A few weeks ago a very brave woman by the name of Hannah entered the long term drug rehabilitation community in Italy called San Patrignano. Hannah was the first woman from the UK to enter the rehab centre and I am sure the first of many who will make their way there from the UK. San Patrignano offers a free residential programme where residents are able to learn one of the 52 skills on offer to them. With a 72% success rate and with over 25,000 people from 28 countries around the world completing the programme - San Patrignano is the most successful drug rehabilitation community in the world.
This weekend I will return to the community to visit with Hannah. As I suspected she has settled in well and she is embracing all of the incredible opportunities that the community offers. When we flew out to Italy I asked Hannah if I could share her initial email that she sent to me to find out about San Patrignano. Hannah agreed, here is her story.....
"I'll start with the facts about my drug use and try to keep it as straightforward as I can. I started smoking cannabis and drinking socially when I was about 13. I fairly quickly progressed on to harder drugs and at about 15 I was using speed, ecstasy and cocaine. At 18 I went traveling to Thailand and Australia and continued experimenting with different drugs at pretty much every opportunity that came my way. I tried acid, other synthetic psychedelic drugs and other drugs whilst the amount of cannabis I smoked and alcohol I drank greatly increased and was very regular.
At 18 I came back to England and moved to Southampton with the intention of studying for a Psychology degree. I continued taking a lot of drugs and ketamin in particular. I discovered heroin and crack at about 19 or 20 and needless to say I only lasted a few months at university before quitting. I smoked heroin and crack on and off for about 5 years and started injecting about 3 years ago. I was on a methadone prescription for about a year and went into a 12 step treatment centre in the summer of 2011. I detoxed and underwent their treatment program for the 5 weeks that I was resident there and after a few slips with drinking and smoking cannabis when I came out of treatment, I managed to remain abstinent from all drugs and alcohol for about 16 months, up until Christmas 2012.
I was injecting heroin and crack every day over Christmas for about a week and then managed to stay clean for just over a month. This brings me to where I am now, at 28 years old. Over the past two months I have been injecting heroin and crack and obviously have developed a habit again. I was really convinced that I would be able to get a grip on it before it began to take over my life again, but my addiction is so powerful that I feel it has already happened. I have been signed off work now for the past 6 weeks for depression and anxiety, and whilst I do suffer from these and have done for years I know that the true reason I have been off is to start getting some help with my drug using and to stop using before I lose my job- I am due to go back to work next week.
I went to the local drug and alcohol service and have been on a Subutex prescription for about two weeks now. At the moment I am on a supervised daily pick up prescription of 6mg. As part of the drug service's process this will continue until I can produce two weeks worth of negative drug tests, and I will then be able to have my prescription unsupervised and begin reducing the amount with the aim of coming off Subutex completely.
So those are the facts, and I have tried to keep any emotion out of it so far otherwise I find I can go off on a tangent, venting my frustration and despair at how I have managed to get back into this position once again- and the huge mixture of feelings I could write about when it comes to the damaging effect my choices have had on my family, my friends, and myself.
I have managed to maintain some normality in my adult life in terms of being employed on and off throughout my using, however nothing has ever lasted and I've never been fulfilled with the jobs I have had. I've made so many attempts at starting my life again; relocating to a different city or town, getting a new job and group of friends and have been convinced each time that it would be the new start I need to live happily and to start realising some of my ambitions.
I learnt a lot while I was in treatment and have continued to learn more and more about myself in the past year and a half. However, I really feel like I need something more substantial- something that I can immerse myself in and become a part of; somewhere where I will have the opportunity to discover a direction for my life. This is why I love the idea of San Patrignano. I see it as something that would be mutually beneficial to your community and to myself. I know that I have a lot to give to others and the capacity to work hard, and in return the opportunity to learn new skills, discover a direction for my life and become part of something amazing is more than I could hope for!"
I am so proud of Hannah and glad that she has become a part of something amazing.