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It’s so embarrassing, I don’t want anyone to know Prescription drugs… I didn’t realise how far this had gone

I can handle it, it’s all under control I could see he was struggling. This could be any one of us Stories from family, friends and neighbours

Sketches by Len Grant

We are a group of Stockbridge Village residents working with Lancaster University, the council, local housing and the NHS. Together we’re trying to strengthen the links between residents and organisations across our community so we can make this a better and healthier place to live. We’re doing this because some local people have told us they can sometimes feel isolated, lonely or depressed. These problems can affect people of all ages and the causes are complicated. We want to do our bit to make sure people have the support they need from within our community and the services that are available to help.

In this booklet we are looking at drugs and alcohol and the pain and loneliness they can cause in everyday life in our community. These stories might surprise you because they don’t fit the stereotypes, these are stories from ‘ordinary people’ living round here…. our neighbours, friends and family. From what we have been hearing it’s so easy to get hooked on prescription drugs from the doctors; turn to a bottle (or three) when life gets tough or, for younger people, to smoke cannabis just because their friends do it. Read on to find out what some brave people who’ve shared their stories have to say… as a group we will be making sure people who provide services hear about this... and just maybe what you read here might help you or someone close to you.

Christine’s Story

“Looking back, I had no time for me. I was busy, but I was isolated. As the kids got older they needed me less and I started drinking more. Thursday became the new Friday and Monday the new Sunday. Then it met in the middle and I was binge drinking, every evening.

“I’m not ready to commit to never drinking again, I can’t do that yet. I’m just living for the moment. I’ve given myself a year to get straight. I’d like to be back in a good job, I can’t stand being on benefits, but something less stressful.

“Things got out of control. I’d become an “I don’t want to go back to that way alcoholic. I don’t like that word – or of living. I just hope things improve ‘alkie’ or drunk – there’s such a stigma. with my kids, I’d like them to.”

Stories from family, friends and neighbours

“When I think back now, I was horrible. I was a monster. I’d get drunk and have a go at my husband and the children. “I had a really good job, a stressful job. Yes, it was verbal abuse. I don’t even I worked hard. I was doing 12 hours a day want to describe half the things I used and had two young kids. By Friday night to say. And it was physical, to him, to the I was ready for a drink. We’d have kids. And yes, I’ve been arrested, I have dinner and then I’d hit the wine. That a criminal record. would carry on at home through Saturday and Sunday nights. “I don’t live with them any more. I’m living in this flat by myself. I did “I wouldn’t drink loads to begin with. a detox on my own and am now getting I’d still be able to get up the next day support. The kids don’t talk to me. and go shopping. They hate me.

“I started hiding the bottle in the washing machine: no one else used it apart from me. I was a functioning heavy drinker but didn’t know it at the time.�

I’m a godmother to my niece’s little girl, our Olivia. I just wasn’t in the first year of her life because I was off my head.

It’s really upsetting, looking back, because she didn’t know who I was.

I was drinking, I was out of control. I wasn’t good for anybody. She’s three now. We all mind her while her mum is working. We take her out... to the garden centre... to Acorn Farm...

It’s nice to enjoy your life and do nice things instead of getting yourself in a rut.

It’s so hard because when you’re in that dark place you can’t see no light at the end of the tunnel.

Stories from family, friends and neighbours

Now, because I’ve turned my life around, I’m involved with everything.

“Families are often turned upside down by addiction. It anxious and depressed and that impact In our family the addict has always been at the centre, even though they’re not contributing anything. We’d always be wondering what she’d do next. My mates would say, “Have you heard about your sister?” and I’d be, “Oh no what now?”

has a ripple effect... the immediate family can become ts on other friends and family as well...� She was always doing something. Why couldn’t she just be like the rest of us?

It has a big impact on everyone in the family. More than you’d think. Stories from family, friends and neighbours

“I’ve got the best brother.” “When I was in the madness and the chaos he’d come round to my flat on a Saturday night and he’d sit in my armchair. I’d wake up on the sofa at 5 o’clock the next morning and he’d still be sat there. I was suicidal at that point and he was making sure I didn’t do anything stupid.

“It’s only since I’ve gone to rehab that I’ve realised how much alcohol has affected my family.”

