Jules story: From heroin addict to front line recovery worker

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Jules story: From heroin addict to front line recovery worker

Topic at a glance:

  • Former Hope-client Jules tells her recovery story to give others hope

  • Learn how she overcame her heroin addiction and eventually got a job offer to become a front line recovery worker for drug services in the UK

  • Find out what advice Jules would give her addicted self if she could travel back in time

Woman walking the garden Hi, my names Jules and I am a recovering addict. It’s hard to know where to start and not to tell you my whole life story, but I’m going to briefly tell you who I was. I come from what is typically called a ‘dysfunctional’ family, but to me it was normal. I have one sister who is younger than me, my mum and my dad. My dad was an extremely violent alcoholic and was physically and mentally abusive to all of us, especially my mum when we were growing up.

I don’t say this to make excuses for the path I chose, I didn’t know any different, and it was just how it was. When I was 7, my mum had had enough and decided to leave my dad for another man who became my step-father for the next 20+ years. Things got worse for me; I hated my new ‘step-dad’.

I got hooked on heroin on my 20th birthday

As time went by I remember spending a lot of time on my own in my room, usually listening to music or out of the house with my friends. I was the kid that skipped happily out of the house and dreaded going back. I found alcohol and weed when I was 11 and every weekend was a chance to get blotto at the local park with my mates. By the time I was 15 I’d had enough of home and left.

I dabbled with party drugs over the next couple of years and cocaine had become a regular thing. On my 20th birthday, a friend bought me crack, and I loved it from the start. That was closely followed by heroin which for me was the thing I thought I’d been searching for; it filled the hole inside. It sounds sad to say that now but that was the truth. I was hooked straight away and spent the next 19 years addicted to heroin.

When my partner went to rehab I felt abandoned and left behind

I had two children in addiction, took them out grafting daily and although I would’ve said I was a good mum I didn’t give them the one thing kids really need…time. They were clean, fed, went to school, and I loved them dearly, but in truth, they played 2nd fiddle to heroin.

On 30th December 2014, my partner left to go to Hope Rehab. I felt abandoned, left behind and during those six weeks he was away I didn’t leave the house at all except to get gear. I had agreed to go to the drug service while he was away to get a script and try to get stable so when he came back I wouldn’t be actively using heroin…I made a half hearted effort. I got a script but kept using as well (selfish I know), and now I was using methadone and heroin.

I remember crying like a baby and thinking ‘I can’t do this; I’m going to be a junkie forever’

When he came home I decided to give getting clean a proper go and changed to Subutex – that was hard, really hard. I remember the 1st day crying on my lounge floor like a baby thinking ‘I can’t do this; I’m going to be a junkie forever’. That brings a tear even now; I felt useless, worthless and a failure more than ever…BUT I dug deep, and you know what I got through it!

I had decided I didn’t want to swap heroin and still be reliant on substitution medication so four weeks later my partner and I travelled to Thailand and I withdrew from Subutex. I was lucky to be able to visit Hope as my partner had been a client and I wouldn’t be here now without the love and support I was shown. I attended meetings, which became a big part of my early recovery, and I can honestly say I don’t think I’d have made it without them.

After rehab I decided that I wanted to help other addicts…

We came home and continued going to meetings, made some new friends and then I had to decide what next? That was easy for me: I wanted to help other addicts, so I got myself a volunteering job at a rehab in the UK and after a few months was given a job as a support worker. Now I work as a link worker alongside the criminal justice system and have just been offered a new job in front line drug services as a recovery worker!

I realise with hindsight that I don’t manage my feelings well at all. I’ve never felt good enough, not slim or pretty enough and just didn’t feel like I fitted in anywhere. I didn’t know who I was when I got clean and that’s still a journey of discovery. I still have those same feelings now, but I can manage to get through them without using. I try to talk to people if I’m struggling which isn’t always easy, I know, but it is better than bottling things up and turning it inwards.

If I could travel in time and give my using self some advice, it would be this:

Recovery hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely been worth it – I get to spend time with my kids and family, I’ve rebuilt relationships with my mum and sister, and today I have a life with choice and freedom.

If I could give my using me advice it would be this: It’s ok to just be you. You don’t have to fit other peoples expectations and it’s ok to be scared. Just take the leap, and it really will be alright.

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