Joe's Story


My story starts with me sniffing glue from age 12 and getting addicted to opiates by drinking bottles of cough linctus age 14. I suppose I like to use these drugs because I wasn’t happy at high school. My family moved around a fair bit following my dads work. It made it difficult for me to find a sense of stability and to make real friends. Another factor that made my life at school something I didn’t like was that I had undiagnosed dyslexia. I left school as soon as I could and joined the Mod scene, got myself a scooter and got into pills.


I was a heavy binge drinker by the age of 18, and around this time I witnessed a murder; this of course had a huge effect on me. I didn’t know about trauma or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; I just drank and used to cope with this. I was losing control; I was drink driving and getting caught. In fact I got caught 4 times, lost my licence 4 times and ended up in Barlinnie by age 21. I spent 3 months in there, my life was chaotic and looking back I see that my mental health was really poor. I threatened to kill myself, so they put me in solitary for 9 weeks.


When I came out of jail I promised myself I’d never drink again because I had this great feeling of peace due to have been abstinent for several months, however as soon as I had my money from the DSS I was straight in the supermarket buying 4 cans,  and I was off and running again. I suffered a lot from depression and anxiety and I was always using amphetamines to go up and cannabis and temazepam to come down. Alcohol was always there; it caused me to lose my freedom, jobs, relationships, everything was alcohol related.


I was getting arrested frequently for causing trouble, I was in the local newspapers for the wrong reasons and my life was again spiralling out of control. At this point I started to engage with alcohol counselling and things got a lot better. I didn’t drink for a long time after that, although I made the mistake of picking up cannabis. I minimised the risks of taking this and the increase in anxiety and depression it caused. After a year I was on anti-depressants, but still thinking I was great because I hadn’t had a drink for a year.


I was a trained electrician but I couldn’t get a job so I became a domestic appliance engineer, fixing washing machines. They are heavy things and I injured my back moving them and carrying them on my own. I was prescribed dihydrocodeine and diazepam for a month and before I knew I was hooked on both, and sleeping pills. My active addiction to prescription medication went on for the next 16 years.


I stole pills from anyone I could, my friends, family, my children, anyone. I would manipulate and lie to people. My ex-partner’s mother who had survived cancer – I phoned her up out of the blue, desperate, begging for their pills, and I’d get them. I had many accidental overdoses where I’d pass out and end up hospitalised. I’d go to A and E with fake injuries, trying to get x-rayed with a view to getting painkillers. Eventually they cottoned on and challenged my drug-seeking behaviour.


Any relationship I had, getting pills was a central focus and motivation for me. I ended up buying street Valium when it was all I could get. I don’t know what was in them but I became really ill. My stomach was really bad and I collapsed, luckily for me my girlfriend found me face down in the place I was staying, she took me to hospital where they put on a drip, and saved my life. I nearly died that day. But when I woke up all I wanted was drugs again, complaining to the doctors and nurses that I should have been on codeine, even though I had told me GP not to give me opiates; it was on my file!. I feel so embarrassed about all this thinking back


New Years Day 2016 I had had enough, I had this moment when I realised I needed to change, I needed to stop. I flushed everything I had down the toilet in this moment of motivation, and then an hour later I was down on my knees scrambling around looking to see if I had dropped a pill somewhere. It was madness!


Then I remembered the voice of an ex-partner who told me I needed a programme in my life, and this inspired me to go to an AA meeting on a Monday night in Bridge of Allan. Even when I was outside the meeting I remember thinking about how I could make an excuse to myself to not go inside. To ask them if they were Trainspotters Anonymous or something daft like that so I could say I had the wrong place. But before I could say anything somebody had spotted me, come to welcome me and taken me inside, offering me a cup of tea, leaflets and I actually liked it. Next night I went to Narcotics Anonymous in Stirling, I liked that too.


In the meetings I saw examples of people who had used like me and who had changed their lives around; they had jobs, families, cars, they were happy and free. Those people gave me hope; seeing people who had recovered had a real impact on me.


So I followed the suggestions; I got a sponsor who guided me through a 12 step programme. So I was going to 12 step meetings in the evenings but I hadn’t had anything to do during the day. About the same time I came across Forth Valley Recovery Community. They ran these pop up cafes in the afternoons. So I started going to Recovery cafes in Falkirk, Stirling and Alloa which was keeping me busy for three days of the week. Then they started a walking group which is now called the Recovery Ramblers so that was another afternoon busy.  I also attended SMART meetings in FFVRC which played a part in my recovery too. FVRC now have Recovery cafes every day of the week and lots more activities, it’s really grown these past 3 years.


With the FVRC they took me through volunteer training then peer support training which has allowed me to give something back. I now get to go into hospitals and give information and support to current inpatients with substance abuse problems. I am able to tell them my story and hopefully give them hope, just as it was given to me.


Today my life is completely transformed; I’m free from alcohol, drugs, and pills. I’m at college studying and I’m also doing a COSCA Counselling Skills Certificate. I am expanding my horizons; my life has real meaning and purpose today.


There has been a group of us who came to the community and recovery all at the same time and we’ve formed a great connection and real friendships over the past years. I’ve got through challenges I couldn’t have done myself thanks to all the support, friendship and understanding I’ve had through the  12 step programme and fellowships, FVRC and SMART.