On this page you will find powerful personal testimonies of individual change.
The support and treatment offered to people at this Project can enable individuals to identify and make major changes to their lives in the way they think, feel and behave.
St James Priory -'A very special place'
I was looking for a focus to describe my experience at Walsingham House. I saw this quote above on the St. James Priory website, and knew instantly this was my focus.
I was struggling with maintaining some kind of flow with my first attempt at writing of ‘my time at Walsingham’. The reason? There was just so much packed into a 5 month period.
With something that saved my life it is very hard not to mention literally everything, because literally everything had a profound effect on me.
And I find myself, yet again, rambling. It is so difficult not indulge myself with every small detail.
“A very special place” hit home the ‘spiritual’ feeling I left with. At graduation I was at pains to pass on this experience to the newcomers and anyone else. But I am so limited in communicating something that was this profound.
The church, the grounds that St James stands on is steeped in ‘spiritual’ history, and that was the sense I felt. I think I did have that feeling that “something” was helping me. There were a few occasions when things that happened went beyond coincidence. A picture fell down in the main residents area, when I was in desperate need of help. That same day the solution was granted. I was on the verge of leaving, but the ‘problem’ left instead. All without any input of mine. Some may say ‘coincidence’ that the picture fell down. I “knew” differently.
The church, where I spent many an hour contemplating my life (and death). Where I spent many an hour contemplating this concept of “ a power of my own understanding “, which, I might add, still baffles me today. More like a power of my ‘non-understanding.’
But here I am five and a half years later from my entry into Walsingham (21.11.99). A power did help me.
From the moment I spent crying in Sue’s room in front of the picture of Jesus. I was rebellious to religion (not unusual for us alcohol/addicts). And I asked Sue if there was a god or whatever, how come there were murderers and rapists? She calmly replied, “forgive the person but not the behaviour”.
It didn’t totally sink in at first and then as if by magic I heard another saying, “abused people abuse people”. With looking at my own behaviour and my own hurt I was able to link the three together and it gave me profound acceptance. Something I had never had all my life. It gave me forgiveness of others and a certain amount of self-forgiveness. This, of course, is most important to our healing from our addiction. My self hatred was always intimately linked to my suicidal thinking and thoughts of drinking or using. And my self hatred still baffles me today, so clever am I at my own self deception, and deceiving others too.
However I can’t fool other addicts/alcoholics. That saying “you cant kid a kidder” is so true. And this was the major part of being at Walsingham. Breaking down my denial, which was keeping me from looking at myself realistically. Easy to say but not easy to do. I had spent 25 years dodging looking at myself and still wondered why I lived in fear. Fear of myself.
Then the beautiful people in Walsingham provided experience and most importantly of all “unconditional love”. I started to accept that all my “failings” and feelings (!!) were Ok.
That my life wreckage wasn’t my fault yet I was still accountable for it.
All this love and support started me on my journey of self acceptance and acceptance of others. And I am still on that journey now. It hasn’t been easy and it has been full of tears. But I have also had a lot of joy. The most joy I have had is through self acceptance and, even more so, through “awareness”.
The lovely part of the journey is belonging to a group with others who have struggled and still do struggle with life, but have the frame of the 12 steps to work with (take it or leave it).
And Walsingham House was the first part of my journey.
The foundation I had there has never left me.
There are so many things I can remember I wish I could write them all down.
I wish I could leave my phone number now for every resident to have, and to phone me anytime. I am not sure of the ethics of this though. You may not appreciate the love I feel for all of you right this minute. How can I feel this if I am here and haven’t met you? Easy. I am just like you.
I hope you will come to realise this love. I was very cynical of it.
But that love is already there, right now, with you.
In that “very special place”.
Tim Kelly clean and sober since 21.11.99
(Resident of Walsingham House 21.11.99 to 31.04.00)
I am 28 years old and come from Bristol, I have been involved in violent crime for many years due to my addiction to alcohol & drugs. I remember I was 7 years old the first time I had taken alcohol and the feeling it gave me, it removed all my fears I had and gave me great amounts of confidence.
Alcohol has played a big part in my life as my father was an alcoholic and is now dead due to not seeking help about the illness of addiction. I had been drinking alcohol for many years never thinking it would slowly and gradually destroy my life. Whilst growing up I always associated alcohol with manhood, the more you could drink the more of a man you would become. Looking back at my childhood now it was far from normal. I would regularly see my dad drunk and being physically violent towards my mum.
My days atjunior school was not spent concentrating on school work it was spent thinking about what would be going on at home, if my dad was once again using his fists on my mum and wondering what I would be coming home to. I also have 2 sisters and we spent a lot of time together in a different room wondering what was going on in the other room, why the arguments happened between my parents and I remember saying to myself that one day I would put a stop to my dad. At aged 8 my parents separated and I lived with my dad and my sisters with my mum. I spent a lot of time in pubs where I would see violence and soon believed that was part of being a man, after a short time apart my parents got back together. Secondary school I did not attend often as I never felt I fitted in and was bullied due to the clothing I wore. I did not have the designer trainers, my dads money went on alcohol and my mums money to feed us.
