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    Real life stories

Kenward Trust has a national reputation for excellence in the field of drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation. Every year we help transform the lives of more than 200 men and women.

Some of the people who have turned their lives around with our help have shared their experience in the hope that it will help others.
Here are some real life stories that may be of interest to those considering a programme with us. They will help in understanding our approach and the individual projects we offer. We pride ourselves on our ability to engage everyone individually and to tailor our proven programmes to maximise success.

Past service users are very welcome to send us their story. Please email it to Katie Darvell at katie.darvell@kenwardtrust.org.uk.

Real life stories - Residential

Les’ story (Kenward House)

"The Kenward staff convinced me that I did have a reason to live."
Les remembers a childhood where football was what he lived for and professional clubs sent scouts to watch him play. But, in his mid-teens he began smoking and drinking with his mates, which soon progressed to regular cannabis use.

“Within a year I was smoking cannabis morning, noon and night,” says Les. “My mates and me were getting into fights with other gangs, and sometimes the police were called upon to deal with us. Then someone told me about a job that was going at the local brewery.”

Before long, Les was delivering beer and spirits all over London, at a time when every pub landlord would give lorry loaders a drink. In no time at all, Les was drinking every working day and spending all weekend ‘on the beer’ too.

After three years, he could no longer hide his constant state of inebriation, or the fact that he was one of many involved in the corrupt practice of 'off sales' (selling stolen alcohol). Sacked from the brewery, he went to work for the council’s refuse department.

This was another job which allowed Les to drink away his afternoons, having completed an eight-hour shift. However, it was not long before he was using drink and drugs during his working day. In 10 years he spent much of a very good salary on a habit that would see him sacked when his employer could no longer turn a blind eye to his behaviour.

Mutual addiction
As is often the problem with addiction, no one could convince Les that he had a problem. In his mind he was physically fit from a decade of heavy manual labour, and he was functioning ‘normally’ in spite of a large, daily intake of alcohol and narcotics. His increasingly aggressive behaviour and regular sick leave from work were symptoms he chose to ignore.

But Les began to suffer withdrawal symptoms that he could only control with more alcohol. Drunk at work, he nearly fell off a cargo ship he was loading and was saved only by a deckhand’s quick reflexes. At this time in his life he met the woman he would marry. She worked behind the bar in his local pub.

Her name was Lynne, and she already had three daughters who instantly welcomed Les into their family. Tragically, Lynne was a fellow addict and what was initially a happy family situation would descend into a life of spiralling debt, serious ill-health and, for the three girls, constant fear of what might happen to their parents. Les and Lynne began to suffer fits because of their drinking, the last of which sent Lynne into a coma from which she never emerged.

Beside himself with anguish, and intent on drinking himself to death, Les was taken by family members to a detox centre in Maidstone en route to becoming a resident at Kenward House.

Recovering from guilt
The first two months of his recovery will remain forever hazy for Les. He continued to be suicidal with guilt over Lynne’s death, and nearly walked away from Kenward House on three separate occasions. “I did not deserve to live,” he says. “That’s how I felt all the time. But the staff at Kenward are brilliant at listening, and when they’d done that, they would keep reminding me that my three girls needed me.”

Following detox and several weeks of sobriety, Les found that his emotions no longer had anything to suppress them. Between bouts of uncontrollable tears, kicking the walls and thinking he was losing his mind, the occasional ray of hope shone through. Fellow residents who were further into their recovery helped convince him to stick to his recovery programme. After all, they truly knew how bad he felt, as well as how much better his life could be.

To his surprise, Les completed three months of recovery at Kenward and declared that he was fit to leave! Gently persuaded otherwise, he remained for a further three months, realising that working harder at recovery in the security of a professional setting would pay crucial dividends later on.

And those three extra months would prove priceless. In Les’ words, “It took me the first three months at Kenward just to clear my head, deal with all those bad feelings and see that there was hope for me. The next three months helped me to plan a life back in the community, without alcohol.”

Les moved into a new flat on the day that he left Kenward House. His three girls and his mum had stood by him throughout his long addiction. They believed he could find a life free from the misery of dependency upon drink and drugs. So it is not only Les who gives thanks for his transformation, but his family too.

