Eddie’s family home was tumultuous. He grew up in a home blighted by addiction and abuse. His father was an alcoholic and Eddie would often witness violence and the effects of alcoholism.
“Dad hit mum. When I was ten, she was hospitalised. With my older brother, mum and I moved to a new area. Dad couldn’t know where we went, which meant we had to cut all ties; I had to leave all my friends behind. It was disruptive and destabilising. My relationship with my brother was tough too. We were naturally competitive, but my uncle, who was the main influence at home because mum worked from dawn until dusk, stoked up the conflict, making it toxic.”
Following his parents’ divorce, Eddie’s uncle played a toxic role in his family, causing division between him and his brother. When he was 13, Eddie came home from school to discover his mother unconscious on the floor.
“My first instinct was to check the booze cabinet, but she wasn’t drunk. I rang my uncle and brother at work who said they’d come home when they were finished, and I called the doctor out, who said she would be okay. She didn’t get better so the next day we took her to hospital and found out she’d had a stroke. She was paralysed on one side and never worked again. Now she was physically available to us, but not emotionally. I became her carer. It was in an adult role, so I thought I could have an adult reward and started drinking.”
Over time Eddie established his life, he was working and became a father. He sought to recover from his alcoholism. However, when Eddie received financial inheritance during his four-year recovery, it acted as a catalyst to harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin, quickly leading to his drug addiction, loss of his house, job and relationship with his daughter.
Eddie continued to use drugs while going to Mutual Aid Meetings, until getting a wakeup call from someone at a meeting:
“Keep coming while you can because one day you might not be able to – you’ll be dead or in prison.”
Eddie started engaging with drug services, sticking solely to his script. Over a three-month period, he reduced his usage to reach abstinence and then stayed clean for the next seven years.
He got a job he enjoyed, rebuilt his relationship with his daughter and started enjoying life. But when he was made redundant, he found it difficult to get work that paid more than benefits. He stopped going to Mutual Aid Meetings. He became ill, lost weight and had a cancer scare. Eddie had no family network he could lean on so turned again to Class A drugs, this time injecting.
“I thought that was it, that there was no point in going on. It was as if the seven years clean had never happened and I had been escalating my use all those years, I didn’t want to live.”
A letter from his daughter changed everything.
“She wrote saying she needed me but if I lost her this time it would be for good. I had been using for three months and knew it had to stop, once and for all. I moved to Birmingham for treatment, breaking with everyone who was toxic for me. For the first time, I have done lots of work to address the underlying issues. I have worked through the recovery programme at a deeper level, exploring the depression and anxiety as well as the addiction, which was really just a way to deal with how I felt. I have also done a lot of work with my inner child. I wrote a letter from my seven-year-old self to Mum and Dad and one from me today to my seven-year old self. I’ve learnt to care for the little boy within me; he was frightened and in a terrible situation. My relationship with my daughter is good. I have a nice new life in Birmingham with good friends. Every Step of the Way is a big part of this.”
“My past is my best asset. I can share it with others to help them move forward. I was where they are and I’m living proof change is possible. We’re always told what we can’t do. I want to remove the stigma around mental health and focus on what we can do!”