SIAS: “They gave me back my son and my future”

November 2017 | 9 minutes

Solihull Integrated Addiction Service (SIAS) is a partnership between four organisations jointly responsible for the delivery of the drug, alcohol and gambling services, in the Borough of Solihull.

SIAS works together to support people of all ages and backgrounds affected by addiction in the Solihull borough. SIAS’ aim is to improve physical and emotional health, integration into communities and self-belief. It whole-heartedly believes that visible hope – seeing people who have been there and have come out the other side – is integral in supporting people to change their lives.

Ann's* story

I am a volunteer at SIAS, and help out with friends and family services. A staff member and myself hold an evening support group once a month and are proud to have secured a site within the community. A support group is a very powerful tool which encourages confidential, non-judgemental conversation to take place between friends and families of addicts who may otherwise become isolated. I love this work.

I also help to run information sessions which help people to understand and manage their loved ones’ addictions, and support them to realise that their lives are compromised by the actions of their loved ones. A few weeks ago, one of the participants told us that, thanks to the sessions they had attended, they had booked a holiday for the first time in a long time, because it was the first time they felt free to do so. That was a very satisfying moment.

When I first encountered SIAS in May 2015, I was a very different person to who I am today. I was an alcoholic, recently released from hospital, having been diagnosed with cirrhosis. I walked with a frame, had to use a commode and was unable to climb the stairs to go to bed. Carers visited four times a day to help me with everyday tasks. My son had told me recently that he did not think I would live until Christmas.

Eventually, with the help of SIAS, their commitment and encouragement, I began recovery.

I am now passionate about encouraging others into recovery so that they too can feel as good as I do today. The most important thing is to help and support everyone affected by addiction – including the friends and family of the addict, who are often going through the hardest period of their lives. I know now that I put my family through so much, but today, armed with the training and guidance given by SIAS, I am a better person and a reliable volunteer.

*Name changed to protect identity

Su's story

I had reached rock bottom when I first heard of SIAS. I didn’t have a life. I was stressed, anxious all the time, sleep deprived. Living with an addict was slowly killing me. Everything revolved around my son and his drinking. I was on medication, but nothing helped. I lived in fear every day wondering if this would be the day I found him dead. I didn’t go out, too terrified of what I would find when I returned. The abuse and violence were constant. My house was a wreck; every door had a hole in it.

I carried so much guilt around; as his mother I felt I had failed, that it was all my fault, that I had let him down. I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. No hope of things ever changing. I didn’t want to live to fight any longer. I felt so alone. I couldn’t talk to anyone, couldn’t share my ‘dirty little secret’.

My doctor recommended I go to SIAS. I had no expectations when I went for my appointment – but for the first time in years I could talk freely, no holding back. It was liberating.

Jane, my practitioner, helped me so much. Gradually I began to feel stronger. I understood that I was important; I didn’t have to put up with this situation. I owe Jane not only my sanity but my life.

It all came to a head soon after that.

My son asked me to take him to the doctors; he was scared he was killing himself. We sat in the surgery and he cried as he talked to the doctor. He held my hand as he explained how bad his life had become, the amount he was drinking. It was absolutely heart-breaking. He left with medication and the hope of a new beginning.

The following morning, I heard him go out at 7am. I couldn’t believe it when he returned with eight cans of cider. He swore the alcohol was for his girlfriend who was staying at the time. I completely lost it. I told them to go, that she was no longer welcome in my house. They left.

They were both drunk when they reappeared days later. Could they come back? It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I said no. They promised to get help. They contacted SIAS, both got appointments and for the next three weeks they went every day. SIAS was the best thing ever, for both of them.

Today, they haven’t had a drink for 18 months. They are married, with their own house, and have a baby on the way. They are healthy and happy. I have the peace in my life that I craved. I now volunteer at SIAS, because I want to be able to give back, to help somebody the way I was helped. They gave me back my son and my future.