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Personal stories: Sue

Sue turned to alcohol and drugs after recovering memories of childhood sexual abuse as well as spending years in mentally and physically abusive relationships.

It was when Sue’s son was threatened by a local drug dealer for a cannabis debt, she finally snapped. The only way she could think of to protect him was to commit an act of Affray.

Years previously, she committed arson as a reaction to the sexual abuse she had suffered in an intimate relationship.

It was because of this destructive pattern that Sue’s children were without their mother for almost seven years, due to her alcoholism and the 18 months she spent serving a prison sentence.

Sue says: ‘The kids knew where they could find me. I would be in the pub. I had no excuse for always being drunk and during that time I couldn’t be a good parent.  I wasn’t there for my kids.’

‘Alcohol and drugs were a mask for the true problem– my abusive past. I drank and I made some bad decisions on impulse.’

On her release from prison, she made the hardest decision of all to move away from her grown-up children.

She says: ‘I wanted to protect my children. My abusive past, combined with my drinking was a dangerous combination.  I decided I wanted to change and go down a different route. I wanted to start living my life rather than drinking it away. To do this I needed to start afresh.’

Sue went into supported accommodation to give her the help she needed to stay clean of drugs and alcohol. She also started counselling to help her address issues from the abuse she had experienced.

To occupy her time constructively, Sue threw herself into long-distance running. It was at this point that she started looking for a new challenge. This was when she decided to join our Service User Council.

But first Sue had to overcome agoraphobia and anxiety – some of the effects resulting from the abuse she suffered.

The Programme Manager arranged for Sue to shadow surgeries until she was confident to run them herself. After eight months of volunteering as a Council Member, Sue applied for a paid position with User Voice, the organisation we work with to manage our Service User Council. She got the job and has been working as an Engagement Team Member for the last five months.

Sue says: ‘It’s been a huge sacrifice being away from my children but it’s been worth it. I have turned my life around and I’m a better mother than I ever was before. I get to visit my children often and they are proud of what I’ve achieved.

The Service User Council has helped to keep me busy and given me a much-needed boost on the path I’ve chosen.

More importantly, it has given me a job I enjoy. I am helping to develop the work of the Service User Council to improve services for others in similar circumstances to myself. Hopefully, they too can turn their lives around.’

To find out more about working with our Service User Council, click here.

Photo is posed by a model