Former Wigan cocaine addict now works for the charity that saved his life
Jake Kirkpatrick contemplated suicide as his life spiralled out of control after becoming hooked on cocaine.
But local services brought him back from the brink and now the 21-year-old is a recovery worker for drug and alcohol support provider WithYou which has just had its contract renewed with Wigan Council.
With You will now expand services with new community-led initatives in the borough, the specialists have already helped almost 6,000 individuals across Wigan and Leigh since September 2022.
Expansion will see the organisation provide Intuitive Thinking Skills programmes for victims and perpetrators of domestic abuse who have issues with drugs and acohol.
Teaming up with BAC O’Connor, it will supply volunteer and work placement opportunities at Greenslate Community Farm in Orrell, helping those to build skills and confidence and assisting those to access long term employment opportunities.
Additional support will also be available at the 47 pharmacies in and around the borough, where supervised consumption of opioid substitution treatment is already provided. WithYou will now distribute naloxone – an overdose reversal drug – as well as assessments to identify people who may benefit from support.
One individual already to have benefitted from the support provided by WithYou is Jake.
Bullied for his diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at school, he sought the opportunity to fit in by buying cocaine at a house party aged 17 and it changed his life.
Jake said: “It made me feel I was a part of something and fit in.”
But his habit escalated from the age of 18, where he would frequently visit pubs and use cocaine there. The start of lockdown saw him question how he would continue to use the substance, eventually resulting in him using in his bedroom.
After being caught stealing from his employers, Jake was sacked from his job and this is where the severity of the problem became clear, during this time he would spend £700 to 800 buying drugs and got himself into debt as a result.
Now feeling like he couldn’t see his family, Jake attempted to take his own life in a canal. After panicking he managed to get out of the water and was eventually referred to WithYou’s Young Person Service.
His recovery wroker Diane sent him to residential rehab to undergo a 12-week programme. Coming out on September 28 2021, Jake has not used cocaine since.
He said: “I started as a recovery worker in May 2022. My job is to manage a caseload of individuals who are struggling with drink a drug abuse issues and work towards their needs. Whether that is one-to-one support or referring them into rehab or detox to get them off their drug of choice. We can also help if people are facing financial troubles and divert them to places where they can access food.
"I like to share personal experiences with our clients, as it goes to show that someone who has been in a similar situation to them can reach out and get the help that they need but most importantly deserve. Many think that they don’t deserve the help because they’ve done some bad things in the past but that’s actually not the case, everyone deserves an equal opportunity. We provide a listening ear as many people don’t have someone that they can speak openly about their issues to.”
Sharon Wain, Contracts Manager at WithYou in Wigan and Leigh said: “We are delighted to continue supporting young people and adults across Wigan and Leigh with drug and alcohol treatment services, as well as expanding on our well established offering supporting people in the region.
"Providing non-judgemental, compassionate support to people affected by drug and alcohol use is core to a happy and healthy community.”
Jake added: "The most important part of my journey would be being referred to WithYou because I was at death’s door when I got referred which was the day after a suicide attempt. I was allocated a really nice worker who introduced me to cocaine anonymous which I still attend now. She gave me a second chance at life.
"Anybody can make a referral as long as the person that they are referring gives them consent. At that moment in time I would have done anything to try and get some help so it was actually my mum who referred me in. It was apretty simple process and a few days later my key worker visited me at home and assessed me and my key needs, then we just went from there.”
"I always tell people now that growth doesn’t come from your comfort zone and a lot of people aren’t comfortable speaking to members of their family who they want to make proud. Telling somebody that you have a drug addiction and that it’s ruining your life is difficult because you might not think it makes people proud.
"The main bit of advice I give is to reach out as soon as possible. You can’t do it on your own. I tried to do it on my own for so long and it just didn’t work. There are people out there who care, will listen to you and will help you as much as they can.”
Coun Keith Cunliffe portfolio holder for adult social care at Wigan Council said: “WithYou has been successful in delivering drug and alcohol treatment services to the Wigan and Leigh community for close to 10 years. We are delighted they will continue this work using their well established relationships on the ground to support local communities.
"Their drive and determination as an organisation to help drug and alcohol users aligns with our commitment as a Council to ensure local people live safe and fulfilling lives. Alongside WithYou, we’ll be able to continue providing focused support in the Wigan and Leigh community to those who need it the most.”
If you are worried about your own or someone else's drinking or drug use get in touch with WithYou in Wigan and Leigh via the With You website or by calling 01942 827979.