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Leo’s story

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I didn’t pick up my first drink until the age of 20 but from that point, I drank very heavily. In the mid-1990s, cocaine became part of my story as well and the consequences started to kick in.

By 2000, I was completely out of control, hanging on to my job barely, and went to the first of six treatment centres. When I left, I should have gone to a ‘dry house’, but I chose not to – I wanted to return to work. I returned to work five weeks after leaving and relapsed within a week. By 2001, my employer said, “We need to part company with you”.

In 2002, I sold a property for quite a sum of money. But if you’ve got a cocaine habit of at least 1-2 grams a day and you are drinking, buying holidays, sports cars, that type of thing – by 2008, the money had gone.

From then until a year and half ago, I started to claim benefits and was doing odd jobs, manual jobs, gardening. I was very fortunate as I ended up engaged with a treatment service (now Via) and a housing officer found me a secure roof over my head.

But up until a year and a half ago, I had become a hermit. I didn’t engage with life, with people, and I wasn’t in a good place. I was so lonely, worried, and fearful, and I didn’t know what was going to happen.

But things changed infinitely for the better 18 months ago. I had tried to commit suicide but was lucky – I woke up, I escaped, I got away with it. I then reconnected with Via but was also referred to their IPS service.

My employment specialist carried out a detailed assessment and really got to know me. He wanted to know my journey and understand what my needs were. He then put together a tailored support package. He was very helpful with my CV as there were some significant gaps which we jointly addressed. He would send through jobs every week based on what I wanted, which was a customer service position.

One job was with a US corporate hospitality and food company, and I had to answer some questions by video. They said they were very happy with my interview and offered me a job. I am now working there and about to start another job as an events steward. My focus for this year is working for these two companies and then I’ll start to think about what’s next.

IPS has been an extraordinarily supportive tool to me returning to normality. It builds your self-esteem, your self-worth, and it provides structure and socialisation once you are back in work. I am very grateful and couldn’t commend them more highly.