David from Manchester is a shining example of having #Emerged Proud through a life of adversity to use his journey to do good things in the world; from numerous suicide attempts due to feeling a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, he’s gone on to be the head of services for a thriving residential support unit; what a transformation journey! David’s story goes to show that whatever your circumstances, there is always hope of a better life…
(*Trigger warning* suicidal behaviour)
I used to consider myself the ultimate contradiction. I loved life and I hated life. In the early years I tried many ways to avoid day to day life. I found sanctuary at home with my family, but oftentimes this was the place that represented danger.
I found distraction through friendships and thrill seeking behaviour, which lead to life in gangs, drugs and crime. I felt safe and accepted and part of something bigger and greater than myself in the gang life that I became part of. This lifestyle soon became one of those things that I also loved and hated most and presented even more danger than anything I had ever experienced.
Between the ages of 12 to 15 I went through various phases of trying different substances, ranging from cannabis/LSD/glue and alcohol. When I was 15 I was introduced to Heroin. When I was 17 I was introduced to Crack cocaine. There are many ways to describe the effects of Heroin and Crack and everyone who has experienced them will have their own way that is personal to them. For me, it felt like the ultimate high and low/the best and the worst all rolled into one. This started the longest phase of drug use I was ever to experience.
Once again my life became a contradiction. I loved and hated Heroin & Crack. I loved and hated the things I did to fund my drug use. I loved and hated the lifestyle, the ups and downs, the twists and turns, the certainty and the uncertainty, the fun and the fear. My life was a paradox.
When I was 22 I hit my first rock bottom. I became so desperate, so full of guilt/shame and remorse that I just wanted to die. I took an overdose. I woke up in a police cell. I didn’t know how I got there. When I came round the police told me I had driven my car whilst under the influence of the drugs I’d taken to overdose and I drove head on into a brick wall. I was eventually released without charge and without any follow up or referral to drug/alcohol or mental health services.
I continued along the same path until I was 26 when I hit another rock bottom. My drug use and lifestyle had spiralled even further out of control. It was the worst it had ever been. I was on bail for theft offences when I was arrested again for breaching my bail by committing further offences. When the police man searched me on admission to the police station, he missed the cord in my track suit bottoms. After being in the cell for a while I started to withdraw from the Heroin. Once again I started to experience the feelings of hopelessness. This coupled with the ‘cold turkey’ sent me over the edge. I looked around the cell for a ligature point and noticed the sink. I took the cord from my track suit pants and tied it around one of the taps and then tied it around my neck and sat down. The next thing I remember was coming round on the floor in the cell with paramedics resuscitating me and then being rushed to hospital. After a period in A&E I was taken back to the Police station and kept in custody over-night. In court the next morning I was sentenced to a community order and released. There was no follow up or referral to drug/alcohol or mental health services.
I continued along the same path until I was 35. For long periods during my addiction I made the choice to stay on the streets or in run-down Crack houses in Moss Side for days/weeks/months on end because it felt easier than going home and facing my family. It was the year 2000 and once again I had been on bail for theft offences and yet again I had breached bail. I was placed on remand in Strangeways. I had been in for about 4 days and was still withdrawing. My cellmate had gone to court on the Friday and was released which meant I was on my own in the cell for the weekend. Over the years I have spent many days/nights/weeks/months and years in prison. Suicidal ideation was never about being in custody. For me, it is more about the hopelessness and helplessness that I feel when that veil descends. I still experience that to this day. On this occasion I was at an all-time low. The two most important people in my life, my mum and my nana had both passed away in 1992 and I had spent the last 8 years in grief and drifting further and further into the darkest and loneliest times of my life. People had stopped coming to visit me when I was in prison these days. My last remaining family had just about taken all they could handle of me. I was overcome by waves of despair and in that moment I decided once again that I’d had enough. It was the early hours of the morning, ‘the nightshift’ for an addict in cold turkey. I took a razor blade apart and I cut my sheets up and made them into a ligature. The sheets were made of fire retardant material and they were really strong. I tied one end around the bars in the window and the other end around my neck as high up as I could manage. There was nothing to stand on in the cell as all the furniture was made of steel and was fixed securely to the walls. I pulled the ligature as tight as I could and then I sat down as best and as low as I could manage. I started to drift off into the comforting nothingness of black out and then suddenly found myself in a heap on the floor. The sheet had snapped. I was absolutely beside myself. For the life of me I couldn’t work out how the sheet snapped? I was thrown into confusion and then the deepest feelings of despair and hopelessness that I had ever experienced. I felt like such a failure and I cried and cried for what seemed like forever. The next thing I remember was an overwhelming feeling of calmness and peace like I have never ever felt before or since. I was then overcome by a strange and inexplicable sense that everything was going to be ok. To this day I don’t know where that came from, whether it was my faith, an angel or from God himself but it was so strong and reassuring that I just started to feel better, like I was in good hands and I was being looked after.
I eventually got up off the floor and tidied things up, brushed myself off and sat down at the steel table to roll a cigarette. I noticed the local paper, The Manchester evening news, in front of me on the table. I hadn’t noticed this paper at any point before now. I started reading through it and around a third of the way through I came across a story by a woman who had opened a day centre in Stockport for recovering addicts and alcoholics. The woman in the story was also in recovery from addiction. There and then I wrote her a letter asking for help. 2 weeks later she came to see me. When I walked into the visit room and saw her for the first time she had an aura like I have never ever seen before. When I talked to her about the behaviours/thoughts and feelings and the lifestyle that came with my addiction, it was like she already knew me and she had already lived most of my story herself.
4 weeks later I was escorted from Strangeways to Manchester Crown Court for sentence. I was supported in court by a representative from the day centre and there were reports from my drug workers in the prison and the community and my probation officer all supporting placement at the day centre. For the first time ever in my life I was placed before a Judge who spoke to me in a way that I have never been spoken to by a Judge and I had been before enough of them in my time. This man seemed to really pay attention to the situation rather than just to the problem. He gave me a chance and sentenced me to a community order so I could attend the day centre.
I attended the rehab the next day for the first time and then daily for the next six months. I went on to attend aftercare two days a week for a further three months. After completing nine months in treatment I was offered the opportunity to volunteer with the service which I accepted. Twelve months later I was offered a full time paid role as a support worker with their very first supported housing project. Six months later I was offered the role of deputy manager. Twelve months later I was offered the role of manager. Three years later I was promoted to head of service, responsible for managing 72 beds across Greater Manchester. I left the service in 2011 to pursue other opportunities and I have managed several projects and services since. I now manage a 16 bed residential rehab as a CQC registered manager for one of the biggest health and social care providers in the country. Our service was inspected by CQC in May 2019 and we were graded as good across all 5 domains. Our rehab is one of the longest standing residential rehabs in the history of residential services to be still operating in the country.
Away from my life as a professional I have since remarried. My wife and I have 7 children and 8 grandchildren between us. I have done lots of personal development work and I have completed various rites of passage and initiation ceremonies in the 19 years that I have been in recovery. I am an active member and co-facilitator of abandofbrothers and I have the shared responsibility for the growth and development of abandofbrothers in Manchester. I still experience fleeting feelings of hopelessness and helplessness and not wanting to be alive today. I have learned to live with and to embrace my shadow, but more importantly I have learned to love that part of me. Thoughts of suicide are a constant companion. For me the blessing is that I have not tried to take my life since that dark and desperate night when I was last in prison in 2000. Today I am grateful for everything that life throws at me and I have learned to celebrate myself as the miracle that I am.
About David now;
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We agree that David is a miracle and are so proud that you are shining your light! ❤
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