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Leigh Scarff is making a difference

​Lei​gh Scarff
Leigh Scarff 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, aged 42, 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 one-to-one basis with abstinence from alcohol. Prior to becoming part of the Trust's 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 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 my 20s I was unemployable. Although things got bad in my 30s, 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 helped 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 knowing how they got there. I can give them hope. 

“In the last year I have run 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. 

“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 to engage in the services and mutual support.”

If you would like see Leigh tell his full story in this short video.

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 or visit the website to refer, or access one of the Trust’s open drop-in clinics around Torbay.

Drug and alcohol service: here. A combination of open-access sessions (no appointment necessary) and bookable appointments for advice and assessment for drug treatment are available at the following times and venues:

Tuesdays:10am-12 noon, room 35, Paignton Hospital.
Tuesdays: 1pm-4pm. Appointments by arrangement (Paignton and Brixham).
Wednesdays: 3pm-7.30pm. Shrublands House, Morgan Avenue, Torquay.
Fridays: 9.30am-4pm. Appointment by arrangement (Torquay)​.