51-year old Peter has many years of solid professional experience. When alcohol addiction took hold of his life – a problem that had been growing for many years – he had to stop work to address this. After rehab, he started volunteering for substance misuse project Aurora. It was at this point he came into contact with our London Peer Hub.
“I was a service manager in the NHS but had been a high functioning alcoholic for years. I had a good job and everything was great. But it got the point where I simply had to do something about it. It was a long-term problem which got worse and worse over the years to the point where I couldn’t work.”
Cirrhosis and other health problems led to Peter entering rehab. “I was hospitalised and in a wheelchair. I was in rehab for six months.”
After rehab, Peter entered a halfway house and started getting his life back on track. “I volunteer as a Peer Mentor with Aurora and was put in touch with St Giles Trust by their Volunteer Manager.”
Once making contact with our London Peer Hub, Peter started to train under the Level 3 Information, Advice and Guidance. This offers a professional qualification enabling him to help others experiencing the same kind of issues he has overcome whilst also helping keep his own recovery focussed in the right direction. Despite his professional background, Peter found the course a surprising challenge.
“I hadn’t been in education for years,” says Peter. “I thought it would be easy but I’ve not studied for a long, long time. It was challenging – but just enough - not to the point it put me off. And I’ve enjoyed being in the training group – it’s been really helpful and the people have been really supportive and friendly.”
Peter has found that the course has helped him both professionally and personally. “Before I was just working on instinct but the course has given me really structured, practical information that I can use in my mentoring work. Not just with volunteering but also socially and with other jobs. It has helped with my confidence as well because when you come out of rehab it is like coming out of prison. Everything is done for you and you can get a bit overwhelmed by stuff.”
Peter’s life is now getting back to normal. “I’ve got the stage where I’m thinking about moving on now as I’ve got a part-time temporary job with Wandsworth Council. I’m at a good point as I’m getting back into work and mainstream life.”
His future aspirations include looking at getting into counselling or possibly moving back to the NHS. He feels his Peer Advisor training will benefit him for this possible future. “I know it will still be stressful in the NHS but I’d still feel like I was helping people even though I’m not a medical person. This training has been very helpful in terms of interacting with people in general. Patients are normally scared when they come into hospital.”
Peter’s experiences with St Giles Trust have been wholly positive. “I’m really glad I heard about St Giles Trust and would recommend it to other people who have been through similar things as me. The Peer Advisor course doesn’t only improve your skills in working with clients but it also helps with confidence.”
But he feels wider society needs to change to help not only people like him take that final step to independence but also those who have the added barrier of a criminal record behind them.
“I haven’t come from a criminal background but I’ve met a lot of people who have and I do think employers need to be educated to give people a second chance. It needs to be understood that if someone has made a mistake just because they were that person then 10 or 20 odd years ago it doesn’t mean they are going to do it again.”