Jas’s story

Posted on 8th Jul 2024

Jas Sahota, WSUP’s Head of Operations and Community Relations Manager, shares his story of addiction and recovery.

“I am 15 years into recovery from drug addiction. I started off smoking cigarettes at 14 years old then cannabis from 16. At that time, I was rebelling, curious to try, and thought I would be cool with the other kids and I’d get noticed. Heroin use came about in my early 20s. I enjoyed taking drugs, I enjoyed being cool. Then heroine got a hold of me for along time.

“I didn’t have a normal upbringing. At five I heard my mum crying and rushed to her. She had been hit in the head with an axe by the man I was to find out eight years later was my real dad, who I did not see again after that day. That moment is still vivid in my mind: her on the floor in a pool of blood. Now I can understand I was self-medicating with drugs, masking this trauma and my anger by feeling numb and enjoying the buzz. I was angry and rebelling about other stuff to: having to go into a children’s home for nine months after mum was assaulted; her being paralysed down her left side after the assault; having to do housework because mum was not able to; how my friends’ lives were better than mine; wearing hand-me-down clothes; being hit by mum’s boyfriend who I thought was my dad; and then angry when I found out who my real dad was. So I used drugs because I wanted to feel normal like other people did and because I enjoyed it.

“My partner also used drugs and we depended on each other to keep using, like making sure we each had drugs or money for drugs. We had three children, but when you’re in the midst of your addiction, you don’t hide it any longer. Using drugs always came first and I didn’t want to go into withdrawal. It took away all the rational thinking. I imposed this lifestyle on my children, which is what happened to me as a child with my mum’s boyfriend who was a drinker. I knew deep down all this was not right and felt guilty. I stayed for my partner and the kids and tried to do the right thing. But I couldn’t stop and got angry about that, so I shut down in my mind by using drugs. I was stuck. Our children witnessed us smoking drugs and dealers coming to the house. We made sure they had food, clothing and everything like that, but they missed out on the emotional support, family holidays and on us actually being there rather than just physically there. This continued through their teenage years.

“I had been involved with the police and courts from around 17 years old. In my late 30s and early 40s, I went to prison twice for drug-related offences. The second time both the judge and my barrister said, ‘I hope you use this opportunity’. Prison was my saving grace. It gave me time away from my partner and drugs, and I could see my situation more clearly. Coming towards my release date, the only thing on my mind was ‘Can I score?’, but when I got out and scored, I didn’t like it in the same way any more. Something had shifted in me; I didn’t want this any longer.

“That is when I started my drug treatment. I had been through court-ordered treatment before, but only did so because it kept me out of prison. This time I really engaged and applied myself. When I had the odd lapse, I was wanting to mask the anger and pain again. But those feelings were still there afterwards; I’d feel guilty for using. It didn’t serve a purpose to me any longer, which is a mantra I use. Now I have good things in my life; I deal with situations and have learnt to become an adult – whatever one of those is!

“My life is going in the right direction now that I’m abstinent. I’m ‘family champion’ for Adfam, helping other family members cope with their loved one’s addiction. I ran a half marathon to raise money for local charities that support migrants and homeless people. My daughter got married and the whole family was there; it was a happy day.

“I started to volunteer for WSUP around eight years ago. My own experience played a major role in me wanting to volunteer and work for WSUP. I can relate to people going though a similar experience with addiction. I can share my own story openly and candidly with guests. I’m able to give them a glimmer of hope that change and recovery are truly possible. Many people like me that have been able to embrace it no matter how difficult the process can be. I truly enjoy the job that I do. I count myself as one of the lucky ones.”

Jas’s story was first published in Supporting People Bereaved Through a Drug or Alcohol Related Death by Peter Cartwright