During my final year at school in Scotland, my friends introduced me to cannabis, and I started regularly using it. Little did I know then what long-term damage and consequences it would unleash. I came down to Birmingham in 2014 to continue studying and training for a career in tourism.
However, I was unprepared for the feelings of low self-esteem, depression and paranoia that I started to feel as a result of the cannabis use.
My finances began to unravel as I had claimed for Housing Benefit and Council Tax support while I was a student. I was asked for it back but couldn’t pay it. Every time I tried to think about my financial situation, it felt like I was locked in a room and couldn’t breathe. Every letter that arrived caused panic. I couldn’t phone home for help because people wouldn’t understand.
I was neither eating nor functioning as a human being. A support worker used to phone me daily to ask whether I had drunk water as I needed that level of reminding and prompting. I was surrounded by drug-users who were using diazepam, rolling it up into joints.
“I would wake, sleep, day after day, with no purpose.”
I was introduced to Riverside Money Advice. The advisers were really friendly and re-assuring. They set to work slowly unravelling the debts that I was carrying. I told them how I had suicidal thoughts and believed I might be possessed, but through their support and prayer things started to look very different.
I used to hate envelopes when they arrived – I couldn’t open them, as I thought they were bringing a problem. Every day another would arrive, but I just stacked them out of the way.
RMA encouraged me to bring them all in and we opened them together. Now I always open envelopes as there is nothing in an envelope that is going to scare me.
As my financial situation improved, RMA told me that I qualified for a debt relief order which could be used to wipe out all my debts if I could keep to a budget.
“It was as if someone had opened a door into a really dark room, and brilliant sunlight was flooding in.”
When I escaped debt, all the reasons for using drugs disappeared. Over time, I have learnt to distance myself from the places of temptation that might lead me to use them again.
I feel that the future is all about moving up and out, rather than downwards into gloom. If you’re in a mess financially, don’t be embarrassed – there are people who truly understand. When I first came, I couldn’t see where it was going and if someone had told me that there was a place where debt could be wiped out, I wouldn’t have believed them and would not have gone. But there is a route through.