Former drug and alcohol users in South Tyneside are being given the chance to help others kick their habits.
First Contact Clinical has launched “peer mentoring”, allowing those who have received help the opportunity to give back to the community.
Those who volunteer to go on the scheme undergo six weeks of training before being able to support others who are starting their own journey to recovery.
This week, First Clinical Contact saw four recovering addicts presented with certificates after completing the course.
Peer mentors volunteer for at least six months with an expectation of committing two days a week to First Contact Clinical, with the chance to learn more skills.
To be accepted, a mentor must be stable in treatment, have no illicit drug use or be due to complete alcohol detox, and recommendations from other services.
Nobody wakes up wanting to destroy their lives.Katie Shone
The peer mentors’ leader, Michelle Scott, herself a former drug user, said: “It has been great to see these people here today being presented with their certificates. I was once stood where they were and it is just overwhelming at times knowing how far I have come.”
Michelle was only 15 when she was prescribed medication to help her cope with the death of her mother.
She become reliant on the drugs, and turned to buying them on the street.
This led her into shoplifting to fund her habit and she eventually spent three months in prison.
After turning to First Clinical Contact for support, she became a volunteer, taking part in various courses, which enabled her to gain employment with the company as an assistant recovery champion.
She said: “Part of my role is to make it easier for people to get the support they require.
“If we can make recovery fun, it makes people want to come back and receive the support which will help to battle their addictions.”
The presentation, at South Shields Business Works, where First Contact Clinical is based, was attended by the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Couns Alan and Moira Smith.
Councillor Smith said: “It’s absolutely excellent to see this scheme working.
“Some years ago I was a co-ordinator with the Drug Action Team in South Tyneside, so I have personally worked with those who were battling their addictions.
“Those who have fallen into addiction genuinely believe people don’t care about them, which then fuels their addiction more.
“Having peer mentors who have been through that cycle and come out the other end, they will be able to empathise and understand how they are feeling a lot more because they have been where they are now.”
First Contact Clinical is a social enterprise which aims to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged people and communities by enabling healthy behaviour change.
l To call First Contact Clinical, ring 0191 427 4685.