As a kid I had the security of growing up with an amazing mum and grandparents who never failed me with words of wisdom. School was kinda cool in the mid 80s, with a great circle of friends.

It was the late 90s when my life changed direction. I stepped into the big wide world and it was around this time I began to struggle with my own sexuality. It slowly pulled me down, but maybe became my reason to move away from the small mining town and venture into city life. I felt more accepted as a gay guy and soon made a new circle of friends, although to say coming out was difficult would be an understatement.

City life was great, a good job, a place to call home and laying the foundations of a relationship. Several years soon passed by, but the relationship had dissolved and the black dog of depression quickly crept into the frame./p>

Looking back I now realise just how difficult it was for me to talk to anybody about how I was feeling. In the following months alcohol became an escape and drinking in local parks allowed me to distance myself from other humans, hiding from the world just how much of a mess I was making of my life.

Then one day in the middle of summer, in the park with a few cans, I somehow managed to strike up a conversation with a couple of homeless guys. For the first time in ages I managed to smile and joined in with the banter, and it wasn’t long before I was reminiscing and chatting. It was easy to agree to buddy up with these guys and score some heroin - it didn’t even register what I was about to get myself into.

The first time I just had this deep sickly feeling, but with the second hit I suddenly found myself at ease, with no depressive thoughts or feelings. Yesterday didn’t seem to matter and tomorrow was a million miles away.

The following weeks I was buying more and more. As the months flew by I overlooked just how much I was struggling. Heroin had not just become my acquaintance but was by now making all life’s decisions. I soon forgot what choice meant - this drug would be the first thing I thought about when opening my eyes in the mornings and the last thing I recalled from the blurred memory before passing out the night before.

Within a year heroin had robbed me of all which I was once proud of. I no longer had a home and every decision or need revolved around the drug coming first. Having a relationship with heroin was not like anything I had ever experienced, the drug taking control of what remains of the precious life we all hold.

The day I walked into Derby Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service was the day I hit absolute rock bottom. I became too tired to keep trying to pull myself through another day. I still recall the opening words from my first meeting with my key worker: “I want you to know I’m here to help you, one step at a time. The more honest you are about the problem, the better I can understand enough to get you the right help”.

I will never forget those words - for the first time in months I felt that someone actually understood. I soon realised just how serious my addiction had become. It was easy for me to occasionally shed a few tears but it was OK, my key worker was by my side and in some way shed those tears with me. It was like having a scheduled meeting with a mate, but with professionalism thrown into the equation.

Trust me this was no walk in the park, but I wasn’t walking it alone and this made a real difference. It was a relief to talk openly and be a part of my recovery planning. I’m now a year out of recovery and I’m doing well. I’ve learned a lot along the way and live a humbled and focused life.

The Service is still there for me if I need to ask for advice and the friendly faces are always willing to nudge me onto my next goal. One thing I truly believe is I could not have walked this path alone. It took a service with some very special people who are ready and waiting for you to take that first step into recovery and a key worker who will walk that journey with you, at your pace, each and every step of the way.

This is my story. Some day you will tell your own story and you will be the reason the person reading it will choose recovery over addiction!