'One is too many, 1,000 is never enough': Reformed Northamptonshire addicts reveal their stories
Recovering class A drug users and alcoholics from Northamptonshire have helped hundreds of people get their lives back as part of the Cocaine Anonymous fellowship.
The group is marking 10 years of supporting recovery and continued sobriety of individual drug addicts who turn to them for help.
Originally the fellowship held three sessions a week but now the group plays host to seven groups, which highlights how membership of Cocaine Anonymous is at an all-time high.
The help group provides rehabilitation to people who want to stop using cocaine, including 'crack' cocaine, as well as all other mind-altering substances.
One reformed user, who wants to remain nameless, told us of his experience as a drug user.
He said: “I would do certain drugs and I would have panic attacks. My heart would race and I would feel awful but I would still take them.
“At the end of the night, I would tell myself I’m never going to do this again because I remember how crap I felt, but the next morning I would have a little bit, I couldn’t stop and I would smoke loads.
"I would say the night before ‘remember how you feel right now, you won't ever do this again’ but the next morning I would say ‘I’ll have a little bit, it will be all right’. That’s the insanity of it.
“The point where I reached rock bottom was when my dad took me to the pub and bought me a pint and said 'look, you need to sort yourself out'. 'We have already paid for you to have a detox once and we are not paying again, you need to get yourself a job and pay for your own drugs or go to rehab'.
He quickly got a job but everything did not run smoothly - in fact things began to get worse.
"I started half paying for my drugs and stealing off my parents. I was waiting to get sacked. I realised. I thought ‘what am I doing’, I don’t think it was the situation it was the whole combination of nothing was going right.
On asking what was one of the worst experiences he had while taking drugs, he said: "I was that off my head that I called a dealer up at 1am with no money and push-biked with a flat tyre down the A45 to get a tiny bit of drugs."
The member has kicked drugs for eight years and is a reformed character.
"If you look at how I was then compared to how I am now, I can hold down a job and I’m in a loving relationship.
"Life is good. I would say I am now a normal member of society - I don’t think there was anything normal about what I did before. It wasn’t normal to wake up and immediately think, 'where am I going to get £10 from'."
He has also welcomed newborn twins into the world.
Cocaine Anonymous Northamptonshire says that there are no fees for membership but expenses are supported by the voluntary contributions of their members.
Similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, the group uses a '12-step recovery method' as a path towards being clean, which they feel is a vital service not provided by healthcare professionals.
The group say there is no 'stereotypical' drug taker and reaches out to everyone, offering a separate women's group.
One female member, who has been clean for more than three-and-a-half years, once described herself as a 'functioning drug addict' and could disguise the excesses of her alcohol and drug abuse.
She was a mum and still had the respect of her family, despite drinking and taking excessive amounts of drugs each day.
She said: "I would literally wake up in the morning, drop my daughter off at school and I would get vodka after and that would be my day.
“But she was fed, clean and clothed and I would function on some level.
"I didn't do life very well. I felt that I was born without a rulebook or instruction manual that I felt other people had. I was judging people's insides by their outsides. Inside, I was falling apart and I didn't know why. But when I took a drink or a drug it kind of stopped feeling that way.
Because it wasn't costing her job or relationships, there seemed to be no consequences for a while.
"I was wearing that mask to the world saying, ’I'm fine’ but I was waking up from a blackout on the kitchen floor with my mum looking over me and there was no argument really.
"I set off this phenomenon when I had a drink. When I set that off, its beyond my control to stop it, I needed something bigger than me to put a stop on it. I
"I would disappear into the middle of Leicester and not tell anybody where I was.
“I would sleep for days and it was complete chaos. I am very thankful for a mid blackout moment of clarity where I picked up the phone to a helpline."
The user started drinking at the age of 14 and drank three cups of spirits at her mother's house and managed to 'wreck' the place.
She admits to going through a phase of taking drugs and asking what they were later but now she hasn't had a drink or taken drugs in over three-and-a-half years.
"I get up in the morning and I make choices about what I want to do that day. Before there was one singular thought, that was all I thought about until I had a drink.
"Today I’m successful, I have my children, my job, my home, my little dog, the fellowship is like family, really," she adds.
Cocaine Anonymous meetings take place in Wellingborough, Corby and Northampton as well as other venues across Northamptonshire from 7pm.
For help call 0800 689 4732 or visit www.centralukca.co.uk.