New Link, New Life: the Recovery Story of Meirion Evans
‘This time last year, I was sat in my flat, drinking Strongbow, watching Wild At Heart. I had 10 days to go before heading to Pine Ward in Llandough.’
Busy designing saleable canvasses in the craft room, we found 60 year old Meirion Evans, who describes himself as in ‘recovery maintenance.’ Meirion has been part of New Link Wales for the last year, and this December, will be spending Christmas sober for the first time since he was 14 years old.
Meirion’s story begins with the tragic death of his parents, involves repressed emotions and a huge amount of blame projection, and nearly half a century later, a visit to a GP. Luckily for Meirion, the GP he saw on the day he chose to ask for help was understanding, and pointed him in the direction of Footsteps to Recovery, Recovery Cymru and New Link Wales, where a new chapter of his story began. Meirion took part in NLW’s Wellbeing Course, and felt it changed his life: “That course was absolutely brilliant. It’s the best 2 days I’ve spent on a course. It’s all about you. The drinks and drugs is not really mentioned, it’s just all about wellbeing.”
“My confidence and my self-esteem rocketed after taking that course. When you come out of an addiction, you’re left with no self-esteem. You’re so used to thinking you’re nothing, so you are nothing. I came out of that course thinking for the first time that I had a life ahead of me.”
Meirion described the inseparability of substance misuse and mental health, and the importance of treating both simultaneously. An individual suffering from long-term substance misuse could go through a detox programme and emerge sober, but they’d still be plagued by the mental health and other issues which led to substance misuse in the first place. “That’s what this place does for you, it treats you with a holistic approach and supports you throughout. It should be called New Link, New Life Wales.”
Now that Meirion is in recovery and has been sober for very nearly a full year, he continues to volunteer with NLW in an attempt to repay the kindnesses showed to him when he most needed it. He is a huge advocate for the charity and is always willing to share his story, particularly with connections who may need the same support. “It’s no ego kick for me, but I know they’ve got a good chance of recovery if they listen to me. I’ve given them the information, but it’s their choice whether or not to act.”
Meirion is now fully comfortable telling his story, but has taken a long time learning to trust others. “Coming out of addiction, you don’t trust anybody. Once you’ve given your trust to someone, it’s out of your control. I’m still weary, but I do trust people more. Whereas before I’d expect my trust to be broken, now I’ve had such a good response from everyone at NLW that it would be more disappointing/upsetting if my trust was broken again. I’ve learned to trust trust.”
As well as the Wellbeing Course, Meirion took part in the Mile Programme, a 10 week course designed to allow service users to utilise their skills and to assist in the substance misuse sector. There, he learned to use a computer for the first time. He has taken part in the Global Gardens scheme, which supports refugees and asylum seekers, acts as a peer mentor for new members at Recovery Cymru, and later this year will be volunteering at St Fagans museum.
“It’s given me back to me,” he says. “Restored me. My daughter told me, ‘I’ve got my dad back.’ I’ve got that on my fridge.”
Help and Support
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance or alcohol misuse related problems, New Link Wales has a page full of information, advice and contact details. Help is always available.