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Darren L’s story

Darren found recovery with help from our East Kent community service.

I first found out about The Forward Trust in November 2018. I’d ended up in hospital because of my drinking, and the staff there recommended Forward. So on my 40th birthday, I went to a drop-in clinic at Forward’s Dover Hub for help with my alcohol addiction.

My initial chat was amazing: it was the first time in my life that I felt listened to. I was able to sit down and explain my problems, while someone listened carefully and took genuine interest in what I had to say. Within ten minutes, I felt so comfortable and supported, I knew I was doing the right thing.

Watch Darren share his story.

The following week, I started Forward’s Alcohol Pathway programme. At the weekly meetings, I learned about alcohol’s effects on the body, the risks of stopping without a reduction plan, and all the mental and physical side-effects of addiction and recovery. Forward also started me on a three-month reduction plan.

I had my first day without a drink on 18 February 2018, when Forward started me on a community detox. I thought it was going to be really tough, but it was absolutely fine, and I knew I needed to do it.

I’d never thought I’d be able to sit with a group of people, sharing whatever was on my mind.

Two days after I finished the detox, I had a major turning-point when I started Forward’s Dover Day Programme. It involved three months of intense group therapy. I’d never thought I’d be able to sit with a group of people, sharing whatever was on my mind. Some of the issues that came up, I hadn’t even admitted to myself, let alone others.

The Day Programme also included mindfulness and meditation; things I used to think were hippy-dippy nonsense! I found meditation really tough at first, but after a couple of weeks, it clicked. I now meditate every morning and evening, and if I ever feel stressed, meditation soon has me feeling better.

During my second week on the Day Programme, I became at risk of homelessness. Straight away, other people doing the programme – who I’d only know a few days – offered me places to stay. But my key worker, Sylvia, referred me to CGL’s Shepherd House in Folkestone. Within two days, I’d had a pre-assessment interview, and moved in within a week. If it wasn’t for Forward, I wouldn’t have known about it. Not having to deal with the disruption of being homeless so early in my recovery was a huge relief.

I also did Forward Connect groups every Thursday, which I loved. They were social gatherings of like-minded people who were there to support each other. Once, when I was about four months sober, I had to go to a family event which was taking place in a pub. I was feeling really anxious, but Sylvia told me I could call her whenever I needed to on the day, and all my friends from the programme and group rallied around me. There was always someone at the end of the line who I could rant and rave to, or even have a little cry.

When I came to the end of the Day Programme, I was worried there’d be a drop-off in support, but there wasn’t at all. On the Day Programme, I had weekly one-to-one sessions with Sylvia, which continued for a couple of months after the programme ended. Even after that, I knew I could contact her if I needed to.

The opportunity you get to connect with people from all walks of live through the online groups is great.

I also joined the online Forward Connect groups, which really kept me going when the country went into lockdown in 2020. Connection with other people who’d been through similar things was really helpful. Sometimes people would go through tough times, and everyone supported them; but there was lot of fun and laughter as well. The opportunity you get to connect with people from all walks of live through the online groups is great – it’s not usually possible via face-to-face groups.

Today, life is really good. I applied for a Traineeship with Forward, and was offered the job three days before Christmas! I’ve worked all my life, I like using my brain, and I’m quite sociable, so getting back to work was the most amazing feeling. And working with the people who helped me come into recovery: I smile every time I think about it!

My life outside work is great, too. Whenever I see my mum, she has a big smile on her face because I’m sober and safe: there’s nothing like seeing your mum happy and proud. And I’m still close with the other people who did the Day Programme with me. They’re true, life-long friends.

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Before I knew it, my case worker had found me a place to stay and even though it was raining and grey on the day that I moved in, I didn’t even notice it – I was just so grateful to have a place to call home.

Elizabeth P, Former Forward client Read Elizabeth’s story