Vikki grew up in Carlisle and describes her early childhood as happy. Unfortunately, in her teens, she fell in with ‘the wrong crowd’ and, partly through peer pressure and partly curiosity, began to dabble in drug use.
“People often think that drug addicts start using because of trauma in their lives. For me, it was the opposite. Becoming involved with drugs led to all of the trauma that I went on to experience over the next 20 years”
As Vikki’s drug use increased, her life began to spiral out of control as she became involved in drug related criminal activity to support her addiction.
After serving a 6 month prison sentence for drug offences, Vikki was determined to escape the turmoil of her life in Carlisle and decided to move to Cambridge to make a fresh start.
“I just wanted to get away from the people I’d associated with when I was using. I didn’t want that life anymore – I wanted to leave it all behind”
However, with no firm plan in place, she arrived in the city with nowhere to stay and spent her first night in Cambridge sleeping in a tent at the railway station. Homeless and away from family for the first time in her life, she felt isolated and alone. In her vulnerable state, the lure of drugs was too great to resist, and she quickly found herself falling back into old patterns of behaviour.
In time though, Vikki managed to piece her life back together. She began to manage her drug use, met someone who provided her with stability, got married and had a daughter.
Unfortunately, some years later, the marriage broke down. Tragically, this coincided with the sudden death of her brother. Grieving and struggling to cope, she began to use drugs again. Quickly, her life began to fall apart, and her ex-husband took full custody of their daughter.
“I find it really hard to talk about what I went through during those years. I was at rock bottom”
Once again consumed by addiction and caught up in dealing drugs to fund her habit, Vikki was subjected to violence and was beaten and attacked multiple times, finding herself in hospital frequently. She spent more time in prison and although she was offered accommodation at different times, her drug use prohibited her from sustaining it. Living in a cycle of drug abuse, short term hostel accommodation and rough sleeping for many years, the turning point of her life came at the start of the pandemic.
Vikki was offered accommodation in a women’s only hostel that provided full-time support. She made the decision to embrace this opportunity and to stop taking the drugs that had so negatively impacted her life.
Whilst in accommodation, Vikki heard about Overstream Clean and decided to get in touch to see if she could gain some work experience. Having been out of work for over twenty years, she embraced the opportunity to start as a volunteer and to gain experience. Once familiar with the routine, she gained further training within the team which led to a part-time job and then a full-time position as a cleaner.
“Working here is great, I think what I appreciate most is that I am just part of the everyday routine, I’m ‘normal.’ My life before this was full of drama. Here, I’m one of the team and I love that.”
Working at Wintercomfort also enabled Vikki to access other support services available. Colleagues helped her to access funding, clothes, physio for her past injuries, and 121 counselling support.
In addition to her position in the Overstream team, Vikki has also started working at our Women’s Evenings, where she supports women currently using our services. Here, she shares her past experiences and provides inspiration and reassurance for others that life can change.
Vikki doesn’t plan too far ahead but did share her aspiration to do some more training within this area, she wants to use her experiences to help other women make positive changes to their lives.
“Some of the women are so young and timid, they lack confidence, and I can relate to their experience so much. I want to build them up. I tell them to take time, take every day as it comes and don’t think too far ahead.
Change is possible, and I am proof of that.”