Former soldier uses heroin addiction history to help others turn lives around
Former soldier Phil Hayes has replaced the shame he experienced as a heroin addict with a pride in helping others overcome their addictions.
Phil, 53, was working as a security guard at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary earlier this year when he spotted a job advert for a “peer bridger” with Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme. (LEAP).
The ad stated that experience of addiction was essential. The job involves making proper human connections with people seeking a drug free life, with the benefit of support from people who have already fought that fight.
He went through the interview process and started in April.
Phil already has eight clients, whom he assists in getting to appointments and filling in details on the challenges to come.
He said: “I never thought that an addiction to heroin would be an essential part of my CV because those were the darkest days of my life.
“But I can say that the job is a hugely rewarding one and I really do not think I could do it without having experience addiction myself.”
Phil’s job involves daily communications with clients as well as speaking to addiction services teams and letting them know what LEAP does.
Phil said his own life stands as testimony to the possibility of recovery.
He said: “It seems to me that society these days looks on recovery as some kind of impossible dream or as a process of getting up and fighting your demons in a grinding slog every day. That does not need to be the case.
“With the right support and guidance, as well as some honest hard work, anyone can move completely into recovery and be both happy and of value within their wider community.”
Phil fell into heroin addiction in 1991 after moving to Edinburgh and allowing traumatic life events to lead him to making a series of bad decisions.
He said: “It’s amazing how easy it is to become addicted and how incredibly hard it can be to get out of it.
“My own experience involved getting a methadone prescription, which was mixed with heroin, before eventually, after six years, weaning myself off.”
Former banker Andrew Rockett, 62, was treated at LEAP after his alcoholism spiralled out of control due to the death of his partner last June.
He was admitted to the centre in October and now uses his role as a volunteer peer worker to aid his own ongoing therapeutic recovery.
He said: “My life was closing down and LEAP taught me the importance of maintaining and growing human relationships.
“I currently help with a variety of things – taking people to doctor appointments, going with them on museum visits and just being there for them.
“They know I’ve been in the dark places and I’m still very much in recovery myself, so I think we are all pulling together to get through the hardest times.”
LEAP, based at the Astley Ainslie Hospital, currently has capacity for up to 130 people a year, with 28 at any given time.
The treatment is based around an estimated 12 weeks, with more time added if necessary.
LEAP operates under the umbrella of the Addiction Treatment and Recovery Care Directorate in NHS Lothian. It is funded thanks by Scottish Government as well as local Alcohol and Drug Partnerships.
(Source: Daily Record)