Eighteen months ago, Gordon Stokes was fighting for his life in a Manchester hospital. He was given just a few hours to live.
Heavy drinking, drug use and failed rehabilitation attempts had left his body unable to cope. He was having regular seizures and problems with his liver and kidneys.
Gordon, from Marsden, was referred to Horton Housing’s Spring Street scheme, a housing and support scheme for single people in Kirklees who are homeless and have support needs, in September 2013.
There he met his support worker Nichola who has been with him throughout his recovery. When he came to Spring Street, he was unrecognisable from the man he is now: with orange skin, many health problems and having lost all his teeth.
He is now living independently and volunteering for The Recovery Basement Project, a recovery service in Huddersfield, helping others to address their substance misuse problems.
Gordon had a troubled childhood. His mother had mental health problems and his parents split up when he was 11, leaving him with the responsibility of looking after his mum and his two younger siblings. His mother moved onto a new relationship and Gordon didn’t get on with her new boyfriend.
At 17, he was offered a youth training scheme and with money in his pocket and older friends to encourage him, he started drinking and taking recreational drugs. He was heavily involved with the Manchester club scene, taking speed, ecstasy and acid on a regular basis.
Becoming a father at 20 put a stop to his party lifestyle for a while but it was replaced by heavy drinking with football friends. He split up with his son’s mother and lost contact with his son. By this time he had moved onto coke and was continuing to drink heavily.
For a while things settled down for Gordon. He moved to Scotland to be closer to his brother, had a job in management and was hiding the extent of his drinking from his family and colleagues. But when his father was diagnosed with throat cancer and his mother with cervical cancer at the same time, Gordon turned back to drugs to block things out.
By this time he was drinking about 1 litre of vodka, eight to 10 cans of strong cider or more every day and also taking Ketamine, MDMA, coke and speed. Newly married, he was out shopping with his wife when he had his first seizure.
Despite trying to reduce his drinking, Gordon continued to have seizures. He ended up homeless in September 2013 and was given accommodation in a flat with Horton Housing’s Spring Street Hostel Scheme.
With encouragement from his support worker, Gordon attended On Trak, NA and many other meetings and got involved with the Corner project. Doing well, he was given a place on a seven day detox programme in Manchester at the end of April last year.
He then proceeded to rehab, which started well. He made friends with the Polish chickens, Joe and Jenny, and was responding to the programme. But five days in, Gordon had another seizure and was rushed to hospital. Everyone, including the medical profession, had concerns about whether he would survive. By some miracle, and despite many other admissions to hospital, including a spell of pneumonia, he pulled through and managed to complete the nine month rehab programme.
This near-death experience has given Gordon a fresh outlook on life. He said: “You start seeing thing much brighter and clearer. I’m now in my own flat, keeping up with the rent, doing my own shopping and spending most days volunteering at The Basement Recovery Project.
“If I hadn’t gone through all that, I wouldn’t be me. Now I can help other people so they don’t have to go through the same thing.”