Alan Andrews from Llanelli turned his back on a life of drug addiction, alcohol abuse and crime and ended up establishing the National Lottery funded Chooselife Cymru organisation to support substance misusers in Carmarthenshire. Alan has since tackled his past and now gets a high helping others by making a difference to the lives of vulnerable adults in the community . . .
When I was 13 I was locked away in an approved school as I went through a lot of abuse as a child and was unable to cope so I did what all young people do when they cannot cope, and that is to rebel.
I was sent to Detention Centre at 14.
I ended up in Borstal for almost a year when I was 17. When I got out I started stealing cars and was sent to prison. It meant I had to share cells with hardened criminals who had ‘real’ drugs. They offered me speed and opiates. I started injecting these so they’d knock me out quicker. When I was released I’d start breaking into chemist’s as well as houses. I’d steal diamorphine (a heroin substitute) and get high on that.
One night I went home and Mum and Dad were waiting for me. The police were looking for me. They’d recognised me on CCTV carrying out an armed robbery.
I was sent back to prison. Lying in my cell every night, all I saw ahead was more crimes, more drugs and more loneliness. None of it made me happy. So I stopped taking drugs. Bam! Like that. And when I was released from prison, my family thought I’d flipped.
When they saw I was really a changed man, other people started asking me how I’d done it. Drug addicts started turning up at my door, asking for help. Word got around and every day more and more drugs addicts knocked on my door. I didn’t turn anyone away.
I decided to start a help group and new centre for drug users. I called it Chooselife because that’s what I’d had to do to get off the drugs. Since the Charity’s inception fifteen years ago we have been continually working with local people with problems to establish ways to find and improve a best ‘fit’ model.
We help over 450 people a year now. I’m so passionate about Chooselife. I’m living proof that you can be a bad lad and end up a good ‘un. I hope my past can inspire others to turn their lives around like I did. Addiction is not a terminal illness and with the right support recovery is not only possible but also achievable.
Listen to a short clip from Alan Andrews:
WHAT BIG DID:
Last year, Chooselife Cymru was awarded over £440,000 from the National Lottery Community Fund to set up the D-R-A-W – Drugs, Recovery, Activities and Workskills project in Carmarthenshire. The grant, over three years, will benefit 450 substance misusers in Llanelli and the surrounding area through the delivery of a supported volunteering, training and work experience programme.