Stories of help and support in the community

“Looking back, I’ve put him through hell. The amount of times he’s had to come away from his own family to sort out his kid brother. That doesn’t feel nice. I suppose it’s what brothers do.

Liam’s marriage broke down because of his drinking. He moved to the flats in Stockbridge Village. At least he still had his work as a delivery driver... I had no relationships with family, friends, women, nothing. The only friend I had was that bottle of vodka. I didn’t want anyone interfering with my drinking. I’d go to Parry’s every morning at 7.30, on the dot, and get my first bottle of the day. The work got in the way of my drinking. I quit my job. I had money in the bank. I had no need to work.

Last summer the drink really took over... I was at my lowest ever: not eating, the flat was a mess, personal hygiene gone, I didn’t care.

I’d have my first drink by 7.38, telly on, drinking it neat. That bottle lasted a couple of hours.

Tony – the caretaker for ForHousing – would see me go to the shop each morning. He kept telling me, there’s help, there’s help, but I wasn’t interested. I hit rock bottom. I was in the flat, 20 or 30 empty bottles around me. I was in a bad way. Tony called my brother. Everything kicked into action: I had paramedics, the police, the housing, the drugs team and my brother all in the flat at what felt like the same time. I was taken to hospital. Tony’s not just a caretaker, he’s much more than that... He saved my life!

I’ve lived on the estate all my life. My mum is still here, and my brother and sister. I like working here. I look after 90 flats in two blocks.

Most of those I know addicted to drink or drugs are not getting help. The drink is the worse, I think... it’s so cheap to get hold of.

I help the best I can, all you can give is your time, isn’t it? At first he was working six till six. He had his own delivery van. Then I’d seen his work repossess the van off him and I realised something was wrong.

I didn’t know him really. I just knew him as a tenant. I could see he was struggling. I knew there was something wrong. He never told me to mind my own business because I could tell he needed someone. You can read people, can’t you? Liam got worse... his appearance, his behaviour. Then I got concerned and phoned his brother. That’s when he got admitted to hospital and then to rehab. He’s not the only one I’ve done it for and I’m sure he won’t be the last.

Stories of help and support in the community

I’d see him twice daily. He was probably on two bottles of vodka a day. I’d watch him of a morning going, and then watch him of a night going.

Hello, I’m Phil

Phil Gore is the Drug and Alcohol Support Worker at TESS (Tenant Extra Support Scheme) at ForHousing.

“People have got to know me over the last 12 years. “I mostly walk around the estate and that way they get to know your face. Now they’ll stop me, ask me for advice, that sort of thing. “Not so long ago a woman approached me and told me a family member was drinking a lot and asked me to nip round. I did and, touch wood, it’s all sorted out. “My job is pretty much to keep people in their tenancies. To make sure things don’t get so far out of hand that they lose their homes. Only one has lost their home in the last 12 years.

“There are some issues with people growing their own in the flats and with dealing, there’s dealing everywhere, not just on this estate, if you know where to look. “Sometimes it feels as if I’m firefighting, but there’s a lot more cross-agency working which is really helpful.” TESS encourages anyone with concerns about addiction to get in touch on 0151 949 5050. It’s a direct dial number answered Monday to Friday 9am–5pm.

Stories of help and support in the community

“I can work with up to a dozen clients at once and they are the most chaotic, the most intense. I help them with appointments, refer them to other services and keep their heads above water. Mostly they’ll engage with me because they know that nowadays, if they do mess up, they’re at risk of losing their tenancy.

We spoke with a recovery co-ordinator who supports ex-drug users, many of whom feel trapped in their long-term recovery.

“I have 12 addicts on my books, all at different stages of their recovery. “Typically they’re middle-aged. They might have been addicted to heroin a couple of decades ago and are now getting on. They’re not committing any crime, not hurting anyone. But they’re stuck on prescription medications – methadone or other opioid-based painkillers – and they’re fed up.

“Some go out to work, raise families, some are grandparents. They want to keep that standard of living going and are frightened of coming off their medication. They keep quiet about their dependence on medications. Some will go off the estate to get their prescriptions. There is a still a huge stigma around addiction. “My job is to encourage a gradual reduction in the medication. Not to rock the boat.

“The aspiration is to come off the prescriptions and be discharged from our drug services. “Where there is a will, there is way... People can change their lives for the better with the correct support within the community through more social activity and responsibility… but what is there in Stockbridge Village?”

