In their own words: Ex-drug addicts in Dundee tell of battle to beat addiction

Leanne Burry, Hayley Marshall, Derek McKenzie and Dorothy Whyte.

Justice secretary Michael Mathieson spoke with a number of service users being helped by Tayside Council on Alcohol’s mentoring programme during his visit to Dundee.

The men and women who came forward to tell their stories all have a history of drug and alcohol abuse, which they are overcoming in order to integrate back into the community.

Here are their inspirational stories in their own words…

Derek McKenzie

Derek McKenzie© DC Thomson
Derek McKenzie

“I had been doing heroin and drinking heavily for about six

“I got off the drugs gradually, but with the alcohol it was just cold turkey, which was hard.

“With the help of the mentors I started to do things that I would have struggled to be involved with before, just simple things like going to the cinema, bowling, going to the football – things that ‘normal’ people do.

“I recognise now how much I’ve been missing out on, and that it is up to the individual to want to change.

“Being mentored has made a huge difference to my life – I’ve been clean for ten months and if I drank or took drugs now I wouldn’t enjoy it.

“Long may it continue!”

Hayley Marshall, 31, from Linlathen

Hayley Marshall.© DC Thomson
Hayley Marshall.

“I used to have a big problem with drugs – mainly heroin and diazepam.

“One moment I’d get better and the next I’d relapse. It went on for about 10 years.

“I used to stick my head in the sand about everything. For example, when I got bills I’d throw them in the bin and not pay them, which led to problems with housing.

“My daily routine was get up, go to the chemist and then come home. I’m still on methadone at the moment but having structure in my life and places to go is helping so much.

“I know I have TCA on Thursdays and other groups throughout the week.

“Even doing things that other people take for granted, like going for a walk, have been so much help.

“When I was younger I didn’t bother with school much, so I’m looking at going to college to do a start-up skills course in August.”

Leanne Burry, 32, from Coldside

Leanne Burry.© DC Thomson
Leanne Burry.

“To begin with I was adamant that I didn’t want a mentor and that I could cope on my own.

“But I’ve been coming to the TCA for three months and the change in me is amazing.

“I’d been taking heroin for a couple of years and I used to lock myself away in the house most of the time.

“I didn’t communicate with people at all.

“After coming to TCA I started to come out of my shell and to talk to people more.

“I get up in the morning and look forward to the day instead of dreading it.

“If it wasn’t for the mentoring I’d still be sitting in the house all day
taking drugs.”

Dorothy Whyte, 32, from Charleston

Dorothy Whyte.© DC Thomson
Dorothy Whyte.

“I’ve had a mentor since November and it’s the most positive thing I’ve ever had in my life.

“I had been smoking cannabis for 15 years and most days I wouldn’t even get dressed or leave the house.

“I also had anger issues – if someone said something even slightly negative to me I’d just explode and go off my head.

“Since being mentored I have stopped smoking cannabis and I’m engaging with people.

“I feel more confident and better within myself. I have calmed down and I don’t shout like before – even my son has noticed the difference and he is a lot calmer now too.

“I’m expecting a baby and this time things are different. Without the mentors I don’t know where I would be!”