Tommy experienced alcohol dependency and homelessness before turning his life around. Tommy's road to recovery included volunteering with Expeerience Counts and Well-Informed, which are SAMH services in North Lanarkshire. He is now a published poet and sits on the management committee of Lanarkshire Link as a trustee.
"My name is Tommy and my story starts in December 1992 when my mother-in-law passed away. I was trying to comfort my wife over her mother’s death. Then four weeks later my father died on 10 January – and that was my own mother’s birthday. I was devastated and I found my wife was now trying to comfort me over his death. My dad was my best pal and my mentor.
"I was starting to get over the devastation when, in 1998, my wife died just one week before our 23rd wedding anniversary. Two years later my mother passed away.
"I thought my life had fell apart, and I sought solace through alcohol. I lasted for about five years and then decided I needed to do something about it. I went for counselling. I was losing my house at that time and the counsellor got me into the Bridgework Project in Motherwell, which is a homeless unit for men. I started to write poetry while I was in the unit, which helped me put my grief into words.
"I am now a published poet, and the supporters in the unit got the four men housed in the project into adult education. I went on to do a volunteer tutor course. While in the unit, a gentleman came from clubnet, now called Expeerience Counts within SAMH. I started to volunteer, and I was putting together the clubnet magazine. Later another volunteer and I recorded the magazine onto a CD for other service users.
"I now volunteer with Well-Informed, which is a mental health information service, and we go out and do stalls all over North Lanarkshire: in hospitals, health centres, libraries, churches or events at Strathclyde Park.
"You can meet all kinds of people when you are doing the stalls and you can get some characters when you are out and about.
"Expeerience Counts opened a new office in Airdrie, and I was at the opening where we met two peer supporters who worked with Phoenix Futures, a service that supports people to get off drug and alcohol.
"One of our peer supporters suggested that I would make a great volunteer peer with Phoenix Futures in Coatbridge. I have now been working there for around 12 years which has helped me with my own alcohol addiction.
"I love doing my volunteer work, it was the best thing that I ever done in my life. So if you want something to do – volunteering is a good start.
"I recently became a trustee on the management committee with Lanarkshire Links which also helps in my recovery and fills my time. Volunteering has built my confidence and helped aid me in my recovery through grief and alcoholism.
"I am now almost 19 years sober."