As someone who grew up experiencing some fear about the groups of people who congregated around some of the old services I didn’t entertain the idea I might be in need of these services myself, however after the death of my father I found I had developed problems with substance misuse. After many years, when I finally became abstinent, with a lot of patient help and support from the services around the borough, I realised I needed to keep occupied but didn’t know what I could so.
I became an active part of service user involvement in Kingston when I was asked for my opinion on what worked in treatment here. I applied to be a part of the local authority’s Service User Council and as part of this voluntary role I also participated at a more strategic level reporting to local government and at the then National Treatment Agency, helping write the service user involvement handbook and eventually serving as joint chair of the London User Involvement Council. The volunteering helped me sustain my recovery, but was also the spur that encouraged me become a business woman, starting a company to fit in with my busy voluntary schedule. This meant that I could continue to do something I found fulfilling whilst giving something back to my community. Running my own company was something I had wanted to do but my using had always prevented me from achieving this ambition.
I now work in the new service. My role is providing service users the chance to participate in activities and/or train to volunteer for the service as peer mentors, both of which would support recovery during and after treatment. I think the current setting is a safe and boundaried place for service users to receive treatment and I have been very impressed with the efforts that everyone in the staff and service user involvement team have done to ensure it remains so. The first thing that I think when I come here is that it looks like a place where I can get help and support to change, whilst having a greater degree of anonymity than was previously the case in the borough.