Cullen discusses his use of drugs to mask his mental health issues, as well as his experience of services.

Good morning. This is from voice action change. And I'm here with Colin Mace Voices. Action change mentor

Lovely. And I've got a question to ask you Cullen today if you'd be so good. Um, what has been your experience of seeking support as someone with co occurring mental health and substance issues, um, been draining over the last decade

Um, look, when I first got into services, um, it was without the an acknowledgement of my family. Uh, this was at a time when I was 17, 18. I got into, you know, opioid addiction, trying to mask it, trying to hide it, trying to deny it, you know? And there was a lot of that for a good year or two

So I was afraid to actually reach out to doctors and services because, you know, family doctors, local doctors, If they know about my addiction, maybe they'll tell my family. So there was that for a long time, But when my family finally found out about it, um, we were all still at a loss for myself and for a family perspective. Um, as a drug user, I just wanted to get on a methadone script and That was like one of the one things I wanted to do is is try and get on a methadone script

And, uh, i'll tell you, the one thing that that that that that didn't work here, that I had to actually do is I had to go to England, uh, to my grandmother's, um, to get on a methadone script because the waiting this was so long. Here I come back to Cardiff after a couple of months, uh, on a on a methadone script, uh, without my mother and father knowing. So that was a big red flag straight away

Um, of course. You know, I didn't want services to know about my drug use, but at the same time, I think they needed some intervention at that time, you know? OK, I'm classed as an adult, but I was still very vulnerable, so that that that was one of the first big red flags I had with with services that it was a bit reckless and a bit like they didn't really know what to do with me. There was no advice given, uh, other than you take drugs, you can go on methadone, go and see a drug service

There was no actual help through my private doctors. Um, another thing. What happened then was I remember III

I lost engagement there, and the only other time I could get on a methadone script. Uh, we've spoken before about waiting lists. I was waiting 12 weeks, sometimes for a waiting list

And, uh, in the drug community, the the the the the fast track method is, uh, two options. Either you're homeless and you go through MDT rapid access or you commit a crime. I go to court, and I go to the police station and say, Look, I use drugs

I've done it for this. Go to court and they will put you on a either AD RR order or put you through the criminal justice system through the bottle. This is not just happened to me

This is happened to thousands of people. I know friends who I've known who would never commit a crime, literally just have a drug problem who have ended a criminal records and was gone to prison just to get the help they need. Uh, and sometimes that help isn't enough either

Um, you know, growing up, I When My mother and father kind of knew about my my drug problems. They tried everything for me. Um, you know, they took me to rehabs religious rehabs, non religious rehabs took me to the pen centre every time I went to try and get help because I I was diagnosed in prison with severe O CD and a DH D I had already and when we used to go to the pen centre and places like that to try and tackle my mental health which we would hope tackle my drug problem because I would use drugs to mask my mental health

So when I would go and try and get help for my mental health, they would always say you've got to tackle your drug problem first. So it was just a vicious circle. Every time I go to these places in, you know, a a bit of light at the end of the tunnel, a bit of rope to hang on to

It was always where you've got to tackle this problem first and I would leave the service feeling, you know, really deflated really hopeless. And so would my family. And I just go back to using again

Uh, this happened for over a decade. You know, I think I've been on, like, 20 methadone scripts. Uh, I've been on a few semi my family took me privately to get an on implant, which I cut out on my stomach

So, like, I've tried everything. And to be honest, there was never a time where in services, they kind of took me by the balls by the ring by the RN. Sorry and kind of, uh, you know, wanted to help me

I was just another number to them. That's how I felt in the system. Um, you know, doctors never really engaged with them

The only time I really got diagnosed like I said, was when I was in prison. So it's been it's been a battle for me. It's been a really a really big problem

But the thing that happened to me is I had to make that change myself, and and my change was, you know, almost three years ago now, when I almost died, uh, I basically overdosed and also had a really severe infection. I collapsed. Woke up in hospital three days later, um, with sepsis and pleo pneumonia

Whilst I was in there. A nurse came in and said, Look, um, you know, you've got two options here, you know, because I was on a methadone script at the same time during this, and, uh, the same day I got rushed to hospital, my friend passed away and they found the bottle of meth at at at at the scene. So they were, you know, taking caution and saying to me, Look, we're going to have to rapid detox off your methadone, um, down to a lower dose and you'll have to pick it up every day, including weekends, Or you try this new drug called and that is kind of where my my my life has turned around through that, um, you know, for years and years and years, I did say, You know, services are hopeless

