Ex-addict turns life around, thanks to his supporters

IPSWICH: A former drug user has said a heartfelt thank you to the people who have helped him turn his life around as he prepares to start a degree next month.

Gary Clark, 45, of Foxhall Road, had used cocaine occasionally for several years. But when his relationship started to break down in 2007, he found his life spiralling out of control and started trying other illegal drugs, including heroin.

However it was when his children, who are grown up, forced him to face up to his addiction a year later that he decided to seek help from drug treatment centre the Iceni project in Foundation Street, Ipswich.

Thanks to a �2,500 donation to the Iceni Project from Ipswich Orwell Rotary Club, which is twinned with the Rotary Club of Hannau Maintal in Germany, Mr Clark has now been funded to take on a degree course in psychology and youth studies at University Campus Suffolk.

Mr Clark, a former carpenter, said: “It wasn’t just the staff who helped me, it was also seeing some of the other clients and what they had been through – that was just as important.

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“It just gave me a sense of direction and self belief.”

Following his treatment at the Iceni Project, Mr Clark began to visit schools and other institutions to raise awareness of the consequences of drug addiction.

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He found he had a real talent for connecting with young people, and made it his ambition to pursue a career in that field.

He has already taken an NVQ qualification in listening and counselling, with help from the St Giles Trust, an organisation which helps people with criminal convictions to get their lives back on track, and he also volunteers a few days a week at the Suffolk Refugees’ Support Forum.

He added: “It is a big step for me and I am very apprehensive, not being an academic type of person, but I think I have got enough support around me to help me with it.

“I would like to say an enormous thank you to everyone who has helped me. It has been a long journey but I’m getting there.”

Brian Tobin, director and founder of Iceni in Ipswich, said: “Gary has worked tremendously hard while at Iceni in overcoming his problems with drugs and is a worthy candidate for improving his future employment chances.

“The initiative with the Rotary Club of Ipswich Orwell is a wonderful example of how a particular partnership can play an important part in our work.”

n Have you overcome a drug addiction and do you want to tell us your story? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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