As im sadly on my last day of my Community Ranger Internship I wanted to tell my story of how this Internship has really changed my life for the better, and hopefully to also help and inspire others. Not only the people who are going through what I did but also for loved ones who are trying to help those going through dark times. The simplicity and beauty of nature and a wonderful understanding team have quite literally put a smile and happiness back in my life.
Four years ago my life was not a happy one. I was in a violent and abusive relationship, in which I lost my self-respect, confidence, sense of purpose and very nearly the sight in my right eye. I suffered depression, wasn’t working, some days I stayed home as I couldn’t face the world, and I’d have to get drunk if I did go out. Previously I’d battled other drug addictions and turned to alcohol and cannabis to get me through everyday. I ran up debt because drink and smoke was all that mattered. I got into trouble with the police on a couple of occasions, and had I got in trouble again I would’ve been looking at going to prison.
Then sadly my friend died, doing something he absolutely loved, flying his kite up Dunstable Downs. It was a massive shock. But I decided the only way to deal with it was by changing, and changing for the better to try and find some sort of positive out of a very cruel negative. This started with getting out of the relationship I was in. That wasn’t easy but I did it. I went to my doctor and asked for contacts of people who could help with alcohol problems. He advised me to go to James Kingham. I very nearly didn’t make that first appointment even with a friend along. But I was made to feel at ease, and that id come to a good place, but I did continue to struggle with my drinking especially when a few months later I was evicted from home.
Life seemed even blacker. Homeless, staying on a friend’s sofa, my belongings at my mum’s. I decided to get help with my cannabis use as well. Together James Kingham and Addaction helped me realise that I did have a problem, but I wasn’t alone and there had to be something behind it. They taught me to recognise my triggers and slowly start to control them. More importantly they taught me not to be so hard on myself. No one chooses to have an addiction, it’s a coping mechanism, a way of escaping misery. Addaction referred me to Bromford Support. I remember my first meeting there. I was petrified, having to meet and learn to trust another new person. With support from Addaction I slowly relaxed and was assigned a support worker with Bromford support.
I was homeless for 6 months. Bromford supported me not just with getting a flat through the council, but more importantly I had someone who listened, who didn’t laugh at me or put me down, who gently nudged me in the right direction if I was struggling, and that was a lot! Even after getting the flat life was still a battle, my first time living on my own with bills to pay and still struggling with my addictions. Bromford help me deal with talking to energy companies, managing my money and my mental health. It makes such a difference having someone to help you through everyday life, and slowly my confidence grew.
I rescued a kitten and called him Harley and now he’s my best friend. Having that little life to look after made me feel better and he’s more than happy to give me all the cuddles I need! I also started sorting out my gardens at home, and taught myself to brick lay, make a ramp for my scooter. Cut down the trees and build a fence from pallets, I found my love for gardening. And it was just in time as I then received counselling, it was defiantly the hardest thing in my life so far. It was so good to talk about the issues I’d carried for years and finally put them to rest. I found in order to fix yourself you have to take yourself apart. Bromford supported me with this and encouraged me to think about getting back into work. But i knew i wasn’t ready to jump into a Full time job, as my issues were still an everyday battle. Then a friend suggested to me about volunteering up Dunstable Downs, it’s a place I’ve always loved.
So I got in contact with the National Trust and I started volunteering in November of last year, just doing 1 day a week but it really did start making a real difference in my life. Rose, Community Ranger, saw my passion for the great outdoors and love of wildlife and suggested to me the role of Community Ranger Intern was coming up. I didnt think i’d get it, or be good enough and very nearly didn’t apply but im so glad i did.
On my first day being given my uniform nearly made me cry, just feeling part of a team, and something good. These six months haven’t always been easy, but then if it was easy it wouldn’t have been worth it. I now have a sense of purpose, my self confidence back, ive conquered my addictions and most importantly im happy and smiling again.
Working with nature and a fantastic team is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I’ve achieved so much not just with the National Trust but personally as well. The word ‘cant’ is no longer in my vocabulary, something i never thought i’d say seven months ago!
Its not easy getting out of ‘hell’ and it may mean like it did for me, shutting yourself off from the world and changing everything about it including your circle of friends but it is worth it in the end. Mother nature REALLY can help and look after you if you let her. Dont be afraid to ask for help and stick with it YOU CAN heal yourself.
Finally thank you to JKP, Addaction, Counselling Service, everyone at Bromford, my friends and partner. My biggest thank you though goes to Rose Roberts for giving me this oppotunity and for believing i could do it and listening and encouraging me when life was still a struggle.
The sunshine is well and truly back in my life :)