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22nd September 2015

Matthew turns over a new leaf

MATTHEW resorted to housing a cannabis farm to pay off debts that had spiralled out of control.

The 22-year-old, from Swinton, was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court, in December, 2014, to a 12 month Community Order. He is supervised by Mel Steventon, a probation services officer for CGM CRC’s Intensive Community Order (ICO) team.

Matthew first started taking drugs in his early ‘teens, but saw his use become more problematical after completing his university degree and moving back in with his parents.

Police uncovered the cannabis farm after raiding his house and his parents’ house. Matthew, who is an assistant manager at a retail shop and had never previously been in trouble with the law, faced losing his job.

He said: “In hindsight I made some pretty stupid decisions. The debt I am in is not solely though drug use, a lot of it stems from student overdrafts and credit cards, but I set about tackling it the wrong way.

“The ICO team has helped me realise that alcohol’s a big trigger for me. When I get drunk, I take cocaine. I was in quite a mess.

“It was the worst when my parent’s house was raided. They brought me up well, for me to bring that stuff on them made me feel so ashamed and anxious.”

It took several months for the case to come to court and Matthew was unsure whether or not he was going to be jailed.

He said: “I think six months in jail would have ruined my life. I’d have lost my job. I would have come out to nothing, apart from a mountain of debt that would have then been even harder to pay off.

“So I was happy to get the ICO. But I didn’t know what to expect. As it turns out, I’ve had so much support from the team. Mel’s helped me see things in perspective. I am getting support to put my life back in order. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still tough – I have to come in early and work long shifts around it – but I’m doing extra courses because I can see how beneficial they are.”

Mel has supported Matthew with methods to reduce his alcohol consumption and to budget. He also meets Nic Gallagher, a recovery co-ordinator for Achieve, Salford’s drug and alcohol service, on a regular basis.

Mel said: “We know debt, alcohol and drugs are all triggers to re-offend. We worked hard to help Matthew see how his problems all linked to binge drinking and drugs. He’d been taking out pay day loans to fund binges, and had wracked up a lot of debt.

“We’ve helped him budget, we’ve helped him focus and we also set him the challenge of going 30 days without a drink – which he did. He’s come on so much and I am proud of the progress he has made.”

Matthew said: “My parents can see the difference in me. I accept my habits were inevitably leading to disaster. I was using drugs to escape from my problems, but then waking up feeling anxious and depressed – then repeating the cycle.”

Matthew also voluntarily participates in Moderation Management, an intervention run by Achieve.

Nic said: “We look at behaviours, the consequences of actions and develop personal responsibility. As proof that Matthew’s taking this on-board, he’s asked to do Moderation Management in his own time. When he started his self-esteem was low, but now he’s really motivated. He’s an extremely good example of what can be achieved.”

Matthew added: “I think it’s hard to stop and take stock of your life on your own. But when others are there to support and encourage you to do that, it makes it so much easier.

“I have put a lot of effort in to making changes in my life and can comfortably say that I will not offend again because the way I make decisions in life has changed completely, especially surrounding drugs and alcohol.”

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