Former addict marries 'guardian angel' after years of 'hell'
- Credit: Denise Bradley
A father-of-two has beaten two decades of addiction and finally married his childhood sweetheart who stuck by him.
Stevie Ainsworth, 37, who lives near Bury St Edmunds, said he lived 21 years of drugs, crime, lies, manipulation and cheating before turning his life around - and he now feels like he is in "a dream".
He married his long-term partner Lisa in December 2019, who he had known since they were teenagers, only weeks after he returned from life-changing rehab in South Africa.
He said: "We had been together 22 years, but we always wanted to get married.
"I just don't think I was marriage material, to be honest. I was too much of a rogue. I was terrible. I was a nightmare.
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"She saw something in me that I never saw in myself and that always gave me hope, and she's stuck by me.
"She went through hell. I just think she's my guardian angel to be honest. It's really amazing."
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As a teenager he found himself introduced to cannabis, later getting hooked on heroin, cocaine and ecstasy.
The family moved to get Stevie away from the gang he had become involved with, but he found drugs again and started dealing. Drink and gambling were also his weaknesses.
A suicide attempt in 2019 was the "final straw," he said, and set alarm bells ringing for Stevie's mum and partner Lisa.
He went to South Africa to receive treatment and aftercare with family and friends raising £12,500 to pay for the package.
Stevie had been under the care of mental health services in the UK, but said this didn't work for him - a stint at a psychiatric home out-of-county made him "10 times worse," he said.
While in South Africa, he opened up for the first time about sexual abuse he suffered when he was a teenager, at the hands of a drug user - a trauma he believes contributed to his destructive behaviour.
The clinic also diagnosed him with ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), which had never been picked up on when he was a child.
Stevie was an atheist, but during his stay joined in prayers at the centre.
"I just got down on my hands and knees and looked at this beautiful mountain, Table Mountain in Cape Town, and just prayed," he said.
"I tried for 21 years to stop and got all this help at psychiatric homes, and doctors and medication, hypnotherapy - you name it, I tried it - and nothing worked. I found Jesus."
He had embraced the Narcotics Anonymous (NA) programme and on his return home joined Westley Community Church in Bury St Edmunds - where he was baptised about three months ago.
Stevie, Lisa and their children Rhys, 12, and Layla, eight, felt completely welcomed and he said they have "never looked back".
Stevie has now been clean for two years and is working hard at his recovery, attending 90 NA meetings in 90 days "to keep me going".
He used to work in a steel factory, but has a new job as a support worker at a drug and alcohol treatment centre in Essex.
He said: "Life is just like a dream. I feel like I'm dreaming. I have so much energy and love and gratitude. I'm just like an electric current. I'm just buzzing."
Lisa, 38, a disability assessor, said: "To start with I couldn't believe it. It was almost too good to be true. It took me quite a while because I was constantly waiting for something to happen.
"In the past, just when I thought things were okay something went wrong and we went through it again and that was my life for however long.
"Now I have lived with it for a little while. It's just amazing."
Stevie wanted to thank everyone at the Highlands treatment centre in South Africa and his family for believing in him.
His message to others who are struggling is: "No matter how bad you feel, if you really, really want it, it's out there. Just don't give up."
Stevie's dream is to set up a 'sober living house' in England to help those recovering from addiction to adjust back into society.