Following our Story - October

A Story with... Sally

Sally Millar, 34, tells her story of recovery here:

From a very early age, I wasn’t sure where or how I fitted into my family or even society. I was a shy and anxious child and never felt comfortable in my skin. I used to laugh a lot because I didn’t know how to manage my emotions. I carried a lot of shame. I was bullied at school. I tried to get attention by becoming the class clown. I used different masks with different groups. At the age of 13, I started to experiment with Cannabis and alcohol. This progressed to Ecstasy and Class A drugs and by 18, I ended up taking Heroin. I had always loved music, dancing and clubbing, but all my dreams and aspirations were taken away by drugs. Drugs took over my life. They took away my soul. Homelessness, isolation and darkness followed. Life was totally unmanageable.

The turning point came in 2014. I went into detox on my 33rd birthday and remained there for 11 weeks. I was a frightened little girl. I had a spiritual awakening. I remember seeing colours and hearing the birds for what felt like the very first time. I had been in a bubble for so long. Thankfully, I was admitted to The Nelson Trust. I could hardly talk and would shake with anxiety. I would have moments of hysterical laughter when I felt emotional. As part of my therapy, I looked at what was behind the laughter. The one-to-one counselling really helped. I strongly recommend EMDR therapy for anyone who has been through trauma. Creative writing helped too. I remember writing about an anxious crab. She was out on the sand but got scared and went into her shell. She was swept out to sea and climbed onto a boat. After 15 years she was finally washed up onto a beach and emerged from her shell. I REALISED THIS WAS MY ADDICTION.

Writing, community activities, outward bounds, walking, drama and singing all helped to build my self-belief. Taking the part of the ghost of Jacob Marley in Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ in The Nelson Trust Christmas pantomime was a breakthrough moment. I was extremely fortunate to be given the opportunity of resettlement housing for a year. I’m going back to all the things I loved when I was 13 - football, drama, music and dance. I also did a Maths and English course. Surrounded by young people, I felt like giving up at first, but I pushed through and challenged myself. As a result, I did a two-week Performing Arts taster course at the college. I loved it. This was a light-bulb moment – this is my passion. I’ve built up my skills by volunteering at the YMCA charity shop and at The Hub Bistro, The Nelson Trust’s alcohol-free venue in Gloucester. Social anxiety is something that I still get regularly, but now I can manage that with the tools and support network that The Nelson Trust has given me. When I feel the panic returning, I know now that nothing bad is happening - it’s just a feeling. I come away, breathe deeply, ground myself and find the strength within. I try to keep busy so that I don’t give in to my disease. My life’s completely flipped and I’m making new friends and a fresh start. I love Stroud and feel very safe here. I feel so proud of myself – I’ve achieved so much in such a short time. I’ve just found myself a part time job. This is what I do in life:

‘I just like to sing like no one’s listening, dance like no one’s watching, and… laugh – why don’t you join in?’