THIS week, The South Wales Argus are running a series of features about Kaleidoscope as we celebrate our 50th anniversary. Estel Farell-Roig reports:
NIKITA Marshall was drinking a bottle of Jack Daniels and 40 bottles of Budweiser a day at one point.
The 19-year-old started drinking heavily at the age of 13 due to family problems and, after getting into the wrong crowd, everything started to spiral down from the age of 15. At the time, she was also taking cocaine and MDMA.
Then, the day after her 17th birthday, Miss Marshall, from Blackwood, was involved in a severe car crash which led to her suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and epilepsy.
“I couldn’t cope with it all and alcohol was my escape,” she said. “I would have a bottle of Jack Daniels and 40 bottles of Budweiser every day.
“I was using because I was after the feeling of being numb.”
But now Miss Marshall has been clean for more than six months and is looking forward to the future, as she will be starting a substance misuse degree in the Open University in October.
Having gone through detox in a hospital in Ystrad Mynach, Miss Marshall started going to The Voice Hub, a community space in Newport which helps those in recovery from addiction.
She continued: “The first time I came, I was so nervous, but everyone is so welcoming and friendly here.
“After two months of coming to The Hub, I became a volunteer, which made me a different person – I am now more patient and understanding.
“Seeing the difference it makes to others is such a lovely feeling. It gives me a purpose, which is something I have not had before.”
Miss Marshall – who would like to become an outreach worker to turn a big negative in her life into a big positive – still goes to the community space most days and said The Voice Hub is a safe environment for people that want to change.
“You feel welcome and understood, not like an outcast,” she added.
The Voice Hub, at McCarthy’s Court, in School Lane, opened in 2014 as a place where people can attend after receiving treatment.
Their aim is to help people not to be trapped in the revolving door of going back into addiction after treatment, but to stay in recovery, explained recovery co-ordinator Steve Masterman.
The activities they offer change on a monthly basis, continued Mr Masterman, as they ask service users what they think would help them.
The recovery co-ordinator, who has been clean since 2006, said the programme of activities helps users by providing a structure to their lives as, when they stop drinking or taking drugs, there is a massive gap.
Mr Masterman himself started being part of Kaleidoscope as a volunteer. In 2006, he was jailed for robbery on an indeterminate sentence for public protection and, in 2014, he started volunteering for the charity while being in Prescoed prison.
He continued: “I started taking drugs at the age of 12 due to family problems. I then started to commit crime to fund my habit and, when I went to prison in 2006, I was addicted to amphetamines.
“I had been to prison four times and the last one was the longest – there was no light at the end of the tunnel.
“It was a bit of a shock when I was given an indeterminate sentence for public protection, but I deserved it 100 per cent and it saved my life. It gave me a new focus.”Mr Masterman, from Monmouth, then started going to 12 steps recovery meetings in Swansea prison, as well as volunteering for the Samaritans.
He added: “I would like to thank Kaleidoscope for the opportunities they have given me. Without the support of the Kaleidoscope family, I would not have a job. I was really struggling to find a job because of my criminal history.
“In Kaleidoscope, we believe that people can change. We believe in people and encourage them to think they can achieve what they want.”
Mr Masterman was involved in setting up The Voice Hub in 2014, when they were based in Charles Street. At the time, it was the first recovery hub in Gwent and they were running support groups for stress and anxiety or sleeping disorders, for example.
“We realised we needed a bigger place when we had 22 people turn up for a quiz night,” he added.
At the moment, they have 30 to 40 people going through the doors each day and the activities are facilitated by volunteers, except for smart recovery.
“Volunteers are so invaluable to us,” he said.
Anthony Davies, who is now one the lead volunteers at The Voice Hub, was a polydrug user.
“Heroin and Valium were my main drugs, but, if I could get off my face off it, I would use it,” the 40-year-old said. “I had been to prison three times as I was committing crime to fund my drug habit.
“This last time something clicked on me and I thought that it was enough.”
Mr Davies, from Bristol, started volunteering at the Voice Hub in May 2016 while being in Prescoed prison. When he was released from prison in September, he kept going to the community space and, still now, he goes there every day.
He continued: “I enjoy coming here as it keeps me out of trouble. Volunteering here helps me fill my time and gives me something productive to do.
“As lead volunteer, I make sure everything is running ok and keep the volunteers in order.
“Without The Hub, a lot of people wouldn’t have anything.”
Mr Davies – who would like to become a support worker – said that when he started volunteering at the community space he wasn’t sure what direction his life was going.
He added: “It was the first time I had been clean in 17 years and it was a bit of a shock. I didn’t know how I was going to cope with things.
“We are like a little family here. We are all in the same boat and help each other out.”
Jason Jones, of Clarence Place, is another volunteer at The Voice Hub. The 44-year-old was jailed for burglary in June 2016 and was released a year later. Like Mr Davies, he was also committing crime to fund his drug habit – which included heroin, crack cocaine and legal highs.
Mr Jones had started using when he was 15.
“I came off drugs in prison and, when I came out, I started to come to The Hub,” he said. “It stopped me from being bored and there is a lot of support here, with the services and staff.
“I put myself forward to volunteer and started in January.”
Mr Jones said that volunteering is a good experience for him as well as helping with his own recovery journey.
“In a way, they have saved my life,” he added.
David Cecil, on the other hand, used to be a volunteer at The Voice Hub and has recently started a job as a business development manager for a building company.
Mr Cecil, from the Gaer area of Newport, said: “I came here for my own recovery and, in the space of a year, I have gone from volunteering to full-time employment.
“Volunteering here was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had.”
More details are available at facebook.com/thevoicehubnewport