I think it was just a deterioration from about 1996 - alcohol, bad choices, relationships. I was a sheltered housing manager, then the alcohol just took over. My marriage split and I had a big messy divorce. I would drink on a weekend socially, or have a bottle of wine indoors. Then that sort of crept up to having a bottle of wine every day. I even started drinking at lunch time at work. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the same time. You don’t just get bipolar, it’s a build up of trauma. You get so many traumatic events in your life, it’s like overloading a computer, and you can’t process everything building up.

I attempted suicide numerous times. Twice I ended up on life support. My daughter left because she found me after one attempt. It’s been really difficult for my kids. My family was very supportive though, and they even put me into private detox. They tried to challenge the mental health services to get me better help. After my second really bad suicide attempt they were asking, “Why has she not got a social worker? Why has she not got a support worker?”

A previous partner kept going to prison for beating me up and I got put into two different women’s refuges. But when you go into a women’s refuge there’s no support. They just think you’re in a place of safety so they leave you there and everyone is drinking and taking drugs. I was on drugs for about six years, crack and heroin. Because I’m diagnosed bipolar, I couldn’t go to rehab because of my medication. So you come out of detox and instead of rehab it’s back to your old habits.

All that I kept getting told was that I had a dual diagnosis. I didn’t even know what that meant. If you’re dual diagnosis no one takes you in; the mental health services say the problem is addiction, the addiction services say you need to fix your mental health.

I’m living proof that you can come out the other side of addiction and mental illness and have a good life.

I saw a psychiatrist who said “I can’t understand how no service has picked you up”, and referred me to SHP. At the time I had antisocial behaviour orders on me. They were seeking possession of my flat because of my behaviour. If I wasn’t being arrested in a police station I was being sectioned and being put in mental health care.

Nobody was managing my care before. SHP was exciting because all the service providers were communicating. That’s how everywhere should work, if you ask me. I thought it was fabulous. My support worker would take me to any appointments and stay with me. And that reassured my family.

I’m living proof that you can come out the other side of addiction and mental illness and have a good life. I just thought I was gonna die, that my life was over. I never thought I’d be sitting here doing voluntary work. Not in a million years. My family didn’t think that either. I was at rock bottom, with nothing to live for.

As a Peer Mentor, I can relate to the clients I meet. I don’t usually give my experience away straight away but if I see someone struggling with something, I will open up a little bit and say “I do know what you’re going through.” You can’t rush people with addictions, you have to work with your thinking process. I think when you’ve been through all that sort of stuff, it makes you a stronger person.

I grieved for the lost years of my life, for what I put my children and my family through. I have two children – they are 24 and 30 – and two grandchildren. It sort of dawned on me that I can’t change the past but I can build the future, and that’s what I told my children. I’m still building relationships and getting back in with my family. They are happy to see me now but I do have a very strained relationship with my daughter. I haven’t blacked it out because it’s there with me all the time, but I’m just feeling happy because I’m here now, with beautiful grandchildren, and I’m happy now.