For­mer drug ad­dict now help­ing oth­ers

As a new support group for peo­ple with drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion launches in Mac­cles­fied, re­porter talks to group leader Kevin Gin­nelly who beat his ad­dic­tion to help oth­ers fight theirs

Macclesfield Express - - GARRY THE HAT | WHAT’S ON -

IT is a mir­a­cle Kevin Gin­nelly is still alive to tell his story. Over 20 years he bat­tled al­co­hol and drugs ad­dic­tion, which led him down a path to self-de­struc­tion, prison and very close to death.

Some­how he sur­vived and the 39-year-old is now de­voted to help­ing peo­ple in Mac­cles­field whose lives have been ripped apart by ad­dic­tion.

Kevin had a tough start to life and was put into care.

He was adopted at five into a good, nur­tur­ing fam­ily but in his early teens he strug­gled to come to terms with this child­hood trauma and started to go off the rails. He said: “I was liv­ing two lives and had no sense of who I was. On one hand I was a keen Army cadet and had dreams of a ca­reer in the mil­i­tary. I liked the dis­ci­pline, but out­side of that I was re­bel­lious. It started as typ­i­cal teenage boy stuff, drink­ing with my mates, but then I started to steal to fund it, and I started get­ting into trou­ble.”

At 16 Kevin joined the Army and had ap­peared to es­cape his er­rant life­style.

But within a year of fin­ish­ing his train­ing Kevin came face to face with the hor­rors of war dur­ing a tour of Bos­nia. He turned to al­co­hol to deal with his ex­pe­ri­ence and his be­hav­iour swiftly de­te­ri­o­rated to the point he was asked to leave the Army.

Back home Kevin turned vi­o­lent and his drink­ing be­came in­tol­er­a­ble for his fam­ily to deal with.

Out on his own, he ended up in east Cheshire, mov­ing about the towns, as his spi­ral down con­tin­ued. Then in 1995, while liv­ing in Mac­cles­field, Kevin was jailed for three years for at­tempted rob- bery.

On re­lease his life took a more pos­i­tive turn when he found reg­u­lar work, mar­ried and started a fam­ily. But the de­mon drink was never far away.

He said: “I was try­ing to live a good life, but kept go­ing back to the booze. It ru­ined me. It got to the point that I needed a drink to func­tion.”

In 2005 Kevin’s life hit a new low when he was in­volved in an armed siege at his home. He was jailed for a year, but the real cost was the loss of his re­la­tion­ship with his wife and their three chil­dren.

Inside prison Kevin found es­cape from his in­ner tur­moil us­ing heroin and crack co­caine, and he was soon bat­tling a full blown ad­dic­tion.

He said: “I was in a dark place. Ev­ery­thing had been de­stroyed. I lost the thing that meant the most to me in the world - my fam­ily. I had no self-re­spect. I be­came a liar and a thief. I was con­stantly in trou­ble with the law.”

For four years Kevin fought his ad­dic­tion, get­ting clean then us­ing again. Then one day, some­thing just clicked.

He said: “I had almost died in a house fire be­cause of my drink­ing, and been re­sus­ci­tated after a drugs over­dose, but nei­ther event had been the cat­a­lyst to change my ways. What it took was the mo­ment I found my­self sit­ting in my flat scared of pick­ing up the phone or an­swer­ing the door. I just sat there, took at look at my­self and re­alised I had to give it all up.”

Kevin sought help for his ad­dic­tion through re­cov­ery groups and soon found his call­ing.

He said: “What I dis­cov­ered was a sense of be­long­ing. Peo­ple un­der­stood me when I spoke about feel­ings and thoughts. I started to get more in­volved and show skills that are help­ful in support groups. It gave me a pur­pose and a mis­sion.”

Kevin started to train as a re­cov­ery coach and within months was study­ing to be a coun­sel­lor. His ef­forts were recog­nised with awards from the Cheshire and Wir­ral Part­ner­ship and the Pro­ba­tion Ser­vice, and last year he be­came a di­rec­tor Chang­ing Lanes, a com­mu­nity in­ter­est company which runs re­cov­ery groups for ad­dicts.

Chang­ing Lanes has re­cently launched new support groups in Mac­cles­field at the Elim Christian Life Cen­tre on Par­son­age Street, ev­ery Fri­day from 1-3pm and Wilm­slow, at the Hand­forth Clinic on Wilm­slow Road, ev­ery Tues­day from 12-1pm, as well as other ar­eas of east Cheshire.

Kevin, who lives in Crewe, is urg­ing any­one strug­gling with ad­dic­tion to come to a meet­ing,

He said: “For such a long time I was blind to the im­pact I was hav­ing on my fam­ily and the wider com­mu­nity. I lost ev­ery­thing that meant any­thing to me and that is a very painful thing to live with. But I have turned my life around and now want to help oth­ers to the same.

“Peo­ple strug­gling need to re­alise that there is help out there for them if they want it. If I can do it, then so can you.”

‘I was try­ing to live a good life, but the booze ru­ined me’

Chang­ing Lanes can be con­tacted 24 hours a day on its helpline: 07980 053810.

●» Kevin Gin­nelly turned his life around after years of ad­dic­tion

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