‘Life is getting better and better’


- Credit: Gregg Brown

New Year resolutions often involve things like dieting, pledging to take more exercise or to eat more healthily.

Asha Sarda, after her charity skydive

Asha Sarda, after her charity skydive - Credit: Archant

But they weren’t even on Asha Sarda’s radar when she started to think about what she wanted to achieve in 2014.

Instead she chose to face her fears and, as she puts it, “live a little” by signing up for a charity skydive as her way of celebrating success in putting years of addiction and depression behind her.

“I have now been clean and sober since 2012,” says Asha. “One of my biggest irrational fears has always been heights, so at the start of this year I booked a skydive and chose to raise money for Survivors in Transition, a fantastic local charity that supports people who have suffered childhood sexual abuse.

Asha says the skydive, which she completed in Cambridgeshire in tandem with an experienced parachutist, marked a turning point. “I am getting my life back on track,” she says. “Despite my fear of heights, I have wanted to do something like a skydive for years but would never have been able to before.

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“On the day we had to do some basic training, watch a health and safety video and then wait to make sure the weather was OK. When we got the all-clear the plane took us up to about 12,000ft. I was the first out. I felt very nervous and could feel my stomach lurching. It was really difficult going out of the plane ? if I hadn’t been physically attached to my tandem skydiver I don’t think I would have done it. But once I was actually out, it was amazing and surreal, just looking down on everything. I had the descent filmed, so I’ve got it as a record and can watch it back. I was actually surprised at how calm I felt. Because you are so high up you haven’t got anything to judge the speed you are falling at against. When the parachute opens, you get to take it all in.

“When we were back on the ground I felt on such a high; I was really buzzing. Doing something like that makes you feel alive.”

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Asha, who celebrated her 35th birthday this week, started drinking “at a young age” and, for years, her life was blighted by alcohol. Things changed when she got help from a rehabilitation centre in Chelmsford.

“My drinking was starting to affect my health,” she says. “There were signs that my liver was deteriorating and if I hadn’t stopped drinking I don’t know what might have happened. But the liver is an amazing thing and it has fully recovered.”

As well as marking a new phase of her life, Asha’s skydive raised more than £500 for Survivors in Transition (SiT). The Ipswich-based charity was set up in 2010 to meet a gap in services and facilities for adults abused as children. Demand has increased by more than 200% since revelations about the crimes of television presenter Jimmy Savile and the launch of the associated Operation Yewtree investigation. As a result, the charity has moved to larger premises in Fore Street. SiT says it is widely accepted that one in four women and one in six men have been affected by childhood sexual abuse and adds: “The real prevalence is difficult to determine because many victims do not disclose or report their abuse. Most professionals accept that 15-20% of the adult population has been affected by abuse in childhood. Last year, SiT supported more than 700 survivors of sexual abuse across Suffolk. We offer six targeted group sessions a week, a peer support programme, outreach and individual advocacy, telephone, email and online support, as well as specialist, holistic counselling and social work service ? all entirely staffed and co-ordinated by volunteers.”

Asha decided to raise money for the charity after realising how many people were affected by childhood sexual abuse. “It is vital that the taboo around the subject is broken so people feel able to talk about it and it can’t be hidden away.” Asha, who lives in Sudbury and has a 12-year-old son, Clayton, has also just started a three-year social work course at University Campus Suffolk in Ipswich. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it before. Life is just getting better and better. My son is proud of how far I’ve come in the last couple of years and so is my mum. My dad passed away in June but he knew I was going to university and was proud I was turning my life around.

“If my story inspires anyone else who has alcohol problems I would be delighted. If I can do it, so can they.”

www.survivors-intransition.co.uk, phone 07765 052282 or email info@survivors-intransition.co.uk

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