30 August 2016

“I didn’t have any hope. I’d given up and just used to exist. But now I have a purpose and it feels really good.”

These are the words of former drug addict Alex Dickerson who is now just over five years clean.

Alex is helping raise awareness that recovery is possible by sharing his own story, and encouraging anyone affected by drug and alcohol addiction in Sheffield to get involved in National Recovery Month.

Every year thousands of people who are or have been affected by addiction come together during September. Activities aim to increase awareness and understanding of substance use disorders, celebrate people who have recovered, and spread the message that there is help out there and recovery is possible.

Alex, who now works for Addaction, one of the UK’s leading and largest specialist drug, alcohol and mental health treatment charities based at Sidney Street in the city centre, is living proof that recovery is happening and that there is a real solution to the problem of drug and alcohol addiction.

Alex said: “It’s difficult to know when things started and I don’t really know why it was like that. But as soon as I tasted alcohol and cannabis that’s all I wanted to do.”

Alex started drinking and taking drugs at an early age before starting to use heroin and crack every few months when he was around 18 years old. This continued for a few years when he became a more frequent user.

He said: “Things just got a lot worse. I didn’t enjoy anything; it wasn’t what I wanted. I went on the sick from working in a factory and ended up in a depressive slump. I spent all my time thinking about my next fix.

“I tried to sort myself out lots of times but it didn’t work out and I ended up homeless – living in shelters or sleeping on the street, shoplifting or borrowing money from family or friends to buy more drugs.”

Alex went through detox six times and spent two periods in rehab before finally getting clean and moving to Sheffield to study at Sheffield Hallam University, graduating with a First Class Honours degree in Creative Arts.

He added: “Getting better was sort of a process really that took a few years and I worked very hard at it.

“I never thought I’d end up going college and then to university, but I had amazing support. It all made me look at the world differently and appreciate things more. I enjoy getting up in the morning now I have something to live for instead of drugs.

“If I could say something to others out there who don’t think recovery is possible it would be to just keep trying, if you want it enough you will succeed. There is a range of support available but you have to find what works for you.”

The month-long programme of recovery events starts with a launch event at the HUBs, Paternoster Row on Thursday 1 September from 4pm to 7pm.

One of the highlight events is the Ride for Recovery around Derwent Dam on Wednesday 14 September, which over 100 people attended last year.

The month culminates in a celebration event and award ceremony at the Town Hall on 23 September to recognise people’s achievements and contributions to Sheffield’s recovery community.

People can also show their support by getting involved with the #SheffieldfacesOfRecovery social media campaign.
Councillor Cate McDonald, cabinet member for health and social care at Sheffield City Council, said: “Recovery from addiction takes time, patience and support and there are many ways that people can get the help they need.

“We want people to know that there is support for people experiencing drug and alcohol issues in Sheffield and we have a strong recovery community.

“We don’t want people to suffer their problems alone so please get in touch if you’re worried about yourself or someone you know.

“There are lots of events and activities taking place throughout September to celebrate National Recovery Month. It will be a lot of fun as well as very informative and anyone is welcome.”

Support and treatment is available for anyone in Sheffield experiencing drug and alcohol issues. All services in Sheffield take self-referrals and are open access, meaning people can walk in and be seen that day.

Visit www.sheffielddact.org.uk or call 0114 273 6851 for information about the help on offer in Sheffield and the events taking place during National Recovery Month.