Even the death of his brother through a heroin overdose couldn't persuade Steven Brown to stop taking drugs. But a talk from Red Rose Recovery founder Peter Yarwood changed his perspective.
Steven Brown admits he was a ‘prolific offender’ after spending 20 years addicted to drugs.
His brother had died of a bad batch of heroin and he had attempted to take his own life three times.
But against all odds the 40-year-old got clean and is now supporting people who share similar experiences at health and social care charity Empowerment in Blackpool.
He says: “I was in and out of prison for 20 years, addicted to drugs. I did whatever I could to get the drugs, which meant I ended up in prison.
“My brother and all my friends were doing drugs, so I just followed. I started smoking cannabis at the age of 12 and I progressed through all the drugs, including heroin. As soon as I started on that, my life rapidly changed and before I knew it, I was an addict. I had to get it to make my life better.
“My brother, Shane, died of a dodgy batch of heroin which had anthrax in it in 2009. He was aged 34.
“My mum and my sister kept saying to me ‘why do you still keep taking the stuff which killed your brother?’ I didn’t know why I did it. I thought there was something wrong with me and that was why I was doing it.
“I tried to commit suicide three times. I didn’t care about my life.”
Following a visit from former drug addict Peter Yarwood, who founded support group Red Rose Recovery, Steven realised there was something to live for.
He says: “A few years ago I got sentenced to four years in prison. Peter Yarwood from Red Rose Recovery came in to give talks and as he was a recovered addict, he gave me a bit of hope.
“He told me he had been in prison and he changed his life around.
“I managed to get clean and was released in March 2017. I was seven stone and was dying.
“I had nothing - no clothes, no money, and I was banned from driving. I had been in and out of hostels as I didn’t know any different.
“I went to Jobs, Friends and Houses (JFH) to help with my recovery. They drug tested me and I needed that as extra support as I was scared that once I got out of prison I would go back to drugs.
“I then built my life up. I passed my driving test and got a car. I didn’t think this would happen to me.
“I did some volunteer work at the Amy Winehouse Foundation, which I still so and I volunteered for Red Rose Recovery.
“I was six months clean and was visiting prisons and doing talks to offenders who had known me from being inside.
“As I had an extensive criminal record, I knew I would struggle to get employment, but Red Rose Recovery gave me a job as volunteer co-ordinator for the north.
“People listen to people who have lived the experience and turned their life around.
“That built my confidence and self esteem up. I loved it.
“I now have a new job at Empowerment. I am doing amazing things, including going to the Cabinet office for a spending review of our resources.
“But I am still in touch with people at Lancashire User Forum and Red Rose Recovery as I want to show them there is hope but one of the reasons I left was that I am from Blackpool. Most of the people who are struggling and using drugs know me and that visible recovery in their own community is key for people to get into their own recovery and turn their lives around.
“I have been clean two-and-a-half years now. After a year, my mum said she was really proud of me. I go and have a big roast dinner with her every Sunday.
“That is what is keeping me clean - my family seeing me do well and I don’t want to let them down.”