"It can be done, y’know – to lead a sober and happy life. And Kenward saved me and gave me the courage to get on with doing just that."

Story written in February 2013.

Find out more about Kenward House

Damien’s story (Kenward House and the Malthouse)

"I’m very grateful to Kenward’s staff that I’m still alive today.”
Damien grew up in Brighton, the son of a largely absent father who had an addiction to gambling. However, his childhood was largely happy, he enjoyed school and he showed great promise on the football pitch.

At sixteen, Damien was signed by Yeovil Town Football Club and thought that he had achieved his dream. But his girlfriend back in Brighton became pregnant and he returned to his home town to be with her. Tragically, the child died.

Damien gave up on a football career and tried to cope with the loss of his child with increasing amounts of alcohol and narcotics. Then, at the age of 18, his father briefly returned to his life to tell him a devastating secret.

His father had been leading a double life with another woman for several years, effectively moving between families as his gambling and drug habits dictated. On hearing this, Damien’s mum had a nervous breakdown, leaving him to look after her and a baby brother, whilst struggling with addiction.

By the age of 19 he was dealing drugs in a desperate attempt to fund a self-destructive lifestyle dominated by speed, cannabis, and whatever he could get his hands on. Robbery also became necessary for him to live like this.

Unbreakable cycle
A brief stint in the army ended when Damien’s girlfriend left him, which sent him back to drink and drugs with a vengeance. Another girlfriend was a heroin addict who he thought he could help get ‘clean’. Instead, he developed a taste for heroin himself, even as his girlfriend gave birth to a son. Their partnership did not last; Damien did not see his son grow up.

“The law caught up with me and I was sentenced to three years for burglary,” says Damien. “In prison I completed a RAPt course (Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners). So I was free from drink and drugs… until my sentence was over. Six weeks after leaving prison, having relapsed into addiction, I was arrested for armed robbery.”

A much longer prison sentence followed, during which time he completed another RAPt course, gained qualifications in Maths and English, and an NVQ as a fitness instructor. Eventually he was moved to an open prison where drugs were all too easily available. This led to violence and a backwards move to HM Prison Lewes and then each of the three Isle of Sheppey prisons in turn.

Once again, although clean and sober on release, Damien headed straight back to his old addiction, which inevitably led to crime and a return to HM Prison Lewes. He entered a detox programme on release, and was living in recovery from addiction until he entered another relationship, with another woman who used heroin.

Admitting the truth
Two children were the result of this relationship, and for a while the family were functioning together under the same roof. But, as he says, “Regardless of everything else I was doing, I just could not stop drinking.” (“Everything else” included methadone, benzedrine, crack cocaine and heroin.) Eventually Damien’s partner threw him out of the family home.

He became ‘impossible to house – thus homeless – in the local area, as all the landlords knew not to open their doors to him. In the summer of 2012, Damien woke up in Ashford Hospital having suffered his eighth overdose.

Following another detox programme, he made a crucial choice. In his words, “It was either Kenward House or a mixed-sex residential project with the freedom to come and go at will. But I chose Kenward for the discipline of having to stay on site for the first month and work hard at my recovery. It forced me to confront myself honestly and has made all the difference.”

Damien finally felt safe enough to properly analyse his life. His previous attempts at detox and recovery had been for the wrong reasons, mainly because they eased his passage through prison. He had never honestly wanted to remain abstinent for the rest of his life. Thanks to the group work, counselling and therapy at Kenward, his attitude had changed – recovery was within his grasp.

Damien continues to work on his rehabilitation at the Malthouse – Kenward’s second stage project – and he is building a structure for a new life in the community. He volunteers at a local horse sanctuary, attends recovery meetings regularly, and has joined a football team for the first time in two decades. He has regular supervised play sessions with his children, and is back in contact with the teenage son he never knew. “To succeed in recovery you’ve got to want to do it yourself,” he says. “For the first time ever I truly want that, thanks to Kenward.”

"I’ve had too much pain because of my addiction, and I don’t want to go back to where I was. Thanks to Kenward, I don’t have to."

Story written in February 2013.

