Danny’s Story: A Different Person

Very few recovery journeys are linear.  For people experiencing homelessness and addiction, even when they possess a strong desire and determination to move forward, there are often obstacles.  The traumas which have often prompted their lives to move in a painful and unwanted direction are extremely difficult to shake off.

That is why, at the Good Shepherd, no one is ever judged. And no one is ever given up on.

If it’s two steps forward and one step back, one step forward and two steps back, or even five steps back, anyone who is trying to better themselves will always be able to access a listening ear and offers of support.

Take 51-year-old Gary, nickname Danny, as an example.

A difficult childhood saw him already battling drug addiction from a young age, and, even being caught by his parents injecting into his groin, didn’t prove a sufficient deterrent.

Periods of sustained drug abuse and spells in prison followed, alongside being able to work for a living, but in 2000, he was attacked from behind with an iron bar during a theft, spending a long period in a coma before being rehabilitated at the specialist Brain Injury Unit in Birmingham.

That has left its legacy in terms of affecting part of his speech and movement, and there have been many times since where he has either been locked in a cycle of addition and homelessness, or trying to come off drugs and move forward.

Now though, Danny has come through several months of a sustained move forward.

Aiming to overcome his addiction, he has, under the guidance of a team of people including Good Shepherd Key Worker Paul Burns, and the Housing First project which provides specialised support to people within their own accommodation, made substantial progress.

A monthly injection of Buvidal, which counters his dependence on heroin, and a desire and determination to engage has seen Danny not only start to pick up the pieces of his life, but be able to take his own decisions and feel like he is making a positive contribution.

“It feels like I have got my life back, 100 per cent,” he says, sat comfortably chatting away in the Latham Room at the Good Shepherd with Paul.

“I feel like a different person, and that is what people are telling me as well.

“I went into the ASDA and the security guard recognised me and told me I was banned.

“When we got talking, he realised that I was trying to change and he told me I wasn’t the same person as I was before.

“People saying that kind of thing does my head in a little bit, but in a way, it makes me feel good, because it makes me realise that I am actually moving forward.

“The life I have had before, it’s just exhausting, there was nowhere to go to escape from it all because the addiction just controls you.

“Now though, I feel like I have something to look forward to, and something to get up for every day for and be motivated.

Paul is delighted with the progress Danny is making.

“I do have to say this but Danny does now seem like a completely different person,” echoes Paul.

“He now has something to get out of bed for and it’s not spending the day just existing or hustling for money.

“We have normal conversations now, chatting about day-to-day stuff, films and so on, and he’s buying DVD’s so we can talk about films that we have both seen.

“What was that one you bought the other day?” he asks Danny.

“Ned Kelly,” comes the response.  “What an unbelievable film!”

Which is quite apt.  Because there have been aspects of Danny’s life which may have resembled the chaos of that of the legendary outlaw depicted in that film.  But it hasn’t always been the case.

Although drugs had entered his life at a young age, as he moved into adulthood he was in a steady relationship and in a steady job, rendering houses.

But the break-up of that relationship, and a decline in mental health, combined to send Gary into a spiral from which it was very difficult to recover.

At times he was street homeless, at others he has been in hostels, but only for short spells has he ever felt in control.

“Like I say, once the Class A drugs get you, they get you – they control you and you just feel you can’t get away,” he admits.

“It takes your life away, and the only way to deal with it is try and come off them, to be determined and stick to it.”

That has been the difficult part for Danny – like so many who fall into addiction – and the brain injury some 24 years ago has also played its part in creating so many new challenges.

At times he has managed to achieve his goals, but then the addiction returns, and, in those situations, others have taken advantage of his vulnerabilities, especially with his accommodation.

More recently however, the coming together of different charities and agencies has put a package of measures in place which have brought more positive news.

The Good Shepherd deliver Housing First in partnership with the P3 charity which recently provided Danny with some supported accommodation.

The Recovery Near You charity have also been there to help and provide advice through the addiction, with the probation service also on hand for additional guidance, and a specialist nurse administering his treatment.

The results of the multi-agency support have been both considerable and hugely positive.

“It has all come together for Danny with the help of all these different organisations working together which has been brilliant to see,” says Paul.

“After seeing him recently, the probation officer he has worked with off and on for 20 years which has included several prison sentences, called to say she couldn’t believe how much he had progressed.

“He is buzzing, and now he is buying food and other things like the DVDs and plants which is unheard of.

“Danny is now reaching out for support from social workers and a mental health specialist to address the core of the problems he has experienced and, after that, his aim is to become self-sufficient.

“He has also been volunteering with the dining service at the Good Shepherd, where is such an inspiration to other people.

“For all the years I have been working in this area, I think this is one of the most spectacular examples of progress that I have seen.”

“When I was addicted to drugs it was always to block away the pain,” adds Danny.

“But now I have too much to lose to go back to that – when I think back to some of the stuff I have done, it embarrasses me.

“It only leads one way and that’s not a good way, but I am using that as motivation to make me stronger and more determined.

“I have really suffered with my mental health as well but being able to talk and let it all out is really helping.

“This is the best I have been for many years and Paul’s been amazing – if it wasn’t for him, I would never have done it.”

Like the new plant which Danny recently purchased to take pride of place in his living room, his own life is starting to bloom.

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