Storying Sheffield

Paul’s story

“I thought I was going to end up dead.”

This story is part of the Storying Health Inequalities project. You can listen to an audio version of Paul’s story here. Photos by Andy Brown. 

I was in full employment from leaving school until 28 and then…I fell into drugs at that point, and then I was like battling that. My brother was on it for about five years before me and I was just staying totally away from it, and then…I tried it when I was 28 and I thought well this is what I’ve been looking for do you know what I mean? This is good for me this stuff because it was like it did turn my brain off you know what I mean? ‘Cos I’ve always been like a repetitive thinker, and that just switched me off and I thought that’s brilliant. Obviously it was a weekend thing at first and then it turned into Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday before you know it it’s every day of week.

I was still working at the time I mean I kept working for a good year and a half before it like totally – it became like I couldn’t work anymore really. While I was working I could fund it, after I stopped working obviously that became a problem that’s when I obviously turned to other ways of getting money, crime you know what I mean?

When my mum…got diagnosed with cancer I went back to look after her do you know what I mean? So I stayed at my parents’ home for probably three years, so I was there – I was still taking drugs but I was like trying to keep it obviously as low profile as possible…and…well I mean obviously what I had to do, I had to look after my mum until she went and then I lost it a bit after that, I went to prison – that was the first time I’d ever been to prison in my life…I did my jail, come out of jail and about I think six weeks after I left jail my dad told me he was terminal and then he lasted about three month so – and then obviously I dealt with that and then I had house and council wanted house and this, that and other and so I just ended up on streets.

That’s what happened yer. I thought I was going to end up dead so I just carried on – did as much as I could, as much as I could. I think through Archer Project somebody got me into St. Anne’s and after that I picked up a little bit, not a lot though – I was still taking drugs all the way through the stay in St. Anne’s, until basically I came here and I stopped really when I came here…I’d just had enough, I was just fed up yer fed up of it, gradually I’ve got better you know what I mean?

When I do take drugs now, which I still do it’s few and far between; the distances are getting bigger and bigger. I mean I’ve had the same doctor all my life so he’s always been alright you know what I mean? I can understand his position a lot of people go to doctors and they are just after drugs you know what I mean? That’s what they are after, they are after free drugs and I think it’s hard to differentiate between the people that want drugs and people who want help, so they’ve got a tough job haven’t they? They should have like an in-house substance misuse specialist who knows the signs, who knows what’s what, what’s real and what’s fake you know what I mean? Who’s crying out for something because, I don’t know they’ve lost their revenue stream and they can’t fund their habit no more and those people that want actual – want to get of the drugs and stop committing crimes.

I’m a typical man it takes me a lot – do you know what I mean? To get me to the doctor or dentist or hospital…and when I do ring up I expect them to take it seriously but they don’t seem to, like I say I rung up last week and they told me five days and when I said ‘well I wouldn’t leave a dog in pain for five days, if I did that I would be animal cruelty’ and I put phone down on ’em. But it’s simple it is right though. I could think well I could buy these over the counter prescription pain killers, if they’re not doing it I could think well I’m going to go for something illegal, it could lead me down that road. It could lead me to heroin, it could lead me to buying tablets of people that are not prescribed to me…all them things. People do do that when they can’t – when their doctor is not willing to prescribe them drugs what they feel they need to sleep or to live or to operate. I see them waiting outside chemists, I see them waiting outside my chemist asking do you get tablets? I say no I don’t get tablets but they are waiting for somebody do you know what I mean? There are people who are prescribed them who don’t take them, and just sell them.

I think they need a bit more education in telling the difference between someone who is genuinely asking for help and someone who is just trying it on to get some sleepers or some downers or summit because I think by the time a doctor has met a few of these people trying it on then when the genuine person comes through the door they’re getting knocked back and I’ve been knocked back do you know what I mean? They need to look into the person more; they need to ask a different set of questions: how long have you been off drugs? How long have you been on that script? You know if they are in a drug treatment, if they are not in drug treatment it’s obvious that they are just coming off the drugs, you know what I mean? If they have been in drug treatment why don’t they talk to the drug treatment officer you know what I mean? Whoever is dealing with drug treatment and saying to them ‘what’s he like? Is he passing his drugs test?’ ‘Well yer he is.’ ‘Well then fair enough I’ll give him some tablets to sleep’ or whatever, do you know what I mean?

Same with DIP or all – they need to get together, it’s all isolated it should all be integrated. I mean if you are in a poor area then doctors are going to get more people through the door than where you in middle class area. If you’re in a middle class area you’re healthy, you live longer, you’ve got less health problems so it’s obvious isn’t it. it’s just logic so if you’re in a poorer area there are more people coming through the door plus you in a poor area you’ve got immigrants coming over with their problems as well you know what I mean they’ve come from different countries, come from wars whatever they might have injuries from that, might be injuries from – do you know what I mean? All sorts they’ve all sorts of trauma so them doctors are just getting blitzed…while in nice suburban middle class areas they are coming in with gout do you know what I mean? [laughs] it’s obvious isn’t it I mean if you’re from a working class background or like you’re not going to get the same opportunities as anybody else, do you know what I mean?

I had an IQ test at I think it was 14 and I was I think second in the school, I was at 141. I mean my teacher used to say I was university material but that was never an option it was like go to work and I wanted to go to work I was happy with that you know what I mean? I’m not really bothered. I mean when you look round yer at all the student apartments and that I mean it’s like 80 to a 100 pound a week just to live in one of these apartments never mind what it costs for university and to live, that’s a big chunk of money and if you are on a three year course, that’s twenty thousand pound, no working class family is coming up with twenty grand.

I’m hoping I’ll just get back to a normal life you know what I mean a job…relationship, that kind of thing, rebuilding relationships with people that I want to, get somewhere to live and full time employment…fears I’m not really – I haven’t got no fears no.