I got involved with Active Choices through my alcohol worker, she told me about the programme when I was drinking a lot. A friend of mine also used to run a Recovery group and he told me about it too and eventually brought me along.

It took six months for me to actually come to the sessions, it wasn’t a good time for me. I was drinking heavily every day and I was in no state to start any sort of programme like Active Choices. As I started to get myself better I was told about the programme again and at this point I’d been sober for a couple of months so I decided to give it a go and come along to the 5-aside session DCCT run in Ilkeston.

I now attend multi-sports sessions, 5-aside football and the social group each week. The social group is great – it’s been really good for me to meet other people who have been through, or are still going through, similar things to me. I’ve made some really, really good friends.

The programme has helped my recovery massively. After I’d been sober for a good few months the support it provided in getting me back into sport, which I always loved as a kid and as a teenager, was amazing. I stopped playing at about 18 when my life went the way it did – drugs, alcohol and crime – getting involved with DCCT through football and multi-sports has got me back into playing Sunday League and being involved with sport has been a massive part in me staying sober.

Family life since my recovery has changed hugely. Last time I relapsed, because I’ve relapsed so many times before, my family almost gave up on me. I lost everyone, I’d done it again and it was a really dark time. I was so alone – I had my dog and that was it. But now I’ve got a daughter, who was the main driving force behind all of this, I’ve got a great relationship with my family again – my mum, brother, cousins – I’m back to being a family man which I missed for years and years.

I’ve been sober for 16 months now and slowly everything comes back. My family’s back, my friends I’ve met through the Community Trust, the network of people I’ve got is amazing. It’s all from staying sober and finding me again and getting involved with Derby County. I’m in a good place – I didn’t think this day was going to come.

In the past my family had stuck by me, but I’ll admit as an addict I was a master manipulator. I lied, I manipulated and I did it to my family for years. The last time I relapsed they couldn’t do it anymore and they took a step back which made me decide that I had to get better. It took losing everybody to get me to change.

The fact that the sessions are spread out across each week, it gives me something to look forward to all the time. It fills time that’s important when you’re in the earlier stages of recovery. I wasn’t doing much early on so the sessions gave me a purpose, and even though I’m busier now it’s still important to me.

Being bored and having no focus can lead to a relapse so keeping people on track with various sessions is so beneficial with something positive happening every couple of days. It’s a big part of my mid-week everything that I do with Derby County Community Trust.

Many addicts’ mental health can stop them starting the programme – that was definitely the case for me. Having people around them that can support them and encourage them is key to getting involved. Even for me, as a big Derby County fan, it took a huge push for me to get involved, so for those that don’t already like sports it’s even more of a leap, but it’s been amazing for me and having participants on hand to encourage people to get on board, people who understand and addiction, is key.

Some people come along with no interest in physical activity and are adamant they won’t get involved, but the support from the recovery network is incredible. You can see the difference in people after only a few sessions. People go from being silent and disengaged to real characters.

I’ve been to St George’s Park with DCCT which was amazing, playing against Jericho [House, Derby rehab centre], been to Reading and played their Community Trust and watched the first team game after, the Christmas meal was great to meet other people from across the Trust’s sessions in Derby, Ripley and Swadlincote.

My aspiration now is to help other people through addiction, crime – it’s hard but you can turn your life around. I’ve still got a way to go but it helps me to help other people, and that’s what I want to do now.

 

Marek, who works full-time for DCCT after once being a participant on the Active Choices programme, added:

Sean’s a huge success story, he came along sporadically at the start but then developed into a regular attendee, he was at every session. He not only attended but added huge value to the sessions by supporting others who felt like he once did. He’s become a huge asset, someone who helps others, is more confident and some of the discipline I’ve shown him display has been outstanding. He’s moving towards long-standing recovery where he’s making a difference to his life and to his family.

Bringing participants together in a group environment has been incredible from a DCCT point of view, it’s developed a community and now they can communicate and support each other beyond the group. This recovery network in Ilkeston is fairly new to the area and really benefits those overcoming addiction. People can be honest and listen and it means that participants don’t have to turn to drugs or alcohol to help with their problems as they now have understanding friends to help them.

It’s a lonely life in addiction. Once you come out it’s easy to feel isolated so to have similar people moving in the direction with you is so important – it’s a vital lifeline. People can identify when their friends are struggling and can reach out to them.

Isolation comes with addiction. Every minute is controlled by your addiction. You need to build up structure when you come out as all of a sudden you have a whole lot of time – which for an addict isn’t beneficial to your recovery. Addiction is a very volatile disease, in a couple of days people can completely change and deteriorate – the regular intervention is key to sustaining recovery. Empty time is not productive, knowing there’s only have a day or so between being around people could help me was invaluable.

I think Shaun is already an aspiration, he’s helping others everyday when he’s bringing people to sessions, keeping in contact. He’s going to start volunteering when sessions resume which will hopefully set him on the right path towards a professional career in this field. The sky’s the limit for him – the future’s very bright! Whatever he sets his mind to he can definitely achieve.

 

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