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How BAC O'Connor’s evidence-based programme turned a drug abuser who’d spent 17 years in and out of prison into a Recovery Champion.
Barry used cannabis, amphetamines and heroin from age 15 and spent 17 years in and out of prison. The BAC O’Connor Centre provided a package of support that helped him get clean.
Watch the video to hear Barry talk about his experience. The video also features Kendra Gray, Strategic Director of BAC O’Connor.
Barry’s mother, an alcoholic, and his father, a heroin addict, separated when Barry was eight years old. Barry suffered abuse at the hands of his new stepfather and not long after was taken into care.
Living in care homes and spending time with boys much older than him, he was drinking alcohol by the time he was 10, using cannabis by 11, amphetamines by 14 and heroin by the age of 15.
Quickly turning to crime to fund his habit, Barry spent the next 17 years in and out of prison: “I was messed up in a really bad way. My family had disowned me – I was just a thieving smackhead to them. The crime, the drugs, the violence. Nobody wanted to know me.”
I wanted to get clean
In 2009 Barry’s key worker told him about the BAC O’Connor Centre, and suggested he try rehab: “I wanted to get clean. I was on methadone and I had been clean in prison, but I could never maintain it when I got out. I just needed someone to sit down with me and help me realise my self-worth – I didn’t need methadone. This was the first time someone suggested local rehab to me and the first time I’d ever been given a chance.”
The BAC O’Connor centre in Staffordshire was founded in 1998 by Noreen Oliver following her own experience of being severely dependent upon alcohol and her journey into recovery. Over the past 13 years, the seamless end-to-end service at BAC O’Connor has had great success.
Kendra Gray, Strategic Director of BAC O’Connor, explains: “We provide a whole package including detoxification, therapy, residential rehabilitation, family support and a gateway to independent living. The main bulk of the programme is very much about taking responsibility, looking at the harm someone has caused to themselves, their families, to the community, and getting them to accept it’s not acceptable to stay on benefits their whole life because they have a drug problem. From there, we support them to return to education, get a job and to function as a member of society.
“Importantly, we work with Staffordshire clients, providing local community rehab and after care. We have strong partnerships with the local Police Force, Colleges, County Council, NHS, Housing Association, Jobcentre Plus and Citizens Advice Bureau. This allows us to sustain the work and support people to stay drug and alcohol free after they leave the centre. Getting off drugs is the easy part, it’s the staying stopped that’s important and we are unique in our delivery of that. “
Support and structure
People like Barry who have been institutionalised or using drugs and alcohol for many years often lack basic independent living skills. The semi-independent living facilities offered by BAC O’Connor help people learn how to pay bills, to cook, to budget, to manage a tenancy and to resolve debt problems. Residents go out in the day to work or college and come home to support and structure. Once they are ready, they are then resettled into the community.
Having gone through the 20-week programme, Barry became a Recovery Champion himself and was responsible for increasing referrals to BAC O’Connor by 900%.
Kendra adds: “Our service users are key to our success because they give hope to others. Our RIOT (Recovery Is Out There) champions are service users who have completed the programme and go out to inspire others in the community by showing people you can achieve abstinence. For somebody in the chaos of addiction still using drugs and alcohol, the RIOT champions show them that it is possible and give them confidence they can change too.”
The centre recently opened Langan’s Tea Rooms in Burton, a social enterprise that provides training, education and a safe environment for people in recovery to socialise in. The Tea Room has also provided 16 new jobs for service users, who will be able to gain valuable work experience there as volunteers serving the public.
The cycle of addiction has been broken
For Kendra, one of the most rewarding times of year is the Christmas party: “Every year we have a Christmas party and people who completed the programme even 12 or 13 years ago all come back with their children. It’s wonderful to see how the cycle of addiction has been broken and families are back together. The children will get presents that year and they’ll have their family together. At BAC O’Connor we rebuild family lives and the Christmas party is living proof that people can turn their lives around.”
Now, at 37 years old, Barry is overwhelmed by how much his life has changed: “Just under three years on since coming to BAC I have a job at Addaction as a Support Worker helping other people like me. I’ve got a home, I pay my bills, I’ve got a driving licence, I’ve been on a plane on holiday for the first time in my life. I finished school without any qualifications – I could hardly read and write. And now I’m at university half way through a Criminology degree.
“Most important of all, I’ve got my family back. Only two days ago I was the best man at my sister’s wedding and gave her away. My daughter is back on board. These are people who wanted nothing to do with me ever again. BAC gave me hope and belief. Recovery is contagious and I’m proof of that.”
My life before I first sought help; well I was a prolific offender, heroin addict, therefore I was committing lots of crime burglary to fund a drug habit. Erm I was addicted to heroin, crack cocaine, benzodiazepines, I was on a methadone prescription also. My life was pretty chaotic.
I was born in south London, my dad was a heroin addict, my mum was an alcoholic. When I moved up to Stoke on Trent, when I was eight, they’d split up I ended up with a step dad who was an alcoholic and a bad gambler. You know so, pretty soon I ended up in care which is probably where it started to be fair.
Once I got to about 16, 15 in fact, once I got to 15 erm that’s when I got locked up in young offenders and since then it sort of snowballed, I was on the heroin by then, I was put on a methadone prescription but that didn’t get me clean, I was still burglary, still committing burglaries therefore I was getting locked up. I did about 12 years in prison out of a 17 year gap.
I came across BAC O’Connor by actually being introduced to a key worker who was in recovery himself and this is when I realised recovery’s contagious and I realised that if he can do it I can do it.
I had to go through intense therapy and they got me talking about all different issues like sexual abuse, and being in care and violence and some of the violence I’d committed, and all sorts of issues really.
It’s an abstinence based programme so then I’ve got the bombshell that you can’t even have a pint you can’t even have a drink and what have you. But, it was a shock but it works, it works. Because it was the fact that you don’t even need that I don’t need methadone I don’t need nothing, I just need someone to sit down and talk to me and help me unravel the chaos what was my life and get me self focussed. I needed self-belief and self-worth not methadone and diazepam.
BAC O’Connor centres we provide abstinence based rehabilitation for individuals with drug and alcohol dependency.
The abstinence based approach, is although there are other areas that do do erm, abstinence based rehabilitation the way that we do it here in Staffordshire is quite unique. All the partnership agencies that work with us including the community drug teams, the needle exchange right through to the wrap around services that are vitally important for sustained recovery; because getting off drugs is I suppose the easiest part from a detoxification point of view and then the therapy is difficult but its the ongoing maintenance of the absence the staying stopped is the way that service users often describe it.
So I started going to college, going to university getting employment more importantly it gave me my family back, people who wouldn’t speak to me for many years …. Only two days ago I was the best man at my sister’s wedding and gave her away, this is someone who didn’t speak to me for a few years.
Things are looking brand new, that’s the only way I can describe them, brand new, really are brand new. Yeah now, like I say I’ve got a good job that a love I’m in a healthy relationship, I pay my bills, I’ve got a nice little car I’ve been on a plane a couple of times, something I’d never done in addiction I’d never even been on holiday now I go on holiday again tomorrow. I’ve got a fantastic life, a fantastic life and all just through not picking up not and not using it really is simple.
BAC O’Conner is a community based organisation providing abstinence based recovery support from addiction.
“I just needed someone to help me recognise my self-worth – I didn’t need methadone”.
Published: 16 April 2013