I left school at fifteen and worked in a local gym where I was now earning my own money and spending it mainly in the local pubs getting drunk and fighting. At aged 19 I decided that I wanted to do something with my life and joined the army, I chose the army as I knew you could drink and fight and have a career in doing this. I did not last long, after eight weeks I was discharged for going AWOL after Christmas leave. Whilst home on leave this is where I took my first class A drug- amphetamine - and continued to do so even knowing I would be drug tested when I got back.After being released from prison I started to deal drugs for a man who had everything I wanted money, clothes, women and the cars and so I accepted the offer and dealt amphetamine, ecstasy, cannabis and cocaine.
Within a short period of time I became a daily user ofcocaine, it did not take long before I was using more cocaine and other drugs than I was selling and ended up owing my dealer a big amount of money. I ended up doing a lot of different crime to get money to cover my debt and to feed my habit. At aged 21 I had 2 women pregnant and did not want to face the responsibility of becoming a dad the only thing that mattered was the alcohol and drugs and it stayed that way for many years. I ended up completely depending on alcohol and drugs to get me through the days. I ended up with paranoiaand this led me to several suicide attempts.
In March 1997 I had a son & a daughter within 12 days. My son was born 3 months early and had a hole in his heart and told he had a 50/50 chance of surviving, he spent 16 weeks in hospital and I did not spend too much time visiting him as I was always too busy drinking and using and used his illness as my excuse to continue. (If you had my problems you would drink and use drugs) that is what I would say to people who would confront me about my behaviour. Eventually I separated from my partner as I became physically violent towards her and was always in trouble with the police.She disappeared with my son and I have not seen him now for nearly 5 years, I lost contact with my daughter soon after due to when I would have her in my care I would only take her to places I used drugs and drink and I put my daughter in a lot of dangerous situations. At the time the loss of my 2 children was no big problem, I could go along living life with out financially supporting them and that was the way I wanted it. The only people I wanted in my life was the people who lived life the same way I did. The people who loved me the most I pushed away as they was interfering with my using.
My dad died in 1998 due to his alcohol abuse and I believed at that time he died a happy man as I knew if he made it he would never be able to drink again, and imagine living life without alcohol or drugs what an unhappy life it would be. I had full insight of the damage alcohol could do but yet I still continued to drink and use drugs. Over the next 5 years my life progressively got worse and I started to become very ill mentally and physically. I became a dad for the third time and to this day I have not seen her. My violent behaviour continued especially towards my own family as when they would not give me money I would use my fist on them.
In February 2003 the best thing happened to me that saved my life. My family disowned me and I ended up in a small bed sit where another 2 alcoholics where living. Everyone had had enough of me, violent, lie after lie, no respect for anyone or anything. I was weighing under 10st and vomiting blood every day. I had lost everything, then the moment came when I knew if I continued I would die very soon or maybe if I got help I could have some kind of life back.
I got help and on 25th March 2003 I had my last drink and drug. On March 31st 2003 I walked through the doors of Walsingham House rehabilitation centre, I was there on a 12 week program where I would start to learn how to live life free of alcohol and drugs and introduced to a recovery program.
My stay at Walsingham House was far from easy as it is situated in the centre of Bristol and on the weekends I could see and hear all the night life that was happening. and many times wanted to leave. But the sound of police and ambulance sirens kept me there as every time I heard this I knew it was nothing to do with me and I would not wake up in a cell or hospital where I have so many times before. I met people where we shared our lives and understood what they meant and for the first time in my life I felt understood. I would have group therapy everyday and talk about my past and how I was feeling on that day, I had many good days and many bad days and went through a lot of emotional pain but never once felt judged by the people I lived with.
They understood and could identify with the things I had done and how I was feeling. Within my 12 weeks of being at Walsingham House I had learnt so much about the illness of addiction and many ways to get through day to day living without using alcohol and drugs. I also learnt to sit and listen to people advising me on things I need to change in myself, mostly my attitude towards others especially towards men.
Over the last 12 months I have had a lot of criticism put my way and not once lashed out with my fist, which believe me is a miracle. Whilst at Walsingham House my oldest daughter was introduced back into my life and I am building a healthy relationship with today. Over the 12 weeks I had changed, my life had changed, and my views on life in general had changed. I was advised to take the opportunity of a secondary treatment centre for a further 6 months which at first Iwas not too keen on doing. I just wanted to go back to a normal way of living, get a job have my own accommodation again and live free from alcohol & drugs. I took the opportunity for secondary treatment due to the people who left Walsingham House before me and went back to what I called a normal way of living soon relapsed. I had made a huge improvement with my life and was willing to do anything to keep it that way.
