Volunteer stories Flashbacks and blackouts My drinking turned into drug taking. During that time, I would have blackouts and I would go missing. I would lash out at people and I ended up feeling suicidal. Someone who knew what was going on alerted the crisis team about my mental state and I voluntarily spent two weeks in Woodlands. They were the ones who explained to me that I was in fact an alcoholic and they took me to ESRA. I didn’t feel a connection with other people before I came to ESRA. I went to the Friday morning yoga class and that really helped settle my mind. The Women’s Group has been great for re-establishing healthy friendships with other women and the Art Group helped me to get all my thoughts out without being overwhelmed by them. I also attended the Your Choice recovery group and learnt how to stay on the right track, especially when things became difficult. I have been coming to ESRA for 14 months and in that time. I have had a lot of training opportunities, all of which have helped boost my confidence. I have been trained as an ESRA volunteer and as a facilitator, and I now facilitate the Women’s Group. More recently, I completed ESRA’s Your Choice facilitation training. Your Choice is a brilliant recovery group that focuses on the brain and the role that it has in both addiction and recovery. It is unlike any other groups I have been to and I think more people should know about it. I am very excited about facilitating a Your Choice group myself. I have also done First Aid and Food Hygiene training. I sometimes work in the café and I love to talk to new people and encourage them into the groups that got me back on my feet. I am now doing a 6-week Wellness in Recovery Action Planning (WRAP) course. Self-care is vital in recovery and WRAP teaches us how to do this. While I have gained many new skills and have been able to do lots of different things at ESRA, I want to be an ESRA Connector once I have completed the WRAP training. This way, I will be able to support peers in practical ways, especially at the start of their recovery journey. I am also hoping to be part of the veteran support team in due course. I have been to hell and back I came to Eastbourne in December last year after I was stabbed and beaten in Dorset. By then I had been living rough on and off for some time and I ended up sleeping outside the police station, just to feel a little bit safer from my attackers. I was put in touch with STAR. They were booked up in the run-up to Christmas and they couldn’t see me for 6 weeks. They were the ones who told me about ESRA. I needed all the support I could get, and I went to ESRA at Café North the next day. From the first time I walked in everyone was amazing. All the love and support in there got me through my stay at the Saffron which was a hive of drink and drugs. If it wasn’t for Café North, I would have started using again, 100% guaranteed. They really saved my life. There is no doubt in my mind if it wasn't for all the staff at ESRA, and having a safe place to go, I wouldn't be writing this. I go there every day and I have started opening up and talking. I wasn’t able to do this before. It’s good to be around people who know what you have been through. I chased the dragon for 7 years As I got older, I just got tired of living a certain way. I had become stuck in a rut and I believe 100% that I would be dead if I continued using. I eventually became homeless in Brighton and got to the point where I had just one friend left. He gave me a bed and told me about CGL. They were the ones who told me about ESRA. I went soon afterwards and I haven’t left. I am now an ESRA volunteer and I do some cleaning for them and I treat it like a job. It gives me structure, stability and breathing space. Years ago, I would have found this kind of thing square and boring. I would never have done any work for no money. But now there is much more to my life now than money. I have done a lot of training through ESRA, including food hygiene, first aid and WRAP training which is around self-care in recovery. I am going to do the Your Choice facilitation training in the new year.