‘One of my friends lit­er­ally died in my arms’

Sunday Herald - - INSIDE STORY -

ROBERT, 46, from Pos­sil­park in Glas­gow, has been clean for al­most eight years and is now work­ing with Shel­ter’s Time for Change project. He started us­ing hard drugs as a teenager and was soon tak­ing “ev­ery­thing go­ing”. “Heroin, methadone, pre­scrip­tion drugs, co­caine, crack, you name it,” he said. “I was run­ning away from a lot of things that were giv­ing me a lot of pain – prob­lems with my fam­ily, with re­la­tion­ships. I had no un­der­stand­ing of how to cope with that pain so I took drugs to help me deal with it.”

In real­ity, his chaotic life­style led him to ex­pe­ri­ence even more trauma. “One good friend lit­er­ally died in my arms,” he said. “Oth­ers that I knew, par­tic­u­larly when I was home­less, would dis­ap­pear. You’d ask about them and some­one would say ‘Yeah, they’re dead’.”

Af­ter sev­eral years he was pre­scribed methadone but with­out any ad­di­tional ther­apy on of­fer, he felt un­able to give up street drugs and con­tin­ued to “top up” for years, treat­ing methadone as yet an­other “buzz”. It was only when of­fered a treat­ment pro­gramme while in prison for drugs of­fences that he man­aged to get clean, this time with the help of anger man­age­ment cour­ses and cog­ni­tive be­havioural ther­apy.

On re­lease he ended up sofa surf­ing. Many peo­ple re­leased from ei­ther prison or re­hab of­ten end up us­ing again when home­less and sleep­ing on a friend’s couch. But even when Robert was given ac­com­mo­da­tion, it was in area fre­quented by drug deal­ers and he ended up leav­ing it as he was scared that he would not be able to stay drug free if he stayed. Now, he says, he has “a very sta­ble life” and lives with his part­ner, who is also an ad­dic­tion ser­vices worker. He be­lieves we need to do far more to stop peo­ple dy­ing. “I think med­i­cal care might have im­proved,” he said. “But with­out some of the vol­un­tary home­less or­gan­i­sa­tions I don’t think peo­ple would be liv­ing as long as they do. It just breaks my heart to see peo­ple suf­fer­ing be­cause I’ve walked in their shoes. For me, there has to be a rad­i­cal change made to our drug pol­icy.”

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