Stories of help and support in the community

My own story of addiction started at 14 following my mum’s death. I struggled with drugs and alcohol for 12 years and became very depressed. Nothing seemed to help until I went to group therapy which got me back on track. I got back into education and have been helping others since 2005.

This is Ste Boylan from Emerging Futures. We like that he’s recruiting and training a team of volunteers in Stockbridge Village to support families affected by addiction. Although there is support locally for drug and alcohol users, until now there has been nothing for the families. Often the stigma of addiction means people don’t ask for help.

Ste can be contacted on: 07722 152 948

Stories of help and support in the community

So we’re setting up a drop-in in Stockbridge Village where family members can come for help and advice. We’re also training local people to become qualified family coaches so they can pass on skills and strategies.

As a new resident and recovering addict, it would have been easier for Geoff to make the wrong kind of new relationships.

“I ended up homeless again and spent some time in a hostel on London Road in Liverpool. It was horrible. I never want to go back there. “I was bidding for a flat and I saw this one and thought it looked nice. I had a look around the place on Google Earth. Stockbridge Village, it sounds quite posh, doesn’t it? So they offered me the flat and I’ve been here a year and a half. “I feel at home here. I was brought up on an estate like this. It has a community feel about the place but still I find it hard to make friends because of the issues I’ve got. So I tend to stay away. “I’m still on methadone. I go to the chemist every day, they’re lovely in there. “Yes, there are drugs on this estate. They seek you out. I don’t know, it’s like some

invisible magnet, some law of attraction. Somebody will talk to you, maybe outside the chemist, and the conversation will go that way. It just happens. It’s a mad one.

“For me it would have been good if, when I moved in, they’d spent a bit more time explaining what’s going on, what there is to do. Especially considering where I’d come from. I was given the keys, ‘This is your flat... see you later.’ ”

What more is needed?

“I’m not doing well combatting the isolation. Relationships are not easy to make are they? But it’d be easier to make relationships through the drugs than it is to make real friendships.”

“They call it cider but it’s never seen an apple in its life. “Typical lager is about 4-5% alcohol. This stuff is 7.5%. You can get a two-litre bottle for under £3. “Some will drink two or three bottles a day. For alcoholics it’s super cheap and gives them the buzz they crave.”

As a group we want to do more to help our community to tackle these problems. Here are some of the things our group will be doing next: Share the information in this booklet with other Stockbridge residents so more people know how to tackle concerns linked with drink or drugs or prevent a problem starting. Tell organisations who provide support services what we have been finding out so they can make service improvements.

Work with CGL / Emerging Futures to improve access to community support.

If you’d like to find out more about our group or how to join us please contact the ForHousing Community Development Team on 0300 1235522, email: communities@ forhousing.co.uk or pop into the office on the precinct. This project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care North West Coast. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

What more is needed?

Work as a group with ForHousing, Knowsley Council, Change Grow Live (CGL)/ Emerging Futures, the NHS, local GP services and our community to plan services together better and think of improvements.

You can always get in touch directly with one of these local services if you’re a Stockbridge resident affected by addiction

CGL Knowsley Integrated Recovery Service www.changegrowlive.org knowsley@cgl.org.uk 0151 482 6291 (24 hours) A free and confidential drug and alcohol support service for users and their families Tenant Extra Support Scheme (TESS) ForHousing 0151 949 5050 (Direct line: Mon-Fri 9am-5pm) A one-stop shop for local residents facing eviction because of problems including addiction. This free and confidential service helps to prevent homelessness Emerging Futures www.emergingfutures.org.uk info@emergingfutures.org.uk 0800 652 1961 We support the family and friends of people who have difficulties with drugs and alcohol. Also recruiting and training local volunteers as family coaches ForHousing The Community Development Team communities@forhousing.co.uk 0300 1235522

Profile for Len Grant

Stockbridge in Stories : Hidden Struggles with Drugs and Alcohol  

See what happens when residents from a Merseyside housing estate work with an artist to research social isolation amongst their neighbours....

Stockbridge in Stories : Hidden Struggles with Drugs and Alcohol  

See what happens when residents from a Merseyside housing estate work with an artist to research social isolation amongst their neighbours....

Profile for lengrant