How ex-addicts are helping on frontline

PIONEERING ... Bill Lindsey is one of the recovering addicts helping with the research.
PIONEERING ... Bill Lindsey is one of the recovering addicts helping with the research.

FACING up to alcohol or drug addiction can prove an impossible task.

Pioneering new research by recovering addicts in South Tyneside aims to show why many users fail to seek help.

We spoke to one man who has turned his life around and taken part in the project.

For recovering alcoholic Bill Lindsey, the turning point came with a bump.

He was found drunk, collapsed and unconscious with a cracked head at his Jarrow home.

After 25 years of bingeing, it triggered a chain of events that changed his life – and could now help other addicts.

More than two years after waking in hospital, dazed from his fall, he has taken part in a unique research programme.

Bill, 51, and four recovering drug users have gone out and about in South Tyneside to discover why drug users don’t seek help.

To do so, they had specialised training to teach them how to do field study work.

The group then used their new-found techniques – including how to ask the right questions and how to stay safe – to interview volunteer drug addicts.

Although their findings are still being collated, Bill believes their work will prove beneficial.

He said: “It was an experience, speaking to these people and finding out why they haven’t engaged.

“It is too early to say exactly what we have found, but I’m hopeful it will eventually help others to feel they can seek help.”

His involvement in South Shields-based First Contact Clinical’s trials stemmed from his own personal booze breakthrough.

In March 2010, he was found by his elderly mum slumped at his then-home in Fellgate, and rushed to South Tyneside District Hospital.

Soon after coming round, staff from Turning Point – a service which helps people with drug, alcohol and mental health problems – visited his bedside.

They provided the spark of change which opened the door to him to access other support services.

Less than three months later, Bill – who was sacked from his last job, selling broadband, due to his drinking – entered residential rehabilitation.

He volunteered for the research when a representative of First Contact visited a centre where he was getting support.

It is believed to be the first study in the country where a peer group of reforming addicts has been formally trained to carry out research on current drug users.

The first of five three-hour training sessions took place in September at First Contact’s headquarters at Tedco Business Works.

It was led by Dr Morris Gallagher, a company director and South Shields GP.

The all-male group learned which questions to ask, who to ask, and even how to stay safe when in contact with drug users.

To find interviewees, they put up fliers in South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, libraries and even phone boxes, Bill said: “Eight drug users came forward to take part and be interviewed for up to 45 minutes. I interviewed two of them. We didn’t really know what to expect from ourselves, nor what they could expect from us.

“I wasn’t sure if I was strong enough to do it, and First Contact had to be sure that we would not slip into old habits.

“Those interviewed were happy to share their experiences and were interested in turning their lives around.”

The results are expected later this year, and Bill hopes they will show what can be done to encourage more addicts to seek help.

The personal benefits to him have already been startling, as he has landed a full-time job with First Contact.

He added: “I am now working as their ‘recovery champion’, which allows me to find out exactly what services are out there.

“I’m proud of my involvement in this research. I believe that the more services there are, the more chance there is for people to succeed.”

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