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Barry tells how lived experience shapes his work

Barry tells how lived experience shapes his work

Barry tells how lived experience shapes his work

Friday, December 9, 2016

Barry, Support Worker – Changing Lives

Barry is a recovering alcoholic and now works in frontline services as a Support Worker for national charity Changing Lives. Here, he shares how his own experiences shape his way of working with people suffering from addiction.

Hi, my name is Barry and I am a grateful recovering alcoholic and a Support Worker for Changing lives. 

I was a single child and lost my Mam at a very young age; she passed away when I was 10. Following her death, my dad hit the drink.

I remember days coming in from school and my dad would be flat out on the chair with cider bottles all over the room. This continued all through my school life, I was picked on at school over it. When I left school I never touched alcohol as I had seen what it had done to my Dad.

I started working in a hotel in Newcastle. I was not there long when I got home one day after work to find that my dad had been took to hospital because of his drinking. By the time I got there he had died. Alcohol had killed him and that was me left with no family at the age of 18.

I stared smoking cannabis and taking pills at raves to cope, but kept away from alcohol until my early 20s.

When I did start drinking, I stuck to lager and avoided cider, as that’s what had killed my Dad. I got married but the relationship didn’t last long as both of us drank maybe too much. When we split up I became homeless and moved into a hostel in Blyth and that’s where my drinking kicked off.

I started drinking cider even after seeing what it had done to my Dad: I was drinking 3 litres a day which led to me being kicked out of the hostel. I lived on the streets for a few months and sofa surfed for a while to.

The turning point for me came when I moved into the Old Fire Station, which is a Changing Lives hostel in Blyth. When I first moved in, my drinking had grown to three three-litre bottles of cider a day.

A fellow resident asked me to go to the Recovery Centre with him for their Community Lunch. In my madness I thought: ‘I can get fed there and still have money for my drink’.

But whilst there I saw all these people laughing and smiling and without the need of alcohol to do so. I continued going to the Recovery Centre and after a while I was convinced to attend Changing Lives’ 12-step recovery programme: Oaktrees.

Attending Oaktrees was the best decision of my life. When I had graduated from the programme, I went back to the Recovery Centre and offered to be a volunteer for them. Changing Lives also helped me get my own home through their Homelife programme.

Because of this stability, I could start thinking about what I wanted to do with my future. I started to do some sessional work for Changing Lives, which I loved. I knew this was what I wanted to do: I wanted to help people like me.

After a while I got a job as an Assistant Support Worker and today I am happy to say I am a full-time member of the Changing Lives team in the hostel that I used to live at my lowest point 

Life today is great. Yes I have bad days, but who doesn’t? I still go to AA meetings to keep me right and find it really helps inform my work.

My experiences have given me the attitude of ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ when I’m advising Changing Lives clients. I always encourage the people I support to give it a go: your life can change if you want it to.


If you have lived experience and would like to share your experience of how this helps you in your work as a frontline worker, please get in touch with Natalie.King@stmartinsharity.org.uk

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