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Paul's Story

Paul's Story

Paul, now aged 32, was bullied throughout primary school. Moving to secondary school, he soon found out that the same bully had followed suit, continuing to torment him throughout his adolescence and causing fear, anxiety and an overwhelming feeling of isolation. Unable to talk to anyone, Paul began considering taking his own life at the age of 16 but a love of his family persuaded him not to carry through with his plans.

Looking for ways to cope with the stresses of bullying and his suicidal thoughts, Paul began to turn to drugs to ease the pain. Starting off by smoking cannabis, his habits quickly advanced to other substances to manage his worsening mental health.

Taking drugs made me actually feel good about myself. It put all the bullying under the carpet. It took all my bad memories away and made me feel good. And then the addiction came along and before I knew it, I was doing things I know I shouldn’t have to make money for my next fix. Then came my biggest downfall when a friend introduced me to Diazepam. After my first experience, I thought it was the best thing that ever happened to me, but that shine soon faded.

When Paul would use substances, he found that he experienced numerous blackouts, coming out of these to discover that he had done things that were out of character for him such as breaking into cars and, even once, a chemist to help support his addiction. Detailing his past, the client explained that breaking the law wasn’t something he needed to do as he had worked since his youth in a trade that he was proud of and provided him any monies that he needed.

Drugs make you do things you normally wouldn’t. It’s because of them that I ended up in jail two times, which for someone who spent years fearing being bullied isn’t somewhere you want to be. To this day, I still struggle with my addiction. I can control it a bit more than in the past but it still hangs over me. Today, I can get by with using Diazepam as prescribed by my doctor, smoking a little bit of cannabis, and having a few beers, which believe me is a massive achievement. But it isn’t easy, it’s tough fighting an addiction.

Paul attributes his life choices, poor mental health, and substance use directly to trauma experienced in his childhood over bullying.

I’ve a family member going through it now and it’s horrible. I know exactly how he feels because I’ve been there and lived through it. I kept everything in at the time and that just built up and built up over the years. Drugs made me feel good, drugs made me forget, drugs made me think I was dealing with the depression I had. It was all a lie.

Looking back at his worst times, Paul acknowledges that his illness had an impact on his family’s lives, especially his parents, and now keeps them in his mind each day as he fights to improve his poor mental health and better manage his substance dependency.

I’ve put my mother and father through hell. I’ve seen them cry, I’ve seen them in bits, they’ve been to hospital with me, and this isn’t something I’m proud about. I know I owe them big time for everything. I know that I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for them, and I don’t want to be dead.

Referred to one our adult temporary accommodation projects, one night during this stay Paul’s life nearly came to an early end because of an overdose situation if not for the quick intervention of our highly trained staff who found him lifeless and administered Naloxone, a medication used to reverse the effects of opioids.

I can’t remember my overdose, but I do get some flashbacks from the night. I know that staff saved my life by injecting me with Naloxone and I’m thankful for it. I know they might see it as just doing their job but if they didn’t, I’d not be here. The training is very important as it saves people’s lives. It gives people the opportunity to live another day, get the right help, and potentially turn their life around like I’m doing now.

Since his near-death experience, Paul has received support from Simon Community’s Wellbeing Practitioner and Harm Reduction staff who are providing the listening ear, drug education, external services signposting, and support needed to help him better take control of his addiction and life.

I feel better chatting to somebody who understands where I’m coming from. When you’ve an addiction, it’s hard to talk about it to your family as they don’t understand what you are saying, how you’re feeling, or why you take drugs. Talking to someone who is trained such as a counsellor makes all the difference. It’s important to not feel judged for your addiction.

Speaking about stigma, Paul wishes for people to understand that no one chooses the life he has had. He explains that he is a vulnerable victim of a traumatic childhood and wants people to know that he is good person who just happens to have an addiction that isn’t always easy to control.

If you want to stop taking drugs you can stop but I know it’s not my time to stop just yet. I’m using safer drugs, I feel supported to make the right choices, and I’m getting the help I need.

On average, Simon Community staff administer Naloxone once per week, helping to save the lives of vulnerable people who are victims of past trauma, poor mental health, and addiction.

This International Overdose Awareness Day, we hope that by sharing Paul’s story we can play a small part in helping to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind by addiction.

At Simon Community NI we respect everyone who comes to us for help. While this story is true, our client's identity has been changed to protect their privacy.