A FORMER drug addict who turned his life around is helping others conquer their addiction.

Dad-of-three, Thomas, 50, of the Gorbals, started sniffing solvents as a teenager. Heroin addiction saw him overdosing and spending years in and out of hospitals and prisons.

Thomas will start work as a Social Care Worker with South Glasgow Alcohol and Drug Recovery Service, (GADRS).

He is one of 13 new staff, half of whom have an experience of addiction, at the GADRS.

Glasgow has a network of recovery cafes across the city including Govanhill, the Gorbals, Whiteinch, Parkhead, Ibrox and Easterhouse. They aim to reduce stigma around addiction, promote recovery by making it visible within communities and upskill people for new and improved lives after addiction.

Thomas hopes to encourage those grappling with addiction to find a better life for themselves.

He said: “I was aware of the potential consequences. It was a form of self-harm to cope with childhood trauma and it had a massive impact on my social, physical and psychological development.

“It also impacted on my family. They tried to be supportive, but they couldn’t understand it. People understood alcohol addiction in the 1980s, but no-one was prepared for the explosion in drug addiction.”

Change in the criminal justice system in 2000 set Thomas on the route to recovery after decades of destructive behaviour. Instead of jailing him, a sheriff gave him an 18 months suspended sentence and ordered him to undergo treatment in the community.

Thomas said: “They gave me a chance. I started to engage with services, my care manager was supportive and helpful.I was sofa-surfing at the time, so I also got involved with homelessness services.”

After six months in rehab Thomas got involved with the South East Recovery After Care Group – one of the city’s first peer led groups to come out of discussions about service redesign with people with lived experience.

Susanne Millar, Glasgow’s Chief Social Worker, believes the views of people with lived experience offer service providers real insight into the barriers to recovery.

She said: “Knowledge from people with lived experience is invaluable. They can understand and empathise with other people who are wrestling with addiction better than anyone else.”