FROM drug addict to volunteer for the service that has helped him rebuild his life, Stuart Haddock is now helping to inspire others along the road of recovery by passing on the mindfulness techniques that have served him so well. ANDY RUTHERFORD reports.

ALCOHOL was Stuart Haddock's first drug, setting him on the road, at the age of 16, to chronic addiction, spells in prison, and occasional homelessness.

Twenty-five years later, nothing had changed, and by his own admission, he was "quite comfortable" with his life and could not imagine being drug-free.

But then the abuse began to take its toll on his mental health. Severe psychosis set in, and after being put into medically-induced comas three times in nine months due to the amount of drugs he was taking, he realised he had to clean up.


That was August 2016. More than three years on, he has transformed his life, and now runs mindfulness classes at the Gwent Specialist Substance Misuse Service (GSSMS) base in Newport where he first began to face down his demons.

It is a transformation of which Mr Haddock, who lives in St Julians in Newport, is rightly proud, while acknowledging that his is an ongoing journey of recovery.

"I owe this place (GSMSS) so much," he said. "I'd been under the service since 2010 but hadn't really engaged seriously until after August 2016, when I'd hit rock bottom, really.

"They had been offering me groups every year and I thought "what's the point?" But the first day I came I could see something.

"There was another guy here who enthused about it, and I thought "if he can do it, why can't I?"."

The 'it' was emotional skills training and mindfulness sessions offered as part of the support provided by GSMSS and which have played a key role in changing Mr Haddock's life.

"I started with alcohol when I was 16," said Mr Haddock.

"It was nothing to do with my childhood. I had a brilliant childhood. But I was socially anxious, and found that alcohol helped to combat that.

"I progressed to prescription drugs, then illegal substances, speed and eventually heroin, crack.

"I occasionally managed being clean, but rather than for me, it was for other people, prison, probation.

"I was quite comfortable with the way my life was. I knew no different. I couldn't see myself living without drugs.


"I was functioning. It was when I was clean that I struggled. I wasn't ashamed. I preferred to be always drinking and taking drugs.

"There was periodic homelessness, a few months at a time. Even then I didn't really care. As long as I got the drugs. That was more important than having somewhere to live.

"I've had counselling, on and off since I was 16, but it was more to keep others happy - my mum, or partner, or the courts.

"In 2015 or 2016 I started to have issues with my mental health from drug abuse, and things got quite bad.

"I developed severe psychosis. There was alcohol and a lot of amphetamines, and I didn't know what was real and what wasn't.

"I was taking so many drugs that in the space of nine months I was put into three medically induced comas.

"The last one was in August 2016. My mum said I needed to sort something out.

"I went back to my mum's. I thought, "let's start listening and using the services that are available".

"I got a letter saying there was a place available in an emotional skills group (at GSMSS).

"There was a two-week wait, and in that time I had my medication sorted out, had seen a counsellor, my GP."

Mr Haddock said GSSMS has been "absolutely amazing".

"Everyone - the doctors, Paula (Taylor, clinical team manager and lead therapist), the counsellors I have had, have been fantastic," he said.

South Wales Argus:

Paula Taylor, clinical team manager and lead therapist with Gwent Specialist Substance Misuse Service, with volunteer Stuart Haddock. Picture - Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

"I've never felt rushed or pressurised. I've been made to feel like a human, and that is massive.

"You go to some places and you are just a number, but even at my worst stage I was treated like a normal person."

Within two weeks of coming off drugs, Mr Haddocks was invited to a mindfulness session at GSSMS.

"It has helped me build confidence and see there is life after addiction. It had an effect straight away," said Mr Haddock.

"It's helped me understand about myself, how to deal with my emotions, gain confidence. Before, I worried about the past and catastrophised the future, but this has helped me to live in the moment and that's massive.

"It's a major part of why I'm still sober, along with the counselling and medication."

After he had been attending for about two years, Ms Taylor asked Mr Haddock if he would like to become a volunteer - something he has been doing since last winter. He now runs mindfulness sessions for GSSMS, and Ms Taylor says he has a key quality that people in the sessions respond to.


"The credibility Stuart has is making a big difference. It's in his story, and the progress he has made, and people take notice of him because he has been where they've been," she said.

"When we bring new people in, they do the emotional skills training and then we hand over to Stuart."

As well as co-facilitating a GSSMS mindfulness group, Mr Haddock also recently began running a 'graduate' mindfulness group there, for an hour every Friday.

"I want to give something back, because I've been given so much by coming here," he said.

Mr Haddock acknowledges the "brilliant" backing he has had from a supportive family, and now looks at life anew.

"I still feel about 15 years old," he said.

"I love going food shopping, cooking, I run a coffee morning at my flats block, I love going for walks with my dog..

"I've got a lovely flat, a supportive mum and stepdad, and a supportive family. I now look forward to the next day.

"If you engage with services they can help so much. I'm not the most motivated of people, so if I can do this, anyone can."

For more about Stuart's story, see the video at