Volunteering for SHP has provided Gareth with an opportunity to rediscover his passion for recovery.

He began to help people experiences substance misuse after giving up a career in journalism. Having had his own substance misuse issues as a teenager, he wanted to help others who were facing the same challenges.

Gareth first worked as a counsellor, before moving to work in prisons. He eventually got a job managing a rehabilitation service for people with substance misuse and mental health problems, but found that the position took him away from the people he wanted to help. He began to question his desire to stay in the sector.

In 2012, he finally decided to quit this job to work as a magician and to volunteer. He found SHP though the Do It website, recalling that the Recovery Peer role “really grabbed me.” Recovery Peers, having overcome addiction themselves, help to show clients of the Aftercare service that recovery is possible.

Gareth now runs drop-in groups where clients have the opportunity to chat in a relaxed environment. There are no professionals present and he likes discussions to be client-led. “It doesn’t have to be about drugs and alcohol - it’s dealing with the reasons behind using in the first place,” he says.

He has enjoyed the freedom of his role compared to previous jobs in the sector. When he thinks back to working as a counsellor he remembers being “much more bound.” As a Recovery Peer, he is able to share his own story when he thinks it will help clients.

After coming to SHP unsure about where to take his career, he says: “I’ve learnt I’m still passionate about working in this field.” He loves working with people and he has decided that his next job needs to be client-focused.

At the moment, he wants to continue as a Recovery Peer while developing his magic. As well as performing, he has been training at-risk young people to do magic tricks. The increased confidence and interpersonal skills that trainees develop has helped many to escape gangs and continue their education. He wants to bring this approach to recovery, and is developing a course called ‘Therapy Through Magic’, which will help people with substance misuse issues. One day soon he’s hoping that he can use this to help some of his SHP clients.

His work saw him win the 2015 Islington Volunteer of the Year award, but he believes this recognises the Recovery Peers as a group. “I’m just one of the team,” he says about receiving the honour.