DIP Can Help Save Lives Says Dennis
Dennis, who is currently a DIP client receiving treatment at Chambers House in Blackwood, had an unsettled childhood and practically grew up in the care system. He was split up from his brother and sisters as a child because of problems in the family and has never had somewhere he could properly call his home.
An addict for more than three decades, he started sniffing gas and smoking cannabis when he was just 10 years old. He was always on the run and was always getting into fights. Some of the older boys he was hanging around with at the time used to make him climb in through open windows of houses to open doors for burglars and let them in. He spent most of his childhood in and out of secure units in England and Wales before being sent to a number of detention centres and youth custody units.
In 1997, when he was in his early 20's, Dennis took heroin for the first time at a house party. That's when his life began to spiral out of control. Trapped in a vicious cycle, he spent the next 20 years committing crimes to fund his habit and was constantly living in and out of prison. His addiction drove him to the brink of suicide and he has seen most of his friends die from drug overdoses over the years. He was last arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply and was sentenced to six years in prison. Desperate for help, his Probation Officer eventually put him in touch with Gwent DIP three years ago and that's when his journey to tackle his lifetime of addiction began.
"I would normally take cocaine and heroin mixed together and it just took over my life," says Dennis.
"Taking drugs has ruined my whole life basically and they control you completely in the end. You start committing crimes to get money to buy drugs and it's just a vicious circle. Heroin takes away all your inhibitions and your self-respect and you just don't care about anyone or anything anymore - it kills all your feelings. I was just walking around like a robot and I had to take heroin just to stop feeling ill. I was hell bent on getting my hands on drugs without thinking of the consequences. At my lowest ebb I felt like killing myself and I went down to six stone at one point. I was just a walking mess basically."
With the help of support from Gwent DIP and its partner agencies, Dennis now hopes he's firmly on the road to recovery.
"The only time I ever got real help is when I started coming here three years ago and they started drug testing me," says Dennis.
"Trying to break that cycle and change your life is not as easy as people think. I've had to avoid all my old friends to stop putting myself in positions where I can use. Otherwise you're just caught in a vicious circle and the peer pressure is intense. I've come a long way but I'm still on a prescription from the Doctor at the moment. They whittle the dose down over a period of time so you don't need it anymore. It feels like I'm in control of my life for the first time now and I'm just glad that I've got a grip on this addiction because I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy - it's killed nearly all my friends."
Despite the occasional relapses in the past, Dennis is now looking to the future and now hopes to support substance misusing offenders who are growing through the same experiences.
"My message to people coming out of prison is to go to DIP or ask if you can be referred to DIP, otherwise you'll be risking your life everyday just to feed your addiction," says Dennis.
"I just want to be clean now, do the best I can and hopefully help people like myself who have been through the same experiences."
Dennis hopes the new website launched by DIP today will help even more people access the essential service.
"People leaving prison or who have been arrested need to know that this programme is here because it could help save their lives," he says.
"It's also important for the families of offenders so they can look it up online and understand what their relatives are going through or what support they need and where they can get that support."