Alan's story | Providence Row

Becoming a Peer Mentor helped me to find my voice.

This is Alan’s* story in his words.

I heard about the Providence Row Peer Mentor scheme from a guy in my Cocaine Anonymous (CA) group, I had been in the group for 3 years by that point and was 2.5 years clean and sober. I was looking to take the next step in my life, to do something that would help me give, back, I’d taken so much, from society, from friends, from family. I wanted to be part of the solution and re-write my wrongs. 

Up until that point my life had been full of chaos and fear. I started taking drugs when I was 13, first it was cannabis, speed, trips, ketamine - my life was all about drugs, crime, theft - at 17 I would go from the pub doing cocaine to a crack house smoking heroin. I went into my first treatment centre at 18 and came out healthy but started drinking pretty quickly after, I did a 12-step programme at 19 but was kicked out, by 20 I was on crack and went to prison for the first time.

The next 17 years were a blur, I was incredibly vulnerable, I lived my life in despair and fear, I couldn’t adapt to life on life’s terms, I couldn’t function without substances in me. My existence was focused on where to score, a constant cycle of drugs and theft, revolving around sleeping in crack dens and cars, shoplifting for money to buy more drugs. I looked awful, I was dirty, I would catch sight of myself in a shop window and think ‘who are you?’. I hurt so many people along the way, I was constantly taking advantage of people, I lost friends, people started to stay away from me, my family would despair at how to help me.

The turning point came when I was 36. I was broken, traumatised, confused, full of self-pity. One night I was lying in a stairwell, I had nothing, I’d burnt through everything, every relationship, every chance and opportunity. I knew there was nothing left, I started praying, I prayed to god to take me, to end it all. Soon after I met a guy who took me to CA, I saw people who were like me but were who healthy and were managing their lives, it gave me hope. I did a 12-step programme, I didn’t think I had the power to do it, but I did, I put it down to divine intervention. I realised that the way I’d been feeling was false, it was rubbish, I’d been looking inwards, absorbed with myself when I needed to look outwards. I took on every suggestion, every piece of advice I was given, I began to see blessings that I couldn’t see before and slowly I moved from darkness into the light.

Peer mentoring was the next step. I was full of fear and anxiety at doing the course, I’d barely even been to school, I hadn’t had any sort of education. But I was guided through the process, I started to feel empowered. The training showed me how my experiences could be used to help others, how to be in a group, to lead a group, it helped me to find my voice. We learnt about the brain and how trauma affects it, we learnt about the impact of substance misuse, about overcoming homelessness. I began to see how I could use the negative in my past for positive, how my story is someone else’s guide book. At the end I was awarded a Level 2 accreditation, it was my first ever certificate.    

For me doing the course was a beautiful experience, I had a new feeling of self-esteem, of self-worth, I’d gained tools and skills and felt confident about using them. The CA group was full of so many incredibly vulnerable men, men whose lives were blighted by trauma and chaos. I started to become a sponsor, helping others out of the darkness and into the light, using myself as evidence of how things can change. I’m now the Group Representative for my local group, I represent the group at district level, speaking on behalf of my committee and taking an active role in running the group.

I can see clearly now, working with people with addiction feeds my soul, now I’m part of the solution.

*Alan’s name and other key details have been changed to protect his identity.

Providence Row is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales with company number 07452798 and registered charity number 1140192. Its registered office is at The Dellow Centre, 82 Wentworth Street, London, E1 7SA.
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