Hope in the heart of Hemel Hempstead after heroin use ‘horror story’

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How are you doing with your new year’s resolution? Perhaps you’ve upped your gym attendance, cut back on the coffee or even succeeded in breaking your smoking habit. You may have already cracked and thought: There’s always next year.

But for the 2,000 people with drug and alcohol-related problems who use the nine Spectrum support services across Herts, Christmas was a time of gruelling perseverance, and January the chance to reclaim the lives they have lost to addiction.

Hemel Hempstead’s Spectrum centre has, like its counterparts, been supporting the Dry January initiative to reduce alcohol intake and change people’s perceptions about drug and drink dependency.

More than 30 people use the Wolsey Road service – run through social care and crime reduction charity CRI – on any given day for guidance, medication and the education opportunities they need to rehabilitate themselves into society.

One user, Michael, describes his two-year heroin addiction as ‘a horror story’.

The 53-year-old, who lives in Watford but uses the town centre service, first turned to the highly addictive class A drug for recreational purposes when he was stressed, but found himself entering a downward spiral which affected his new wife and his children.

He said: “Heroin takes its toll. My wife is a beautiful woman and she was putting up with a lot – I was verbally abusive to my family and they didn’t deserve that, it was time to sort myself out.”

Michael came to the service in 2010 and has gone on to complete computer and peer mentoring courses. He is finally getting back on track, with aims to return to full time employment in 2014, but says it isn’t easy.

“With drugs, including alcohol, the easy part is coming off it,” he said. “The hard part is staying off it.

“Once you stop using, you have all the other problems left – behavioural issues, educational problems, how to get back into life. You need a complete 360 degree change in order to succeed.”

Service manager Glenda Lee, who is planning her retirement later this year, is a fairy godmother-like presence in the centre. Before she steps away from the role – having taken the centre, and its users from strength to strength in just two years – she is helping to roll in a ‘Foundations of Recovery’ training programme and putting together information packs for all generations of society about drug and alcohol dependency, to be used by the local authority and police services.

She said: “One of the things we find after the Christmas period is quite a number of relapses. This time of year is always a struggle, but we also get lots of peer mentors and volunteers who have come successfully through the programme.

“We want to break the cycle of substance misuse and all the things that go with it – bad health, unemployment, domestic abuse, even death.

“It is not easy to do, but we have examples here, like Michael, of people that have done it.”

To find out more about the service, visit www.cri.org.uk or call 01442 256520.

Click here to watch a video report and hear more stories from the centre.




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