I walked through the doors of Chandos House secondary treatment centre on 20th June 2003 and stayed there for nearly 8 months, the hardest 8 months of my life. I lived with 9 other men from all different types of background. I dealt with many issues from my past whilst I was there, the death of my dad, my situations with my 3 children, and I also learnt that I was responsible for all the bad things I had done in my life as I always blamed other people for my actions, my girlfriends, my parents, the police. It was never my fault, people looked at me funny that’s why I attacked them. I also done a lot of work around my anger and learnt different methods of releasing it instead of just lashing out with my fist. Many times I wanted to leave due to things were not going the way I wanted them to go and I could no longer get my own way as I was unable to manipulate my counsellor or the people I lived with.
Whilst at Chandos I was to do some voluntary work which was hard to accept, work without being paid. The only time I had worked before without being paid was when I was on a community service order. I started voluntary work and was doing youth work back in my area where I have caused so much destruction whilst in active addiction. It feels good to put something back into my community and I enjoy working with kids. I work with kids aged 8-11 years old and do many different activities with them. I am now looking into working with older people, teenagers, young adults, with alcohol, drug, and crime problems, and my goal in life is to work in a young offenders institution. I believe I have the experience of where alcohol & drugs will take a person and living proof of what life can be like when living it completely free from all mind altering chemicals, and believe me the last 12 months in recovery has been amazing and more enjoyable than any of the 12 years in active addiction.
I left Chandos House and then went to St James House which is a supported dry house where I can come and go as I please which is really good as for nearly 11 months I have had to be in at times set by the treatment centres. I am living life today with not so much support as I have had in the past which sometimes can be hard but I’m starting to get back to what I call the normal way of living and with the ups and downs of life I am not using alcohol or drugs.
Since I started my recovery in Walsingham House I was advised to go to meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous for extra support. This is where I have made my support network I have today. I have many friends in my life today who help me and don’t want anything back from me which was something that took time to get used to as before when someone did anything for me there would always be a price to pay and I would always want something in return if I had done something for someone. My friends will tell me the truth when I ask them something even if they have to say I am wrong and talk the issue through with me. I try and help others when needed and have just opened another Cocaine Anonymous meeting back in my local area to hopefully help the suffering addicts still out there. The best thing I have learnt in the last 12 months about my illness of addiction and the way I lived my life in the past is that I’M NOT ALONE.
This is my story of how I have come to reside at St James Priory. I am 30 years old, born in High Wycombe in Bucks. where I was raised and brought up a Muslim. I come from a close knit family, where the family is very important and you are loyal to each other. As I progressed in my life and got older I started to feel as though I was somewhat different to other children my age: I would feel quite alone as a child. This feeling created much fear in me as I grew older and became more socially active in my early adolescence. I started to hang around with a group of kids: this is where I first tasted alcohol.
This was a very big occasion for me as being Muslim I had been told that I could not drink alcohol, from a young age. However I wanted to fit in with the rest of the kids so I drank, and from that moment in my life something changed inside me which made me feel confident and whole for the first time in my life. I went on to use crack cocaine and heroin in the next few years and spent 13 years of my life chasing that feeling of wholeness I experienced in the beginning. My journey has taken me to many different institutions and countries as I said in the beginning; I come from a culture that does not allow you to show emotions or to say I have a problem.
My family tried everything that was in their power, to help me try and overcome my addiction. I had been to treatment centres abroad: many a holy man had prayed over me or for me. None of these methods worked. I stayed with different relatives I different parts of the country and I would be ok for a while, then the day would come again that I would use crack and heroin again. Again I would be committing crime to feed my habit, and I would end up in prison yet again. This cycle seemed to keep recurring in my life and I could not find a way out. All the love and prayers of my family had not worked; all the love of a partner could not pull me out of this bottomless pit which I had somehow gotten into.
In 2003 I had had enough emotionally. I was hung-over: physically I was a wreck and spiritually I was dead. I turned to religion and God, which I loathed. I had been brought up with a punishing and unloving God: I turned to him and asked for help. I had been in a treatment centre in Pakistan. I was beaten. I was on my way back; my experience told me I would be using in a few weeks. I was stood on a beach with the sun setting in Karachi: I looked at the sky and I prayed from my heart, “If you are there, I need you, I need help”.
I came back to England where after three weeks of praying and trying to follow religion as best as I could, I relapsed yet again. However this time the madness that my life turned into was far worse than anything I had experienced before: I was dead inside. This is the only way I can describe my condition. I have never felt so alone, so helpless and so afraid in my whole life. The thought came to me to end it all: I did not even have the courage to do it.
