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From darkness to light

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Jess was in a violent and abusive relationship and had drug and alcohol addictions. Depressed, she couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Today, her life is back on track and she is happy working as a volunteer intern assistant community ranger for the National Trust.

Here, in her own words, is her story:

“My job is to bring nature to people, to encourage them to get outdoors and improve their wellbeing. I love everything about my job: I go on countryside walks to note the flowers, trees and wildlife growing. I help manage the land by cutting back trees, hedge laying, cutting grass or raking. I have also taken on the task of digging our pond, well actually it’s mini lake but it’s a better workout than any gym!

This work has been the final step in turning my life around, it’s put the sunshine and smile back in my life. But it took some help and support from a lot of people to get me to this point.

Jess working on the pondThree years ago my life was not a happy one. I lost my self-respect, confidence, sense of purpose and very nearly the sight in my right eye. I suffered depression, wasn’t working and some days I stayed home as I couldn’t face the world - I’d have to get drunk if I did go out. Previously I’d battled other drug addictions and turned to alcohol and cannabis to get through every day. I ran up debt and got into trouble with the police on a couple of occasions. Had I got in trouble again I would’ve been looking at going to prison.

Then sadly my friend died, doing something he absolutely loved, flying his kite up Dunstable Downs. It was a massive shock. But I decided the only way to deal with it was by changing and changing for the better to try and find some sort of positive out of a very cruel negative. This started with getting out the relationship I was in. It wasn’t easy but I did it.

I went to my doctor and asked for people who could help with alcohol problems. He advised me to go to James Kingham. I very nearly didn’t make that first appointment even with a friend along. But I was made to feel at ease, and that I’d come to a good place. However I did struggle with my drinking especially when a few months later I was evicted from home.

Life seemed blacker. Homeless, staying on a friend’s sofa and my belongings at my mums, I decided to get help with my cannabis use as well. Together, James Kingham and Addaction helped me realise that I did have a problem, but I wasn’t alone and there had to be something behind it. They taught me to recognise my triggers and slowly start to control them. More importantly, they taught me not to be so hard on myself.

Jess tells her story to Bromford support worker Hannah Dallinder-Jones

No one chooses to have an addiction. It’s a coping mechanism, a way of accepting misery. Addaction referred me to Bromford Support. I remember my first meeting there. I was petrified, having to meet and learn to trust another new person. With support from Addaction I slowly relaxed and was assigned a support worker with Bromford Support.

I was homeless for six months. Bromford supported me not just with getting a flat through the council, but more importantly I had someone who listened, who didn’t laugh or put me down, who gently nudged me in the right direction if I was struggling – and that was a lot! Even after getting the flat, life was still a battle, my first time living on my own with bills to pay and still struggling with my addictions.

Bromford helped me deal with talking to energy companies, managing my money and my mental health. It makes such a difference having someone to help you through everyday life. Slowly my confidence grew. I started to receive counselling which was the hardest thing in my life so far but it was so good to talk about the issues I’d carried for years and finally put them to rest. I found in order to fix yourself you have to take yourself apart.

Bromford supported me with this and encouraged me to think about getting back into work. Then a friend suggested volunteering up Dunstable Downs, a place I’ve always loved. I started volunteering for just one day a week but what a difference it made to my life. I had a purpose again and I am now looking to retrain as a landscape gardener.

I really wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the support from James Kingham, Addaction, Bromford Support, the Counselling Service, National Trust and my new partner. I want to thank each of you for helping me to smile again and putting sunshine back in my life.”

Since writing this, Jess is now looking to set up a project: ‘I love fresh air’ for people with depression, drug and alcohol addictions, the elderly and disabled. She said: “It has helped me so much to be outside so I want to encourage others to get out, even just to a local park or take a walk.” 

To download a PDF of Jess's story, click here.

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