Norfolk charity helps desperate addicts change their lives

With her son addicted to heroin, Kath did not know where to turn. The 56-year-old from Norwich had struggled to deal with her son's drug addiction for almost a decade and needed help.

'I was feeling absolutely desperate and at my wits' end,' she said. 'It affects your relationship with a partner, your performance at work – it can make you physically ill. It is constantly living at a pitch of stress and worry and sadness.'

For the last four years she has come to support groups for carers run by the Matthew Project in Pottergate.

'We all have one connection and we all understand,' she said. 'Most people see an 'alchie' or a 'druggie'.

'What people don't see are the ripple effects – a wasted life, families and networks of people who are destroyed by it and are trying everything to save that person.'

Lorraine Smedley works with carers who look after family members with drug addictions. She said many parents came with a sense of guilt, thinking their child's drug addiction was their fault.

'There is no need for them to be ashamed. Parents have been helped and that has ensured the atmosphere in the family is better and their children feel that they can seek help.'

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Mary, from Norwich, went to the Matthew Project two years ago and was given counselling.

'I hit a big low with my drinking. I knew I had to get help. I knew if I didn't I would end up in a hole somewhere.

'I was lost for a lot of years in the bottle and everything just went along around me.'

Through weekly mentoring sessions the 42-year-old has managed to stop drinking and said the project had given her belief and a new lust for life.

'When you are in an addiction for a long period of time you hide yourself away,' she said. 'It has given me a lot more confidence again.'

The charity offers services across Norfolk and Suffolk.

Adam Smith, 38, began taking drugs when he was 14. At its peak, his 23-year addiction saw him smoke 28 cannabis joints a day. His marijuana habit led to paranoia and anxiety, and he needed help for mental health issues. But since going to the Matthew Project's recovery caf� at Thetford he has packed in the habit and is now a mentor for recovering drug addicts.

'I thought enough was enough,' he said. 'I was confrontational to friends and family and my mum.'

He took counselling and with his drug worker worked out how to end his addiction.

'It is about changing your lifestyle, so instead of scoring drugs I'd come to the caf�. Recovery is full-time, not once a week.'

Gina Roper, who is a recovery worker at the Thetford centre, said: 'Drug-users are an urban tribe. They run a community and you have to change that person's community, so we offer them the opportunity to join a recovery community.'

Art classes, poetry, gardening, and projects at Thetford museum have all helped the charity get people off drugs.

But withdrawal gave Adam hot and cold sweats.

'My moods were unbelievable. When I first went in [to the caf�] I didn't think it would work but I changed my way of thinking.'

•Success of the Voice Box

Matthew Project workers can also be found working in the evenings out of their Voice Box –a caravan where youths can come and talk about their problems rather than drinking in parks and on streets.

Sophie Neech, pictured, from the project's youth team, said: 'We are happy to challenge attitudes towards alcohol. We talk about what they want to talk about and try to build up a rapport.'

The Voice Box was so successful when used at Sprowston last summer that it was credited with reducing crime rates and workers from the project's youth team now visit Sprowston every Wednesday night.

The youth team is also working on a project funded by Comic Relief, educating youngsters about the dangers of alcohol.

•Anyone who would like to volunteer at the Matthew Project or needs help with addictions can contact the team on 0800 764754 or 01603 626123. Visit the websiste at www.matthewproject.org for more information.

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