Find out more about Kenward House

Find out more about the Malthouse


Real life stories - Reset

Carlos' Story

Carlos offending behaviour began at the age of 13 years old in his home town in Portugal which he describes as “petty theft,” stealing sweets from the local shops for fun. At fourteen he started using cannabis “because of peer pressure and wanting to part of the crowd”.  By the age of 16 Carlos was a regular user of heroin and cocaine. It was in this era that he was arrested for his first offence of armed robbery, he was not convicted of this offence.  When he was 19 years old he was held on remand in a Portuguese prison for attempted murder and possession of a class A Drug, he served one month and the charges were then dropped. 

At the age of 21 Carlos decided that he wanted to travel. He first visited Spain where he “wasted the money he had on Drugs”. He moved on to France where he worked and saved his money for two and half months.  Carlos then flew to Holland and spent his savings on a “drugs binge”. He came to England in 1996 and met and moved in with his new partner, they went on to have twin children.  In this period Carlos did not use drugs.  After the breakdown of this relationship and the death of his mother Carlos began to use heroin more heavily and his offending dramatically increased as he needed to fund his habit. Carlos soon became part of the revolving door phenomenon as he received numerous drug related convictions often serving less than a year in prison only to be reconvicted a short while after. 

Carlos was referred to Reset by Elmley Resettlement Department and two Reset volunteers met him in prison at the beginning of May this year.  His needs were assessed using the Seven Pathways for Reducing Offending as a thematic guide.  The Reset volunteers identified accommodation, benefits finance and debts, drugs and alcohol, education and training and children and families as the key areas where he needed support.   Referrals for accommodation were made; contact with appropriate drug intervention agencies was made on his behalf as he needed to continue with his Suboxone prescription. He was supported with his benefit applications, suitable courses for him become an interpreter were found and the volunteers also helped successfully to facilitate contact with his ex-partner.  

Carlos engaged well with his Reset mentors and upon release he was met at the prison gate. Mentor support continued on a twice weekly basis and regular telephone contact was made. Carlos reintegration back into the community was not a smooth process, as he had issues with accommodation and benefits, but he has remained positive throughout and managed to stay off of heroin. Carlos said “that if it was not for my Reset Mentors I would have been back in prison within a week that is a guarantee.  I would have gone back to drugs and my old life, committing crime to fund my habit.  I would have thought what’s the point of me trying it does not get me anywhere. The Reset mentors have helped me sort my life out, they found me accommodation, got me funding while my benefits were being sorted out, helped me do appeals to the benefit agency and even taken me to see my ex-partner.  In fact they have supported me in any way I needed it. They have helped me not lose my marbles”.

Carlos is now looking forward to a “normal “life.  He wants to get off Suboxone and be settled permanently in social accommodation. He wants to attend college to gain qualifications in the five languages he can speak to enable him to work as an interpreter.  He hopes to eventually be able to secure work as a Drugs Intervention Worker and is currently seeking volunteering opportunities in this field.

James' Story

James describes his childhood as “Troubled, the sort of childhood no one should ever experience”. His father was an alcoholic and James suffered several periods of mental cruelty at the hands of his father. James suffered with many medical problems as a child and particularly remembers his near death experience. At the age of thirteen James found out that his twin sister had died at birth and remembers feeling devastated and found it hard to talk about it with anyone. At the age of thirteen James began to drink alcohol, starting with a couple of cans but this quickly progressed to a lot more.

At the age of 18 James was convicted of his first offence, indecent assault on a child under the age of 16 years old. He received two years probation and received little help.

James went on to have three children all by separate mothers. His first child he raised as a single father for many years and continued to remain in close contact with his second child. James then went on to marry and had another child as well as bringing up to stepdaughters. He remained in this relationship for 15 years.

James second offence was 2 x indecent assaults on a child under the age of 16 years old. His victims were his two stepdaughters. James was charged, convicted and sentenced to 7 years; 4 year custodial and 3 years extended licence. He will also remain on the Sex Offender Register for Life and is subjected to Sexual Offences Prevention Order.

James attributes his sex offending to his mental state, he said “I was struggling with my own emotions and I became complacent about my first offence and circumstances. I became less aware of my attractive to young females and confused it with my role as a step father.” James says “he went through a range of emotions; angry, guilt, apprehension, fear, anxiety, self pity and guilt”.

