Stephen has lived in Reading his whole life and has strong family connections across the town. Stephen started working as soon as he left school and had many jobs which he enjoyed – including being a tree surgeon, and a landscape gardener.
Stephen reflects: “I got on well with family, I had a lot of friends and things were shaping up OK.”
But things changed drastically when a difficult marriage ended. Stephen and his partner had two children, but a difficult split meant that he couldn’t see his son and daughter. Stephen took this badly and he spiralled into depression.
“I started living rough and not working…this made my depression worse. I started taking drugs, it was the worst mistake I ever did. But it was a way of coping. This went on for years. I can’t believe it looking back. But I got locked into a chaotic lifecycle. It got to the point where I was taking drugs every day. When I did work – it was for cash just to get drugs. I never thought about getting help.
“When things were at their worst, I was sleeping rough and addicted to hard drugs. I could easily waste 12 hours of a day being high. Doing nothing – literally. And no surprise my mental health suffered. I thought the drugs helped, but all they did was mask how bad my lifestyle was.”
Helped by his sister
During this long period of sleeping rough Stephen did keep in touch with his sister who used to wash his clothes and he would take a shower at her house. But he cut himself off from most people, including his parents. “I didn’t not want my parents to see me this way, so I stayed away from them.”
It was his sister’s intervention that started the long process of recovery. “She marched me to the council offices, twice as I was turned away the first time. This is when I finally started to get some proper support.”
After being provided with temporary accommodation via Reading Borough Council for 2 years, he was referred to Launchpad. Initially Stephen was provided with a room in a shared Launchpad house then was moved to his own flat.
A slow start
Recovery was very slow, and Stephen was closed off to most people for a long time. For two years, the Launchpad team didn’t make much progress.
“After finally getting somewhere to live, I didn’t stop taking drugs for sometime. I was still living a chaotic lifestyle and was in and out of prison. I guess I was still stuck.”
A new direction
Whilst in prison, Stephen was referred by Launchpad to the Reading drug and alcohol service, CGL (Change Grow Live). And following two spells in hospital with pneumonia, he simply woke up one day and thought enough was enough.
“I never missed an appointment with CGL again.”
The father of two started to take great pride in regularly passing drug tests.
“With support from CGL, my doctor and my Launchpad support worker I finally made progress. They were hard yards. I had to try different medications until I found the right mix for me.”
Over time, Stephen formed a strong and positive relationship with his Launchpad support worker. Stephen credits the team for helping him move on with his life and staying drug-free.
The Launchpad team were able to help him get the right benefits and apply for an ‘ESA medical’ which he was eligible for. This means a bit more money to help provide the space for him to focus on his recovery properly.
“This type of support from Launchpad has been as important as having a roof over my head,” said Stephen.
Once his benefits were organised, the Launchpad team started to work with Stephen on other priorities, such as budgeting, to ensure his money lasted for a whole month.
Stephen also started to take more pride in his accommodation and the garden, helping the Launchpad caretakers when it needed tidying. The caretakers said that having Stephen around was like having an extra pair of hands!
“Thanks to the support I’ve had, I’m a better version of myself. I’ve been clean for over a year and having a stable home will help me stay that way. It’s given me the space to get the years I lost back.”
“I’m still on anti-depressants but they are helping me. I am enjoying being alive… I know I’ve still got work to do but I’ll get there.”
The Launchpad team also worked hard to help Stephen move on from supported housing and to get him accepted onto Reading Borough Council’s ‘Rent Guarantee Scheme’. He now has a flat that he can call his own.
“My time with Launchpad is coming to an end, and I’m not going to lie – I’m going to miss the team, the tea and chats.
“But I’ve learnt to be careful, I don’t spend time with old friends, and no one knows where I live, to reduce the risk of me relapsing. I’ve got my own flat now and see my boy regularly, and my mum and dad. I’m feeling better about everything.”