John is the Crypt’s therapeutic drug and alcohol worker. Read about how he got the job and why he’s running the Hull marathon in September, and maybe sponsor him?
‘I came from a normal working class family. I was the only one who had an addiction but all my family suffered.
I started to go off the rails in my final year of high school. I was drinking and became involved with Leeds football hooliganism; my addiction started before I took any substances.
I really started using at 16 – mainly alcohol through my teenage years. I was in and out of jobs and prison. At 19 I did my first stretch and then again 3 years later; both for shoplifting and affray.
When I came out of prison for the second time I moved away from football and moved towards drinking and taking substances; any substance, it didn’t matter.’
‘In between taking drugs I got married and had children but wasn’t a husband or a father. I wasn’t in the marriage at all and would go missing for days.
The marriage ended; she wasn’t getting any love from me so found it somewhere else. I was a weekend dad and even then the kids were getting in the way of my addiction; that’s how it felt to me.’
‘I put drugs before my children.’
‘Even though I lost my house, my wife and my children the addiction had so much power over me that I wasn’t able to do anything about it even if I had wanted to.
My world had become so small and I was so isolated that I couldn’t see any way out. The only choice I saw open to me was to end my own life; I’ve stood on the roofs of most of the multi-storeys in Leeds trying to find the courage to jump but wasn’t able to.
Eventually I came so close to taking my own life that I got sectioned by Leeds mental health services. It was there that one of the nurses was in recovery. He had been on a programme and suggested a similar one in Leeds. I said yes and got a place at Spacious Places.
Through the 12 step program I started making changes to my thinking and behaviour, realising that it wasn’t the drugs that were the issue;’
‘the issue was me.’
‘In my early recovery I suffered a setback after my mum died – she had really helped me out when I got sectioned – and I found myself back at one of St George’s Crypt’s hostels.
Faith Lodge gave me a stable base to continue my recovery and I lived there for 11 months.
After I returned to work as a ceramic tiler again but left because it wasn’t what I wanted to do – I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I jumped on a train back to Leeds.
I remember a conversation I had when I was in the psychiatric ward; I was about to leave and I started talking to one of the new patients. We had a really good chat about why she was there. The nurse happened to overhear part of it and he said that he thought I would work really well in mental health.’
‘This comment was the impetus behind where I am now. I started applying for jobs in social care. I would get interviews and even provisional offers but was always turned down when they saw my criminal record.
Eventually someone suggested I would do better if I got experience volunteering and a qualification. I started volunteering at the Crypt and Making Space (a mental health charity) as a befriender in Leeds and got my qualifications in ‘preparing to work in social care’ and ‘Health and Social Care Level 3’ while supporting myself as a printers assistant on minimum wage.
Someone else suggested that I should look at working in drug and alcohol services because they’re able to see past the criminal record because they employ many ex-users and they know they may have a chequered past but they see that this is actually a benefit with the lived experience. The first job I applied for I got; working in a medical detox.
I got an apprenticeship for the NHS but the offer was withdrawn when they got my DBS (with references to criminal record etc.). I’d already left my other job so I was now unemployed.
Mary (Faith Lodge, St George’s Crypt) offered me bank hours – I owe her so much! The position of Growing Rooms (St George’s Crypt’s residential alcohol and drug therapeutic rehab service) came up and I agreed to cover for three months initially that turned into three years and has developed into a brilliant project.
I’ve reconnected with my kids and now we have a great relationship and they’re a really important part of my life – we see each other regularly.’
‘I’m running the marathon because it was the biggest challenge I could think of. I’ve been running four times a week, started off running between lamp-post and now I’ve built up to 20 miles! Running has become a real benefit to me because it’s become a form of meditation; it’s where I get that conscious contact with a power greater than me. I feel closer to God!
I really want to raise funds to support and continue the program long after I’m gone. To raise awareness of the project, the issues of homelessness, addiction and alcoholism not as separate issues but as part of the same triangle of obsession. Please donate as much as you possibly can by following the links. Thank you!’