Probation don't care. The prisons are just, you know, a meat factory. But now, being on the other side of the table, I don't think it's an unconscious bias

I have genuinely seen that these people here who do want to help and do care, but it's there's so much work that needs to be done. Um, it it's not a quick fix. But, you know, my journey has been a big problem, you know, and and that is like trying to keep track of someone who's running wild is very hard

And my problem. That I I noticed quite a lot of is I had a family there. There's not many people in services who have family, and I don't think services are prepared for that or even expect that when you get a family member or a family or a family behind someone who's got problems, you need to engage with those family members, not because you're not used to it

Push them away. Or, if anything, myself. I used to use the two of them against each other, the services and the families who cared, or the guardians they need to work together

They don't need to push them out because it only holds vendetta from the family. My father hates, you know, places like the, he says. It's like going to an A a meeting in the wetherspoons or a you know, a Gamble Anonymous in the coral

That's where those places are to my dad because he didn't see the help or he saw it, as is a place where I would get more drugs. So, um, you know, there's many things I would say for advice from myself, but one thing I would say is when someone walks through that door for that help, you need to be able to give them that help on that day, you know, many times going to the line many times trying to get on a methadone script. I thought I was getting help that day, the day I wanted to change in my head

When they then say to you, right fill in this form, Come back a week later and we'll put you on a waiting list. I'm lost again. I'm lost in the system And there, I'm telling you, everyone who goes through lived experience whether it's, you know, severe mental health with with drug addiction, we all have moments of clarity

There's always times where we think I can't do this no more, but it kind of wears off after a couple of hours or a day or so when we go back to using it again. If we can get people in that moment of clarity and get that rapid treatment, whatever that may be, I think that's where we'll start to get the help. I think at the moment is like a 12 month waiting list for people to get on methadone

So people are resorting to crime again or even forcing themselves to be homeless. This is wrong. This is stupid

And if it is true, if it is a dual die diagnosis where we can only tackle this problem until we've tackled this, we need to tackle the drug problem before we tackle that mental health. And I think the first thing is by rapid access. You know, I'm like I said, I'm currently at the three years clean now I'm a P, a mentor, uh, do a lot of work in services

I share my story. Everywhere I go, I've set up a successful podcast in the making as well, where I'm interviewing, like really high figures in, in, in, in the public, and I never thought I would do that. I never thought I would I would turn my life around, you know, from someone who kind of wrote his life off after a year in addiction

I never thought I'd ever have my family believe a word I would say again, but I'm here, and that's because I made that change. Um, and also there was someone in services who who who see me at a time and saw that methadone didn't work for me. Try this and I did

But, you know, I think it's all down to the individual. They've got to make that change. We can

We can lead the horse to water, you know, But they've got to make that change. But there are other things in services that need to improve again. A big important thing that I quickly say, like Di mentioned as well is this game of cat and mouse with people you know, If they miss their treatment, we shouldn't be kicking them off

They're human beings. We need to help them. OK, we have to admit in services, especially in, uh, heroin and heroin users and some alcoholics

Some of these people might not want to come off, but we need to help them. We just because they're not ready, it doesn't mean oh, well, you're not having our medication. We still need to help these people, and that's that's that's That's where I stand on it

Lovely. So what piece of advice would you give to someone who is out there and they're struggling? It depends. What? What? What what part of their studio in in general or a young me or all me? Just someone out there who who wants to access support doesn't know where to turn

Look, even if you've had bad experiences in the past, always know that the experiences you had that those interactions you've had are individuals. OK, on a whole, there are a lot of good people in services who genuinely want to help. You just got to not give up

And I know it's cliche, and I always say it, but it is never, never too late to change. Never. And if you think Oh, my God, my mental health can't handle it

I've got severe O CD and my a DH. D is through the roof, and I battle with that on a daily daily basis. Um, you know, it takes my mind

Um it was the reason I took drugs in the first place. But what I've done is I used to use drugs and I kind of like try to avoid it. But I'm still back to where I was

People say so. So how do you deal with your mental health now? And it's exactly the same as when I first started taking drugs. You know, we always got to face that, you know, And, um, drugs ain't the answer

Lovely. Thank you very much. Thank you


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