AFTER 23 years living as a drug and alcohol addict, David Fox has been sober for more than three years and totally clean for over 12 months.
The 38-year-old, from Southampton, is one of 20 volunteers who support work carried out by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (HIOW CRC).
Volunteers do a wide range of tasks to support people on probation, including participating in successful peer mentoring and group activity initiatives.
David is well-placed to support people on probation. The father-of-two completed Community Orders after being convicted of drink drive offences and possession of an offensive weapon. He also grew cannabis to help him fund his addictions.
However, after running up debts totalling tens of thousands of pounds and hitting rock bottom, David is now in recovery, attends Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and is passionate about helping others.
He said: “I didn’t ever intend to go down the criminal path. But for the grace of God it could easily have been worse, drink driving could obviously have resulted in me seriously hurting someone.
“Probation didn’t do much for me. I turned up, ticked a few boxes. It was aggravating because I had to travel a long way to get there. But I think I had further to fall before I was ready to think about change.
“I didn’t reach out for support, but nor did I know that the support was there. It was a Catch 22.”
David is married, has always worked and enjoyed a period with the Territorial Army. But during the depths of his alcoholism, he was downing cans of Special Brew on the way home before drinking solidly every night.
He said: “My parents got divorced when I was young. I always felt like an outsider. I was bullied as well. I started smoking cannabis, taking LSD and amphetamine from when I was 12 because it helped me fit in.
“Being told ‘no’ just encouraged me to do stuff. I’m not justifying myself, it’s just how it was.”
More than two decades later, David woke up to the problem after he ran out of cash – and alcohol – and began turning the house upside down in a desperate search for money.
He said: “I always told myself when I became a dad I’d stop, or when I turned 30 I’d stop. But all those milestones just ticked by.
“I’d already taken everything from my kids’ piggy banks. I was frantically searching the sofa. It’s hard to look at yourself when you are in debt and have rental problems.
“Then the electricity meter ran out. I began doing the maths about how much I’d wasted. That’s when I started looking for help.”
David quit alcohol himself, reducing to two cans a night before quitting.
He said: “I simply moved onto other substances. I was spending a grand a month on cocaine. I argued with my wife, but it took time for me to appreciate how utterly selfish I’d been. We agreed that I’d contact NA.”
While taking part in NA, David met with HIOW CRC volunteer co-ordinator, Sue Vigar-Taylor because the probation company shared a building with the drugs organisation.
He said: “I am enjoying my freedom from addiction so much.
“Through having the privilege of being of service within the fellowship, I help others getting to meetings and supporting people. I get a massive kick from it.
“Sue encouraged me to do the same with probation. When she told me about the voluntary opportunities, I jumped at the chance.”
David has completed HIOW CRC training aimed at giving volunteers the skills they need.
He said: “I’m taking it all in because I’m new to it. My own experience shows that you should never write people off. If I can use a little bit of my story to help engage people, then fantastic.
“Obviously getting support from a professional is vital. But getting support from someone with my record, hopefully that will work for some people.”
David’s one year anniversary clean was June 6th, 2017.