“I stayed in dirty crack houses and other horrible places; it made me feel worthless”

“I’m 37 but I left home at 16 after a difficult upbringing. I have 2 kids from my first real relationship but my children’s dad was very abusive. After 3 or 4 years of ongoing abuse, I left my boyfriend as social services had warned me that my kids would get taken away if the police continued to be called out. We were given a place in a home but because I didn’t provide enough stimulation for my children, I lost custody. I ended up turning to drugs, crack and heroin. I was about 22 then and would shoplift to support myself. I’ve never really forgiven myself for losing the kids. I had letter contact with them twice a year but then, about 5 years ago, I was in a car accident. The hospital had given me morphine for the pain from my injuries but my boyfriend at the time took the morphine from me to sell. I turned to drugs again for the pain. I received compensation from the accident, £65,000. I used £30,000 on rehab, paid off my debts, and gave my mum and family money.

I attended rehab in Plymouth for 4-5 months and I stayed down there for about a year, managing to stay clean. But I had no ties in Plymouth and so I couldn’t get help from the council and I ended up coming back to Hertfordshire, and turning to drugs again. I was living on the streets in Welwyn, Hatfield, London and other places.

I stayed in dirty crack houses and other horrible places; it made me feel worthless. I didn’t know how to escape my situation. People would come out of pubs and kick me, spit on me, or ‘rough me’ about. Dealers would rape me and try to pimp me out. Finally, I went to the council and they sent me to Harlow where again I’ve got no ties. I explained that I wasn’t on a script, and needed help for my addiction. I had lost everything! My mum didn’t like what the drugs had done to me. I didn’t know what she really meant by that until recently. I want my mum to see me sorting myself out and know that I will be alright.

My kids are 18 now and I keep in in contact with social services to find out how they are. They’re actually asking to see me at the moment but, because of my lifestyle, I don’t think it’s fair for me to start having that contact. I know I will end up letting them down. I’m not stable enough yet but I’m working towards it. I can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel now, but without YMCA it would have been a lot worse. I’d probably be selling drugs for someone or still on the street. I feel more content, more supported and cared for. Staff here make you feel like you are worth something every day. Having a dedicated support worker has been the best thing because he’s so down to earth. I wanted to change worker when I found out he was an ex-copper but he has been amazing and he gave me a chance, and his support has been life-changing.”

“I don’t know where I’d be without YMCA to be quite honest. I really appreciate One YMCA, I owe my life to it, I really do.”

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