When faced with an addiction, it is hard for those who haven’t been though it to understand. But speaking and listening to people who have turned their lives around can help addicts see there is a way out of the darkness. Satellite groups of recovered alcoholics and former drug users across the county meet on a regular basis, under the leadership of parent group Lancashire User Forum to show support and celebrate people’s successes.
Craig Rawlinson was addicted to drugs and alcohol for 17 years but after seeking help he now works for CGL Inspire, based in Fleetwood.
The 48-year-old says: “My problematic drinking started when I was 25. I was brought up in a pub and had my first drink at the age of 10 as I wanted to know what it tasted like.
“I would see my teachers in the pub at lunchtime and served them alcohol when I was 14. I didn’t know any different.
“I realised I was relying more and more on alcohol when I found things hard.
“When I then gave up alcohol, I found drugs and started smoking cannabis.
“I was using anything that was offered to me.
“I got to the point where I had just had enough. I was not enjoying it. I had no friends and lost jobs as I was not turning up for work. I was working in pubs as a chef. I was homeless on several occasions as a result as I spent the money I had for rent on drink, rather than thinking about having a roof over my head.
“When I woke up in the morning, the first thing in my head would not be about getting ready for work, but would I finish on time to get to the off licence to get a drink, or could I get to my weed dealer.
“Everything else was secondary. I became very manipulative. I had money but I borrowed and never gave back.
“I would ask people to do things for me. I had morals but I didn’t live to them. I knew it wasn’t right to steal and take things from people but I did it. I had lost judgement. I stole £400 from the safe at work once and used to steal drinks from the pub I worked.
“I have been married twice and they have both failed, mainly because of my drinking and drug using.
“My second wife told me I had a problem and I said: ‘what do you think, I have a drinking problem,’ with a can in my hand.
“Eventually I worked out drink and the drugs were not the problem and it was actually me.
“I was using drink and drugs to sort my problems out.
“I stopped three times. The first time, I was 18 months clear. I went to university and dealt with that lifestyle. I was smoking cannabis, not thinking it was an issue and university went out of the window.
“I went back into problem drinking and when I entered a new relationship, I stopped.
“But when that broke down, I started drinking again.
“My final time, I stumbled into services, knowing I really wanted to change.
“As I was in support groups, listening to other people’s stories, I realised I was not the only person going through this.
“It was very common and I didn’t feel as alone.
“I decided I wanted to be free and went on a detox.
“I started working on myself holistically, looking at my physical and mental health and my social circle and things started to change.”
Read another story about addiction recovery: Reformed addicts: Here is how a prison visit from Red Rose Recovery helped drug addict Steven kick the habit which killed his brother
Craig admits his previous behaviour had cost him his relationship with his son, but this is now something that is getting back on track.
He says: “I had lost contact with my son for quite a long time. We have only recently been back in touch and I am trying to build those bridges.
“I was not a very good dad. I would just drop out and leave the area and he wouldn’t know where I was.
“I would make promises over Christmas and presents which I ended up breaking and that caused a lot of resentment.
“He has grown into a nice lad and is expecting his first child, so I will soon be a grandad.”
Craig now has two new addictions in his life: guitars and supporting people through their problems as recovery engagement worker at CGL Inspire.
He says: “I am the first point of contact for someone wanting help. I do an assessment with them and look at their needs, signposting them to services.
“I work primarily with group alcohol recovery, where people learn what the triggers are for drinking and how to build positive things in their life.
“We set our goals for people, whether that be controlling their drinking to complete abstinence.
“I don’t always think support staff need to have been through addiction to help, as long as they have had the right training, but from feedback I have had, clients have a better understanding if they think the person talking to them also knows what they have been though. I understand what is going on for them. I never talk about my recovery, It is all about them.”