Posted : 25th February 2016
From an early age, Lisa Thompson from Birmingham felt that her future was laid out before her. The eldest of 4 children, she felt a burden of responsibility to join her family business and, after gaining some admin/secretarial qualifications, she began working for the family skip hire and waste transfer firm. At the age of just 29, she took over the running of the business. Lisa found it difficult to cope with the pressure and this, combined with trying to looking after her two children as well as other family issues happening in the background, led to Lisa sliding into a depression which culminated in a nervous breakdown.
At this point Lisa had never even smoked a cigarette before, let alone tried drugs. But a family member was a heroin user and one day she also decided to try it. “That was it, as soon as I smoked it I instantly felt better.” This was a tipping point that led Lisa into years of drug abuse and addiction. The business started to deteriorate, along with her personal life. She says,”both my partner and I were now using heroin. We lost our home, we were selling our possessions and racking up debt to pay for drugs.”
Then after 8 years of addiction and chaos, Lisa and her partner both decided to stop. “We’d had enough. We just said that the next day we wouldn’t get any more drugs, and we didn’t. Coming off methadone was worse than coming off heroin, it almost split us up. After years of feeling numb, all our emotions came flooding back, which was difficult to cope with.”
At the same time, Lisa’s mother had been going to Aquarius, a charity which helps individuals and their families overcome the harms caused by alcohol, drugs and gambling. She encouraged Lisa to attend a group session. “It really helped and gave me something to focus on. They suggested that I attend Fircroft College.”
In 2012 Lisa first stepped through the doors of Fircroft at an Open Day. She says, “I fell in love with the place straight away. It felt so lovely and welcoming.” She enrolled on some Personal and Social Development courses and was encourage to progress onto Stepping Stones courses. “By this time I was starting to get my life back on track. People were telling me to go back into admin/secretarial work, but as soon as I started Stepping Stones I knew that’s the direction I wanted to go in.”
Lisa started volunteering for Aquarius. A staff member gave her an application form for a full-time role and told her that she should apply. It was the first application form she’d ever filled in. She was surprised but thrilled to be invited to interview - then a few days later she received a phone call. “Aquarius told me that I hadn’t got the job I’d applied for – that was the answer I expected so I wasn’t too disappointed. However they explained they would like to offer me a similar role because they were so impressed. I couldn’t believe it!”
Lisa has now been working full-time at Aquarius for 6 months, providing support to people aged 50 and over who are socially isolated and whose alcohol use has become problematic. She loves her job and is grateful to all the support she has had in helping her to change her life so dramatically. Of her time at Fircroft, Lisa says,”The staff and tutors at the College were so fantastic and supported me every step of the way. I met so many different types of people there and being able to stay over really helped me to concentrate on what I was there for. The surroundings and environment made me feel relaxed and comfortable. I owe Fircroft an awful lot.”