Within my role at Moving On Durham I manage a caseload of 25 clients with differing support needs. One of my clients, Sarah, came to us from 24-hour supported accommodation after losing her home and the custody of her children due to substance misuse and being in a violent relationship. Following a period of zero substance use, she moved into one of our semi-independent properties, but despite her positive progress, we quickly learnt she was using alcohol as her new coping mechanism.
At first, Sarah did not engage well, and was still socializing in the same circles; she was putting her new tenancy at risk and allowing people who were a negative influence into her property. It was my job to show her the seriousness of her actions and help her to realise that she needs to take responsibility for what was happening and make the necessary changes to her lifestyle.
These conversations happen often, and are never easy, but they are absolutely central to our young people taking ownership of their lives, and accepting the consequences of their choices; good and bad.
After this she quickly settled in and started engaging really well. Her house was always kept to a high standard and she never missed any appointments. Although she was still using alcohol as a way to deal with her traumatic past, her daily use was steadily decreasing. After building a trusting relationship and confiding in me with regards to the extent of the violence she had experienced in her past relationship, I discussed the idea of therapy to deal with these issues. This took a lot of encouragement, and difficult conversations, but Sarah finally agreed to us referring her to an outside agency for intensive support. Sarah continued to engage really well, and eventually started ‘talking therapy’ which led to more extensive therapy. She now feels she is able to put the past behind her and deal with what happened to her. She has gained confidence, has rekindled relationships with her family and, most importantly, now has regular contact with her children.
I am thrilled with her progress and especially now she no longer uses alcohol as a coping mechanism. I feel she is now ready for a positive move on into her own long-term accommodation with the mental health support she currently has still in place.
Our job is a really difficult one, and often involves building people up from a really dark place, but when we see people like Sarah coming so far, and doing so well with such a bright future now ahead of them, it makes it all worthwhile.