This is my story of how I have come to reside at St James Priory. I am 30 years old, born in High Wycombe in Bucks. where I was raised and brought up a Muslim. I come from a close knit family, where the family is very important and you are loyal to each other.
As I progressed in my life and got older I started to feel as though I was somewhat different to other children my age: I would feel quite alone as a child. This feeling created much fear in me as I grew older and became more socially active in my early adolescence. I started to hang around with a group of kids: this is where I first tasted alcohol.
This was a very big occasion for me as being Muslim I had been told that I could not drink alcohol, from a young age. However I wanted to fit in with the rest of the kids so I drank, and from that moment in my life something changed inside me which made me feel confident and whole for the first time in my life. I went on to use crack cocaine and heroin in the next few years and spent 13 years of my life chasing that feeling of wholeness I experienced in the beginning. My journey has taken me to many different institutions and countries as I said in the beginning; I come from a culture that does not allow you to show emotions or to say I have a problem.
My family tried everything that was in their power, to help me try and overcome my addiction. I had been to treatment centres abroad: many a holy man had prayed over me or for me. None of these methods worked. I stayed with different relatives I different parts of the country and I would be ok for a while, then the day would come again that I would use crack and heroin again. Again I would be committing crime to feed my habit, and I would end up in prison yet again. This cycle seemed to keep recurring in my life and I could not find a way out. All the love and prayers of my family had not worked; all the love of a partner could not pull me out of this bottomless pit which I had somehow gotten into.
In 2003 I had had enough emotionally. I was hung-over: physically I was a wreck and spiritually I was dead. I turned to religion and God, which I loathed. I had been brought up with a punishing and unloving God: I turned to him and asked for help. I had been in a treatment centre in Pakistan. I was beaten. I was on my way back; my experience told me I would be using in a few weeks. I was stood on a beach with the sun setting in Karachi: I looked at the sky and I prayed from my heart, “If you are there, I need you, I need help”.
I came back to England where after three weeks of praying and trying to follow religion as best as I could, I relapsed yet again. However this time the madness that my life turned into was far worse than anything I had experienced before: I was dead inside. This is the only way I can describe my condition. I have never felt so alone, so helpless and so afraid in my whole life. The thought came to me to end it all: I did not even have the courage to do it.
Through a series of events I was given a DTTO by the courts in High Wycombe. I was given the chance to do treatment at Walsingham House; I would have to go away from my home town and live in a new place and environment, which would be hard away from family. I was willing though, I had to be, as everything I had tried had not worked before. So, I came to Bristol. As I arrived at Walsingham House I came to the entrance and saw there was a church within the grounds. My head went off on one thinking “They’re going to try and convert me into a Christian”. I walked into the treatment centre and was welcomed by my counsellor and I felt a bit better as she was very friendly. That evening I was welcomed into Walsingham House by the residents who went around telling their individual stories. For the first time in years I felt safe, I felt comfortable and I had peace of mind and hope that things will be OK.
I still was hung up on the idea about the church and this serenity prayer business. I then spoke to my counsellor who reassured me that no-one was going to try to convert me or preach to me about God, I did not have to believe in God to be a resident at Walsingham and I did not have to convert over the following three months. I met and spoke to people who worked at Walsingham I thought people like those who worked there did not exist any more. I was given support, food and medical help, and most importantly my belief was smashed that no-one would understand where I came from because not only was I a user but I am Asian, and how can you understand me if you are not Asian and have not been brought up like me? This illusion was smashed as all my peers had been through some if the same situations as me, and my counsellor understood what I had been through and supported me in the changes I needed to make my life.
I am currently 15 months clean and sober and I am a resident at St James House, the third stage of treatment. I have continued to get support and help from the project alongside the different fellowships I have accessed for support today. I have a full life: I have just completed a college course in youth work. I currently work for crime concern as a youth worker. 15 months ago I was sat in a prison cell with no future; today that has changed. I am also about to move into my won place and start a new job. I could not have travelled this path without the help of the Project. I hope today I have a future and life has got better and better. If you have a problem and you cannot stop using drink, please, I beg you, come and find life again and taste the sweetness of life once again. Don’t let any prejudice around the church stop you from finding your life again and those dreams you have and think will never come true: they will one day at a time. I hope my story helps someone to find peace and pleasure in living again.