06 March 2024

Using lived-experience to find purpose and build trust

I did have a right to be okay. 

Bel, Staff, BCP

Bel's story

Drugs controlled Bel’s life for 27 years. They were her escape from reality and took her to a place where she felt safe and comfortable - where she felt like she belonged. A self-described ‘functioning addict’, drugs were the only thing that got Bel through each day. 

Now, four years later, Bel’s life couldn’t be more different. Working at WithYou, Bel leads a new team who are reaching some of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole’s (BCP’s) most vulnerable communities. Created following the national housing support grant, Bel’s team works with local housing providers to identify people who are experiencing challenges with drugs or alcohol and are at risk of losing their homes. 

What support does your team offer, Bel?

“Preventing people from being evicted from their homes plays a really important part in someone’s drug and alcohol recovery. We know that one of the main issues facing those sleeping rough is drug or alcohol misuse and that it’s much harder to address these challenges when they are homeless; the work we do enables us to better support people before it gets to that point.

“We build trust with vulnerable people, bring them into our service, and support them to feel empowered enough to begin their recovery journeys. We stand with people when they’re at rock bottom: we don’t let people walk through darkness alone."

Can you share what your experience was like?

“Because of how much I was using, I couldn’t see my kids, and I felt like I didn’t have anything to live for anymore. I’d always used drugs to numb the pain, but all of a sudden, I had so much pain and the drugs stopped working. My world became nothing but sadness and darkness. I had absolutely nothing left and I felt like I didn’t deserve a second chance.

“But then I was introduced to this amazing Recovery Worker at a drug and alcohol service. Her belief in me gave me the confidence to believe in myself, and I started to think that maybe I did have a right to be okay. With a lot of support, I started to address my trauma, build my self-esteem, and rebuild my relationship with my children. It didn’t happen overnight and it was a lot of work, but I finally started to feel self-worth."

What is life like now?

“Somewhere along the way, I decided that I wanted to work for a drug and alcohol charity. I’ve been at WithYou for two years now - I feel like my life has gone full circle. A Recovery Worker saved my life, and now I have the opportunity to support people who are going through similar things that I experienced.

“I’m proud to be a survivor of the traumas I’ve experienced in my life. I’m proud to be a recovering addict. But most of all? I’m so proud of the team we’ve built here and the difference that we’re making to people’s lives.”

Bel, what’s your message to others who may be experiencing challenges?

“If you, or someone you know, needs us, we’re WithYou - and if you don’t feel able to come to us, know that we’re always ready to come to you.

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