Hope, courage and faith are three words that epitomise what Cocaine Anonymous wants to deliver.
And at his lowest point Simon P, who wishes to remain anonymous, knew that after years of drug abuse, there were only two paths open to him.
One would have been to carry on living a life of taking drugs, stealing and betraying all those close to him. The other was to get help.
That’s when he turned to Cocaine Anonymous and, with its assistance, has turned his life around.
Now he helps run the service in Portsmouth, which has been operating in the city for the past two years.
The 39-year-old says: ‘I was addicted to cocaine, alcohol and prescription pills.
‘When I was about 16 I was introduced to alcohol, and with college came ecstasy. It was fun for a few years.
‘I then got introduced to speed and became a daily user.
‘I was living at home with my mum and was hiding it from her. I had an apprenticeship so was getting money.
‘At the age of 16 I moved in with my girlfriend and spent time with people who liked drugs too.
‘I lived for the weekend, but still carried on using in the week.’
When Simon’s girlfriend became pregnant with their first child she stopped using drugs, but it wasn’t something he could do.
At the time he was 24 and says he started to become paranoid about many things.
He says: ‘I was convinced I was being followed by police.
‘My girlfriend stopped using and my son was born.
‘I was given medication to come off the speed, but after five months it wasn’t working.
‘I then switched to cocaine and it gave me a different kind of buzz to speed, and I became a daily user.
‘That’s when things got a lot worse.
‘A lot of it was guilt – I started drinking more to get rid of the guilt of taking cocaine.
‘My son was born in 1999 and I realised I had a problem and that I couldn’t stop.
‘I was taking prescription pills and alcohol – I was using while I was at work. It was horrific.
‘If I didn’t have any drugs then my behaviour was off.
‘My partner became pregnant with our second child, and while she was giving birth, I was in the other room getting high.
‘We had a little girl and I don’t even remember her being born.
‘I became violent against my partner at the end of the month when there was no money.
‘Once there was cash, I would be remorseful, but I would soon get violent again.
‘I took £20,000 off my parents and stole my step-dad’s credit card.
‘In 2003 my mum disowned me.’
But things changed for Simon in 2007 when his partner separated from him and asked him to move out of their home.
Still a user, Simon was going back to the house to wash and clean his clothes.
It was there he made a decision to end his life and he took a drugs overdose.
He was found by his ex-partner, who called his parents.
‘I hadn’t seen my mum in four years,’ he says.
‘It was shameful, and when I went to see the doctor he said I had two options – either I get help or I end up in a mental institution.
‘I got myself away from the situation and went to CA in Luton.’
It was at this moment that Simon’s journey to transform his life began.
He says: ‘It was very welcoming, and I heard my story aloud for the first time.
‘I knew I was with people who had gone through the same as me.
I believed the person who had been clean for 30 days, but I couldn’t believe the person who had been clean for five years.
‘For me that didn’t seem possible.’
CA helps both men and women of all ages who suffer from any ‘mind altering’ substance.
It was started in California 30 years ago, at a time when cocaine use was popular.
But with changes in drug use, the group also helps people with any drug or alcohol problem.
The meetings are free to attend and anonymous for all.
Since it started two years ago in Portsmouth, there are about 100 members.
The 12-step recovery programme used by Alcoholics Anonymous is applied at CA. But Simon believes many more people can be helped by CA, and urges them to come forward.
He says: ‘It has been life-changing for me and I have been clean for seven years and nine weeks.
‘I still remember going to my first meeting and knowing one addict can help another because they know what you have been through.
‘I never thought I would have all that I have now – a partner, a new baby, a job, and my parents are talking to me again.
‘My addiction was an illness and I needed a spiritual solution.
‘I have so much peace in my life and it’s all from CA.’
Each member works with a sponsor who will go through the 12-step process at a speed that suits an individual.
Simon is now a sponsor and enjoys helping others.
He says: ‘I have gone from a point where I didn’t have the power to stop on my own, to the point where I have enough power for everybody.
‘Life just keeps on getting better.
‘We are here to help anyone who wants it and I hope people come forward.
‘We run various sessions in Portsmouth and Fareham and believe there are many more people we can reach out to.
‘There’s so much advice and support we can give to people, so you never feel you are doing it alone.
‘There are many ways to reach us – we will help.’
To find out more, call 0300 111 2285 from mobiles, 0800 612 0225 free from landlines, or visit cauk.org.uk
HIS addiction to drugs and alcohol caused him to become homeless, lose contact with his son, and become unable to hold down a job.
But since Sam W – whose identity we are protecting – has been working with Cocaine Anonymous, he is on the road to recovery.
The 37-year-old is homeless, but is hoping to find accommodation soon.
He says CA helped him to rebuild his life.
He says: ‘I started at 14 with alcohol and getting kicked out of school because of it.
‘I was told I wasn’t ever going to get anywhere, so I thought “yep I’ll go to the pub”.
‘I did get a place at college, but started missing lessons and started taking cannabis and speed.
‘When I was 18 my son was born, but I carried on using.
‘It was the first time I became homeless and I have effectively been homeless since.’
Sam says that despite his situation he carried on using speed, liquid acid and tried cocaine, but found it too expensive.
‘Most of those years I didn’t think I had a problem,’ he adds.
‘I thought if I wanted to stop then I could.
‘It was only after I broke up with a girlfriend of five years and moved to Scotland that I saw the drugs moved with me.
‘It was then I realised I couldn’t stop and needed help.’
Sam moved to the Portsmouth area and started getting help from CA in July last year.
He says: ‘I tried to stop on my own, but I knew I wasn’t going to last much longer and I needed help.
‘The 12 steps really helped, although I struggled on step four, which was looking at what I resented – I had a lot.
‘I’m hoping to get my accommodation sorted soon, and I want to go back and get qualifications.
‘I enjoy working on computers and want to get training on that.’
COCAINE Anonymous is not just for those who have an addiction to that substance.
The sessions welcome anyone battling with any mind-altering substance, such as drug or alcohol addiction.
People are invited to sessions that are held in Portsmouth and Fareham, which are free and anonymous.
There is no age limit, and there is a combination of closed meetings and open meetings – in the latter
family members are invited to attend.
Each member will be allocated a sponsor, a person who has overcome an addiction themselves, and who will coach them through the recovery process.
CA follows the 12-step recovery programme adopted from Alcoholics Anonymous, and your sponsor guides you through the process.
The group meets on the following days, times, and locations:
Mondays, at 7.45pm, in room one, Fratton Community Centre, Trafalgar Place, Kingston, Portsmouth
Wednesdays, midday to 1pm, room one, Fratton Community Centre, Trafalgar Place, Kingston, Portsmouth.
Saturdays, 10am, to 11am, Fareham Health Centre, Civic Way, Fareham.
Saturdays, 7.30pm, Friends Meeting House, 25 Northwood Road, Hilsea.
The fourth Friday of every month, 6pm to 9pm, Oasis Centre, Arundel Street, Landport, Portsmouth.
To find get more information about the sessions, call 0800 612 0225.