I lived through a violent childhood, I watched my Dad beat my Mum on a regular basis until one day he was murdered in front of me and I was forced to help dispose of the body and then sexually abused by my Mum. I was just 13 years old at the time, those memories stay with me still today, at the age of 43.

Spiralling into darkness

The years between then and now took me to some dark places. Immediately after my father’s murder I began taking solvents, alcohol, tablets, anything that was available to take away the pain and memories. At 14 I was in care, leading a criminal lifestyle - out of control would be a good way to explain me and my life back then.

At 21 I was in prison and when I came out, things settled a little – I met my partner and had 4 wonderful children with her. Addiction and mental health issues don’t just evaporate on their own though, I attempted to take my own life on several occasions and eventually, after 17 years, my relationship with my partner broke down and I became homeless.

I was diagnosed with PTSD, which I believe was due to me witnessing my father’s murder, I lost touch with my kids and became isolated and couldn’t see a way out of where I’d retreated to. After years of homelessness, addiction, mental health issues I realised I needed to seek help and advice.

Support and guidance to a positive future

Freedom and other groups, helped, guided and supported me. I spent time in rehab at the Freedom Therapeutic Community at Croscombe and once I’d worked my way through the programme I moved into Freedom’s supported housing.

In supported housing I was helped to make a plan for the future and follow it, I had regular meetings with a support worker, received guidance on how to cope with PTSD, began volunteering at Freedom Salvage (Freedom Social Enterprise project) to gain work experience and skills and even worked as a peer mentor for people who were recovering from addiction like me. The regular activity, safe housing, meetings, support groups, sports – all of it worked together to help me move forward with my life.

Successful living

Salvage allowed me to follow my interest in fixing bikes, get used to a working routine and explore my strengths. I was taking responsibility for myself and my life, feeling motivated again. This and the other support made a huge difference to my outlook for the future. When I got my band b housing rating I was able to move into my flat in South Molton and now I suppose I could say I’m ‘back in ‘normal’ society’, successfully living on my own for the first time in my life – ever. I’m looking for work and weighing up my options for qualifications in adult social care so I can give something back.

Continued support

I still come to Freedom; I get help with job searches and feel part of something bigger than me, a community that cares. The staff here have always been in my corner, they never gave up on me. They even call me up occasionally to see how I am getting on. Now I’ve begun to accept myself, to be able to deal with the guilt and shame through my new faith and I believe now my life is just beginning.

If I hadn’t have come across the help I received in the past few years, there’s a big possibility I wouldn’t be alive and my kids wouldn’t have the clean and sober Dad that I can now be.

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