James does not believe prison acts as a deterrent but believes that the core Sex Offending Treatment Programme was pivotal to his rehabilitation. He said “it helped him recognise that he did have a problem and made him understand that he was attracted to young females and that this attraction would always be there. He said the course really provided him with the tools help ensure that he did not reoffend”.

James believes that his engagement with Reset has helped him tremendously. He said “that being able to talk to someone who would judge him about his offences has helped boost his self esteem and confidence dramatically. The support given to him be his mentors has helped him see that he does not have a label attached to him and helped him have the confidence to get out there. He says he is now willing to try new things and it is because of his mentors that he has started to develop appropriate social networks”. He also has recently made contact with his eldest son and is now re building his relationship with him and is considering entering in to a relationship with a lady that is aware of his past offending behaviour.

James says “that he now James now plans to secure employment, remain content and self aware. He wants to lead an offence free settled life and become “functioning member of society”.

Kellie's Story

Kellie describes her “childhood as happy and normal” living with her mother, father and brother. Kellie’s parents remained happily married until Kellie was 28 years old when they split and divorced. Kellie says she that when her dad left the marital home she found it particularly hard to deal with as she had always been a “daddies girl”. Kellie remained in regular contact with her father for another 8 years and enjoyed the father and daughter relationship. This contact slowly began to diminish and soon became intermittent for around three years. Kellie believes that her father began to favour her brother over her and she started to resent this. Soon afterwards contact ceased completely. This is something Kellie really struggled with.

Kellie’s involvement in the Criminal Justice System began when her ex partner left her and unbeknown to her also left a large drug debt. Kellie says the drug dealer threatened her and demanded his money. Unable to repay this sum of money Kellie was coerced into working for the drug dealer and was expected to act as a runner for him. Kellie told me that this individual “threatened to hurt her family if she did not agree”. Kellie was forced to work for a year as a drug dealer.

Kellie was arrested, charged, convicted and imprisoned for her first and only offence. Kellie had been pulled over by the police for using a mobile phone whilst driving just outside Gillingham Police Station on what she describes as “Black Friday” (the Friday before Christmas.)The police spotted six deal bags of cocaine in the foot well of Kellies car and they asked her if she had any more. Kellie admitted to having 126 deal bags of cocaine in her handbag. The police conducted a further search and found a cash book which revealed customer’s names and monies outstanding, a bundle of unused deal bags and £970 in cash. She was charged with supply and possession of a Class A Drug and her car was immediately seized. She received a 2 year 8 month custodial sentence, serving 11 ½ months. Eight weeks in HMP Bronzefield and 9 ½ months in HMP East Sutton Park open prison. Kellie describes this experience “as a blessing in disguise, the best thing that could have ever happened to me” she said “it gave me a way out; it gave me back my life”.

Kellie took full advantage the prison educational resources achieving; a City and Guilds level one and two in Food and Hygiene; Level 2 in Literature and Numeracy. As well as a level 2 OCN qualification in Hairdressing; Bics Cleaning Academy Certificate and certificates in Health and Safety and Manuel Handling. She also worked on the Prison Pig Farm, worked with the horses and helped with the lambing. She also worked as a Wing Cleaner earning £10 per week and assisted at the Farmers Markets. She helped out on visit days at the prison selling sweets to the visitors and volunteered in Sue Ryder’s Charity Shop twice a week.

Kellie was referred to Reset via HMP East Sutton Park where she met with two Reset Mentors on several occasions before she was released. These mentors have continued to meet with Kellie on a weekly basis since. Kellie says that “she does not know where she would be without Caz and Simone (Caz’s PA)” Kellie said “that she would probably be in a deep depression without them”. She believes that meeting “Caz has made her life easier” as she has helped boost her confidence, assisted her in looking for work, helped secure a clothing grant for her, helped look for suitable housing and helped her look for appropriate college courses. Kellie said “Caz has even managed to get me funding for a bus pass, because I live in an isolated area and public transport is really expensive”. Kellie says that she really looks forward to their weekly meetings and enjoys the regular telephone contact from her mentor.

Kellie is extremely positive about her future and is currently looking full time employment. Once she has secured this she plans to save for a car and eventually moved out of her mother’s house into her own home. But most of all Kellie says aims “to be happy and remain offence free”.