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It was just over three years ago now. I was living with my friend and, at the time, we were both drug addicts. My friend was encouraged to get tested by his girlfriend and when it came back positive he said ‘listen, I think you should go and get tested too.’
I wouldn’t say it was a surprise when I was diagnosed but it was obviously a shock. That was when I decided it was time to change, give up the drugs and actually sort out what was going on in my life.
I’d say the main challenge was the people I had surrounding me. I realised I’d have to cut them off to move forward. I managed to get re-housed – it was step one, a fresh start.
Getting diagnosed may be a negative for a lot of people but the way I see it, it was a positive. It changed me and made me a better person.
When I first started treatment, I was doing it alone, going back and forth from home to hospital. Around 5 weeks in, the side effects really kicked in. I saw my psychotherapist and she said, ‘we’ve got a plan, Waverley Care’, and that was my first introduction. Getting a place at Milestone at that time helped so much. It was like a sanctuary.
I kind of threw myself into a bit of everything that was going on at Milestone. Keeping busy is my coping mechanism. I would talk to people and try to help them. A week or two in, one of the staff said ‘Listen, you do realise you’re here for you?’ I’d never really looked at it like that.
A favourite moment? There were a few. If you want to talk about personal highlights I’d probably say it was making the connection with Karen [Milestone Activities & Events Coordinator] who just gave me that little extra push to get involved. It was a massive change, just being introduced to that social life.
I felt fairly confident before the test results came in. When I found out, I suppose it was a bit of shock, as well as being elated and overjoyed. From diagnosis, it took me a year to get to the level where I was fit and ready. Then, treatment started and finished, and boom, that was it. I thought, ‘I’ve got over this hurdle, now let’s move on’. It was a goal that was there to tick off.
Go for it, do it. Your time, money, whatever you put in, you’ll get back tenfold helping others and it will help you too. There’s no two ways about it. Volunteering is my next goal, to look at peer support work.
Hmm. Favourite drink’s probably coffee. Favourite food…mince, tatties and dumplings. Definitely my favourite aye!
I’m a bit of a family man really. I’ve just become a grandad so getting into that, seeing the wee man and supporting my daughter. I’m just getting myself back to how I was, getting back into fitness and sports. It takes time obviously but after so long going from one end of the scale to the other, it’s just keeping that balance.
There’s quite a few on the top list. Donnie Brasco, one of my favourites, The Godfather, Casino. It’s a tricky one, there’s so many. Basically Martin Scorsese films are the best…and the Coen Brothers, can’t forget them. Fargo, wow, fantastic.
I’m looking at volunteering for Waverley Care. I feel I can help people following my experience. There’s obviously a history of drugs which I can help people with. I’ve done counselling which I can talk to people about. So that’s where I’m going just now. Broadening my horizons slowly but surely.