in some way. I joined the Core Group of people with lived experience of Multiple and Complex Needs and started to attend meetings and forums with different services, counsellors, politicians, police and crime commissioners and a whole different array of professionals.
When I first came in to recovery, I didn’t have a voice, I literally could not speak due to severe anxiety, low self-esteem and self-worth, and now I was speaking to people that, in the past, in my mind, just didn’t care about people like myself. I have stood in front of 300 people at Adidas to tell my story whilst doing a pitch for Shelter, full of fear and anxiety but I managed to get through with some amazing feedback at the end.
I’m currently a Peer Mentor with the programme. It’s something I knew I wanted to do from the beginning; working with people who have led similar lives to myself, faced similar challenges with services and with life. Being able to be there for someone, both as a professional and as a friend, to guide them through the challenges they face, something I never had, is a truly fulfilling and rewarding experience. The way I see it, everyone deserves a chance at recovery, I’ve been given my chance so it’s about time other people who are struggling are given their chance. I believe that, if I can help just one person turn their life around, then I have done what I was put in recovery to do.
Doing what I am doing now has allowed me to be the person that I know deep down I am meant to be. It has given me the confidence to find my voice and speak my mind. It has and continues to, change my life in ways I could have never imagined. Bring on the next chapter!”
If you want to find out more about Peer Mentoring with Inspiring Change Manchester, contact Simone Langley by email or by calling the Hub on 0344 515 1615.