My name is Leigh Scarff and I am making a difference

16 January 2018

Leigh Scarff, aged 42, is a Trainee Key Worker at the drug and alcohol service in Torbay. The service is run by Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust and helps to support many people each year with drug and alcohol addiction.

Leigh works part time at the service and is studying in his own time for a Diploma in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, as well as undertaking his training to be a Key Worker. As a trainee Key Worker, he helps to support people on a 1-1 basis with abstinence from alcohol. Prior to becoming part of our workforce Leigh was a volunteer and has battled with his own addition to alcohol.

He very openly and honestly shared his story to inspire others during dry January to take the leap and seek support. It is a story of inspiration and hope for anyone living with alcohol or substance misuse.

Leigh Scarff said: “I hit my lowest point when I was 33 and I was sent to jail. I remember sitting in the chapel and speaking to the chaplain there. I was struggling to get over the things that I had done and the person I was and knew I had to change but when I got out of prison I found myself sat in a pub within hours of being released and within a week any money that was in bank account was gone. I was in a vicious cycle of waking up in a police cell or hospital bed and not knowing what had happened to me. “Despite holding some work down in 20’s I was unemployable. Although things got bad in my 30’s I had always been a drinker and enjoyed partying but I know the issues for me started much younger.

“My Mother suffers with addiction to alcohol and was addicted heroin and at 11 I came to live with my Father, who was very wealthy and addicted to money. I went from living on a council estate in Liverpool to living in one of the wealthiest areas in Torbay. I was a frightened little boy and living with my Father who I did not know.

“I’ve been sober for around seven years now and became sober after suffering a severe head injury as a result of drinking too much alcohol. It saw me have 68 pins put into my head and it took a long time to recovery. I was depressed and agoraphobic and alcohol fed into this. I struggled to feel comfortable around family and even having people stand behind me a shop.

“I eventually decided to go to AA (Alcoholics Anonymous ) and started a 12 step programme which help me to give up. I knew when I said “My name is Leigh and I am alcoholic” that, that was what I was. It is an illness and one that I have.

“Since then I’ve been able to start getting my life back on track. I started volunteering and I feel really strongly about helping people to achieve some of what I have. I’ve worked with the homeless and alcoholics, people just like me who are waking up in hospital and not know how they got there. I can give them hope.

“In the last year I have ran three marathons, Chester, London and Bournemouth, and a half marathon for my sister who has cystic fibrosis. I do exercise and I am eating clean. It is part of my recovery now. I would have never imagined that I would be doing that few years ago. I now have a career and a really meaningful one and that is something I never thought I would have. I would eventually like to do some counselling or maybe social work.

“I have a purpose now and I have a partner and see a future. Life sober has made me happy and it keeps getting better. That’s why I know I won’t go back. Laying my head on a pillow each night and going to sleep sober is just great.

“I do exercise and I am eating clean. It is part of my recovery now. Abstaining doesn’t stop me from doing things either, I recently went to see Kings of Leon in Germany and I do go to the pub to watch football. I still follow my programme but I know I won’t every go back to alcohol.

“I think my advice to someone would be to know that they are not alone and there is help out there and to try and engage in the services and mutual support.”

If you can relate to this story and want to seek help, support or advice about yourself or someone you love who is dealing with alcohol or substance misuse you can get in touch with the Torbay Drug and Alcohol service on 01803 604330 visit our drug and alcohol service pages on the website to refer or access one our open drop in clinics around Torbay.

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