Through a series of events I was given a DTTO by the courts in High Wycombe. I was given the chance to do treatment at Walsingham House; I would have to go away from my home town and live in a new place and environment, which would be hard away from family. I was willing though, I had to be, as everything I had tried had not worked before. So, I came to Bristol. As I arrived at Walsingham House I came to the entrance and saw there was a church within the grounds. My head went off on one thinking “They’re going to try and convert me into a Christian”. I walked into the treatment centre and was welcomed by my counsellor and I felt a bit better as she was very friendly. That evening I was welcomed into Walsingham House by the residents who went around telling their individual stories. For the first time in years I felt safe, I felt comfortable and I had peace of mind and hope that things will be OK.
I still was hung up on the idea about the church and this serenity prayer business. I then spoke to my counsellor who reassured me that no-one was going to try to convert me or preach to me about God, I did not have to believe in God to be a resident at Walsingham and I did not have to convert over the following three months.I met and spoke to people who worked at Walsingham I thought people like those who worked there did not exist any more. I was given support, food and medical help, and most importantly my belief was smashed that no-one would understand where I came from because not only was I a user but I am Asian, and how can you understand me if you are not Asian and have not been brought up like me? This illusion was smashed as all my peers had been through some if the same situations as me, and my counsellor understood what I had been through and supported me in the changes I needed to make my life.
I am currently 15 months clean and sober and I am a resident at St James House, the third stage of treatment. I have continued to get support and help from the project alongside the different fellowships I have accessed for support today. I have a full life: I have just completed a college course in youth work. I currently work for crime concern as a youth worker. 15 months ago I was sat in a prison cell with no future; today that has changed. I am also about to move into my won place and start a new job. I could not have travelled this path without the help of the Project. I hope today I have a future and life has got better and better. If you have a problem and you cannot stop using drink, please, I beg you, come and find life again and taste the sweetness of life once again. Don’t let any prejudice around the church stop you from finding your life again and those dreams you have and think will never come true: they will one day at a time.I hope my story helps someone to find peace and pleasure in living again.
My name is Julian. I have lived in Bristol all my 39 years of age. I am from a large family: my father was Irish, my mother English, and I am the youngest of ten children. I always struggled as a young boy, I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I thought there was something wrong with me, and there was as I later found out, after 25 years of substance abuse, drinking alcohol, and Class-A drugs. A criminal career from 13 years old; I’ve been to jail for my offences. I have made a complete failure of my life. I have messed up my home life with my addiction; I have hurt myself and my children, family and friends. I have done many things that I said to myself I wouldn’t do, like inject crack, heroin, speed, ecstasy, acid etc.I have never taken any responsibility for my actions: quite frankly, I hated myself and the world.
Today it’s a completely different life I lead. On the 1st January 2003 I came to Walsingham House, a treatment centre in Bristol. When I arrived I was 7 ½ stone and terrified, a huge fear, I looked 70 years old. I was welcomed at Walsingham House with open arms: it was the beginning of something very special. I spent 12 weeks here: I learnt how to deal with my anger and rage; it was a safe and secure place to deal with issues in my life. I had always used drugs or alcohol to numb out my pain: I shed tears of sadness, tears of joy. I met people like me, who understood me, who had been where I had been, and who had done similar things to me. Abstinence from all mood-altering chemicals is essential for my recovery.
I learnt so much about myself at Walsingham House: my thinking has changed, my behaviour has changed, and my whole outlook on life is very different now. I like myself; I am now comfortable in my own skin.A new discovery of life began for me her at Walsingham House and I have the utmost respect for all concerned; councillors, volunteers and a great cook.
I finished Walsingham House after 12 weeks of hard work, and went on to secondary treatment for six months, and completed that. A big thank you to all concerned at the secondary also. I am now at St James Priory Project’s Third Stage dry house and have been for the last two years. I am nearly ready to move on. All together, I am 31 months clean and sober: throughout all these stages I have stuck it out, and I have reaped the benefits of my hard work. I have friends who genuinely care about me, I am a volunteer in the community, I am also a volunteer at Walsingham House. I am so grateful to everybody connected to my recovery. My daughter is back in my life after eight years of me not being there; most of my family members are back in my life, and I do so many good things that I never thought possible.
Today I am responsible; everything in my life is good and ongoing. I take things one day at a time; I have my ups and downs, but it is how I deal with life now, and it is so different to how it used to be: a miserable existence. Today is a beautiful existence for me, and there are many people in Bristol who could benefit from my experience. If you have drug or alcohol problems, I urge you to give Walsingham House a try. I did and it worked for me.
A special thank you to Walsingham House and St James Priory Project for it was you who gave me this new way of life and for this, I will be eternally grateful.
This Is Tim's Painting :
He painted this at the end of his time at Walsingham House.
Without his recovery from addiction this would not exist !!
He has kindly allowed us to adopt it as our new logo.