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
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