The following story has been re-produced with permission from the author. Names have been changed and stock photos have been used. All the details are exactly as originally written…
Hi, my name is Melissa and this is my story of how I have become part of The Bridge.
I have been a heroin and crack addict since 2006. My life was hectic, unmanageable and getting worse by the day. In mid-September 2015, I hit an all-time low. I was selling my body for money for my drugs, I was in and out of hostels and I had stolen money from my family, so even they had turned their back on me. On 23rd September, I collapsed and was rushed to hospital. I had blood clots in my leg due to injecting and a blood virus attacking my heart. Doctors told me that I had been very lucky to survive. I had also come close to losing my leg. I was told that if I continued the way I was then I wouldn’t see my 29th birthday, which was only four months away. That was my wake-up call.
When I was in the hospital, PC Lisa Williams, who worked with the working girls, came to see me. She told me that, that afternoon, there was to be a big intervention meeting about me, with all the local services that I was involved in, to see what help there was for me. One thing we agreed on was that I needed to re-locate. If I stayed where I was living, there was no way I could get clean.
That evening I received a phone call to say a place in Birmingham called The Bridge was probably the best option for me, but I needed to do a phone interview with them to make sure I met their criteria and that they were the right place for me. The phone interview happened the next day. The lady who I spoke to was called Zoë. I found her really easy to talk to and felt at ease straight away. Once the interview was over, Zoë said a team meeting would be held to see if I could be accepted, and that she would get back to me ASAP. Well, I kept my fingers crossed all afternoon, as I felt this was the perfect place for me to do my recovery and start my life afresh. A couple of hours later the call came and I had been accepted. I could move in the following Monday – that was only four days away! I was so happy. I spent the next four days in hospital, mentally preparing myself for this, as I knew it wouldn’t be easy and I knew I would need to spend a good two years there in order to complete my recovery to my absolute best. I also knew then that my life would be in Birmingham. I was going to re-locate for good to give myself the best chance of succeeding.
It’s exhilarating, it’s breath-taking, it’s life-changing. And it’s helping change the lives of people who’ve struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Come hear their stories for yourselves and share an amazing experience together!
2) Is it expensive?
No! The total booking cost is £85 (£35 if you’re arranging your own travel). This will cover your travel, accommodation and main meals for the weekend. All money raised from sponsorship will go towards helping men and women recover from drug and alcohol addiction.
3) How do I book in?
Simply drop me an email at email@example.com to let me know you’re interested. I’ll send you an information document with all the details… We’d love as many people to come along as we can fit!
The following is the true story of ‘Hope’, a female resident who lived at Timbers – our women’s recovery project. At the time she wrote: “[my dream is] to be a loving mum to my children, drug-free.” It was only two years later, out-of-the-blue, that we found out how her story concluded…
Firstly, I was in a very violent relationship with a man, who introduced me to drugs and prostitution. I was subjected to mental and physical abuse and raped by him regularly, for 17-18 years in fact. As my mum died when I was young, I thought the relationship I was in was normal, but only after he was convicted of violence and rape, I realised what he was doing to me.
After my ex was convicted for living off immoral earnings, violence and rape, I lost my children. They were taken away from me because of my inability to cope, with them and life. My drug addiction spiralled out of control; I became homeless, lost touch with my family and reality, and became a homeless prostitute.
I was diagnosed with manic depression and I self-medicated with crack cocaine and eventually heroin. I was sent to prison for theft offences and I was glad to go. I wanted a way out so desperately. I was glad to be in prison, where they arranged a telephone interview for Timbers [The Bridge’s women’s house]. I was accepted and I have never looked back.
Now I am in recovery at Timbers – six months now. I love it! The groups are great; we have so much encouragement and support every day. I can tell the staff all my problems and they always have the right answers. For once in my life, I feel I have a future.
I still have a lot of work, and issues to deal with but I have all the time in the world to achieve my dream – to be a loving mum to my children, drug-free. And with God’s love and guidance, where can I go wrong?
I have all that I need at Timbers, and I am going to make the most of this opportunity. I can’t thank the staff enough here, for accepting me here. I LOVE IT THANKYOU, with all my heart.
‘Hope’ left Timbers in 2012. On 22 August 2014, we received the following text message:
Hi folks it’s ‘Hope’. I’m just letting you know that I’m drug free, I have a lovely flat and my twins are now living with me. I will never forget all the help you gave me; and I want to thank you all very much xxx
The Bridge changed my life around. Immediately before, I had been living in a park for 10 days. Someone saw me collapse in the street and called an ambulance. When the Alcohol Liaison Nurse saw me in detox at Selly Oak all she said to me was, ‘I’ve heard of this place called The Bridge. Do you want me to give them a ring?’ I just said, ‘Yeah’.
Arriving at The Bridge was a totally alien experience. I’d never been in a rehab. I’d never been near anything like it in my life. But what I found, and still find, was the unique way staff at The Bridge treated people; they looked at us as individuals. The honesty of the staff was fantastic. Being there helped me to express everything I was thinking and feeling; it gave me the words. The Bridge breathed new air into my lungs.
I was there for 18 months in total. I learnt a lot in my time there. The more people I spoke to the more I understood about myself. Alcoholism can make you very selfish. Being at The Bridge I realised that others had suffered in the same way I had. It also made me realise that other people believed in me, which in turn helped me believe in myself.
When I left The Bridge I was considering going to university and took an access course in History and Sociology. I was also volunteering at St Martin’s Helpdesk. When I finished the course a job came up with The Bridge as a support worker. I remembered something Dean, my support worker at The Bridge, had mentioned about me being good with people; that I was a ‘people person’. He planted the seed about support work.
Since being back at The Bridge as a support worker I’ve found my background has given me a wealth of life experience to draw from. It’s let me understand where addicts are coming from and how they’re trying to express themselves.
‘Jay’ worked for The Bridge for another 18 months and was an outstanding member of the support team. He left at the beginning of 2013 in order to start up his own business, which would employ people with previous drug or alcohol issues in order to give them a first step in employment.
‘Jay’ continues to volunteer for The Bridge in his free time as a key-worker to current residents.
[*The photograph used above is a generic stock photograph]
The following email was received from a former resident by The Bridge on 2nd April 2013
Not sure who does admin now, but, whoever you are, HELLO! I was a ‘service user’ (addict is more truthful) at The Bridge. Firstly, I should apologise for leaving it sooooo long before doing this. Looking back, I wanted to make sure I was well and truly settled. Nothing went wrong for me, I’m still clean. Time just seems to have run away with itself. Staff, never underestimate your role in helping someone achieve a life better than what they had. You’re all unsung heroes in my eyes
At the moment, I’m playing at ‘house-husband’; my partner works for a supermarket. We are settled in a 3-bed council house and grow our own veg in our garden, and one that a lovely old lady has given us the use of. As for where I’ve been and am heading; have volunteered with a community farm project last year but due to moving, had to stop. In around 4 or 5 weeks I’ll be doing a 5-day training course to go into schools and police training to talk about substance misuse and the signs/dangers. If I’m honest, I’m glad nothing else has come along, because this is the one for me. Oh, and I am the proud father of a beautiful little girl. Without you and the rest of staff, she, and most certainly me, might not have been here, so, thanks again