Recovering addict from Burton preparing to help others get clean
A recovering addict who first tried drugs at the age of 10 is now looking to help others coming out of the system after getting clean.
Ash, from Burton, is celebrating nine months drugs free but it is a feat that has not come easily, with him previously accepting his addiction would kill him.
The 37-year-old is hoping to help others battling addiction coming out of prison through the process as he continues to be supported by Derventio Housing Trust.
Ash has nothing but praise for the support he has received from Derventio with his new home and the help he continues to get as he shares his story. He said:
Lee from Derventio has been brilliant with my support and if I need him I know I can just get in touch and he will help me get it sorted.
I think about using every day but I’ve got a chance and I choose not to.
Ash is continuing to work with Derventio as he looks to helping others battling their own addictions. He said:
I’m an only child and had a wicked upbringing – the best. I was a bit of a loveable rogue at school. I was always naughty but I think I was born to be an addict.
Ash was just nine years old when he started smoking, tried cannabis at 10 and found that he was always drawn to the older children as they seemed “more exciting” to him. He was first arrested at the age of 11.
He said that his parents were loving but strict and they worked long hours so he was cared for a lot by his grandparents. When he got to high school the cannabis ‘got out of hand’ and he went to school for the wrong reasons as he would show off and had to be centre of attention.
As his teenage years progressed, he was taking amphetamines, mushrooms, LSD and ecstasy and he had taken to stealing.
He left school at 16 and worked for a marine and leisure upholstery company on luxury speed boats – a job he loved doing. As he became old enough to get into pubs, the problems escalated and he started ‘messing around with cocaine’.
He was even taking cocaine at work before moving on to crack cocaine, becoming addicted within three months. Between the ages of 18 to 21 Ash said his life became unmanageable and he got made redundant.
Ash first went to prison in around 2011 and admitted to being petrified but drugs were easy to get hold of inside. He turned to more serious crimes like burglary to fund his addiction, hurting his family in the process to the point where his dad disowned him.
This led to him sofa-surfing and getting with woman who would benefit him as they had a car or somewhere to live. Ash spent five Christmases and four birthdays in a row behind bars. He said:
I was manipulating people and if you couldn’t get me what I wanted then you were no good to me.
I got banged up in prison as I couldn’t handle it outside. There were more drugs in there than out here and very easy to get. I got to the point where I was craving to be in prison to be part of something, I felt I was accepted in the prison culture.
His addiction was so powerful that at one point he was in hospital and risked losing his leg through injecting into it. He also has problems with his heart as a result but this did not stop him.
By July last year Ash had just had enough and his offender manager gave him the break he needed. She got him into the Better Way program in Lichfield and he came across an old friend that he thought had died from drugs.
She had been drug free for four years. He completed Burton Addiction Centre program and got the help he needed. Ash said:
It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, harder than prison – 10 times harder. I could leave any time and people challenged you. I’ve always been a bit of a jack the lad but that didn’t work with them.
He is now part of the 12-step program with Narcotics Anonymous and battles every day with staying off the drugs – but he is determined to stay clean. Ash has since been working at Langan’s Tea Rooms in Burton and plans to help with the soup kitchen at the town hall.
Ash has the ambition to be able to go into prisons prior to the person leaving and informing them of the help and support that is out there. He said it is about sowing the seed of the help that is available and wants to do more support work to help others. He said:
I do suffer with the disease of addiction but I am a success story. My advice to those with addiction is to join a fellowship like Narcotics Anonymous as that way they will stay clean.
I truly believe in a power greater than myself that has kept me alive. I’m grateful. I don’t care about money, I care about helping the next addict get a day clean.
Ash has now made peace with his family. He said:
I think the biggest thing is they now had peace of mind. They feared getting that knock that I was dead or to say I was going down for 10 years but now they don’t have that and it’s the best thing ever.
I had to get clean for myself but I had to do it for them as well.
Now I want to change how people get treated when they leave prison. For recovery you have to change one thing – everything. I have feelings again as I was numbing them and that has been hard to deal with. I’m just grateful to be alive.
My career is going to be recovery based and I would like to mentor in prison and help get Better Ways here in Burton.
I had to get help when I was ready but I would have listened to someone who had been through it as I would have been intrigued.
It is planting the seeds and for me seeing one of my friends who I thought was dead – she was my main inspiration.
Lee Henchliffe, of Derventio, said:
It’s vital to have this support as we see a lot of people who have come through the Burton Addiction Centre.
When you get that person who shines and comes through it it’s amazing to see. It’s all down to the individual, we are just here for prompting, advice and guidance and the rest is up to them.
Jackie Carpenter, of Derventio added:
Ash should be really proud of everything he’s achieved, which is all down to his hard work. It’s just a shame that there is still so much stigma around recovery from drug and alcohol use, and people who have been in prison. It makes it so much harder for someone like Ash to put their past behind them.
It’s just amazing that Ash wants to use his life experiences to help others to succeed as he is doing now.