Denise's Story


At the age of 15 I started smoking hash, and that was to become a crutch for many years to come. I grew to depend on cannabis to help me through all aspects of life which I found challenging. I can see now, with the benefit of hindsight, that the more I smoked cannabis, the more I found life challenging,  the more I smoked cannabis. It was a vicious cycle. Drink featured from time to time and always caused problems, but the hash was consistent.


I realised at some point that alcohol wasn’t for me; whenever I drank I would end up doing stupid things or getting injured; always just getting into embarrassing or dangerous situations. I could put two and two together with alcohol and see that I needed to stop.  Whereas with cannabis it never caused me these kind of issues, so that helped me to continue to be in denial about my cannabis problem. I thought that hash was the lesser of two evils.


I knew I had a problem with cannabis, that I was addicted. I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage my life without it, even though it was causing me no end of problems. I believed I needed it and at the same time I believed that it was a problem. I believed I wouldn’t be able to manage my life without it, even though it was causing me no end of problems.


I have had manageable and respectable periods in my life when I felt that things were going well, these further enabled me to continue to deny I really had a problem. I could say to myself ‘well there were all those months when I used and I controlled and enjoyed it’ but things always became chaotic again due to my cannabis use and my recurring mental health problems.


I was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder after periods of mania and severe depression. I had arguments with doctors and family about whether my drug use had affected my mental health. I really didn’t want that to be the case, because that would have meant me having to stop completely, and I did not want to stop completely.  As the years went on and my cannabis use increased and became heavier my mental health issues became more and more severe. I had a paranoid episode and had to be hospitalised. It was a horrible episode and I could have done myself some real damage, even killed myself.


I tried to stop for periods and I would always return to it. I knew I could stop using, it was the staying stopped that I didn’t know how to do. I didn’t know how to cope with difficult situations without cannabis. I realised that I needed to get completely clean of everything, pills, alcohol and cannabis. This time I went through a worker at Signpost and I was pointed in the direction of FVRC. I realised that sitting at home alone wasn’t going to help, and that I wasn’t going to be able do this alone.


I started going along to the Saturday cafe in Falkirk, then going to SMART meetings. I really liked the easy, informal atmosphere there, and making connections with people. Then everything started to progress really quickly. With the support of my peers and the Recovery development team in FVRC I was manging to cope with life without using drugs. The next step in my progress was taking up opportunities to go through SMART facilitator and FVRC volunteer training which I really enjoyed. I signed up for Community Rehabilitation groups, I went through both Introduction to Change and Steps to Change with ASC in Falkirk. They taught me a lot about dealing with unhelpful thinking in early recovery, self-care, and practical things like word processing and IT skills. Then I managed to go through the Forth Valley College access course all based in ASC’s office in Falkirk. All of this has happened in my first year of recovery. I see that I have made huge progress over this year. I am now planning to go through the nationally recognised peer support training with FVRC in the next few months.


I feel like I have taken back control of my life, my thoughts are clearer, I know that I can’t safely drink alcohol or use cannabis or pills. I am proud of the achievements of this past year. I still have emotional days, I can still have triggers to that make me think about using but I can resist those cravings now because of the support of the community.