Having battled hard to overcome an addiction to alcohol, cocaine, heroin and benzodiazepine, Peter Krykant looked to a group of volunteers in a desperate attempt to ensure he remained on the straight and narrow.
The 41-year-old decided to engage with the Forth Valley Recovery Community (FVRC) in 2015 after returning to the area following several years spent in rehab down south in Brighton.
And his choice has been fully vindicated as the Maddiston man is preparing to mark his ninth booze and drug-free year later this month.
The support Peter received from those who ran the group made such an indelible impression on him that he vowed to help others struggling with addiction — so much so he is now an FVRC recovery development worker. Peter’s is just one of many success stories made possible by the work of FVRC, part of the non-profit Addictions Support and Counselling organisation.
Happily married and a father to two young boys, he is eager to see more addicts in the Falkirk district turn their life around by participating in the weekly recovery meetings and many leisure, recreational and sporting opportunities run by FVRC volunteers, who are all recovering from addictions themselves. From recovery cafe gatherings and home baking classes to football sessions and hiking trips, the group offers a wealth of activities aimed at improving participants’ mental and physical well-being and operates from bases in Falkirk, Grangemouth and Stenhousemuir.
Assessing the impact the community has had on him personally, Peter said: “My life’s changed 180 degrees.
“I’ve went from injecting heroin every day and begging, borrowing and stealing whatever I could to get drugs to now having two beautiful young children and a beautiful wife who have never seen me drinking or taking drugs. As a recovered addict I recognise how crucial to ongoing recovery it is to build up a network of activities and support to aid recovery.
“We give people a safe, protective and alcohol and drug-free environment to come and explore different options and pathways into sustained recovery from problematic alcohol or substance abuse.”
However, Peter, his fellow paid FVRC workers and their 20-strong team of volunteers are only too aware of the difficulty involved in helping addicts defeat their demons.
The most recent statistics revealed there were 867 drug-related deaths in Scotland in 2016 — the highest figure since records began in 1996.
Such alarming figures are a cause for concern among those like Peter who work in the recovery community and have first-hand experience of the devastating impact addictions can have on both users and their families.
However, the positive effect groups like FVRC can have on those whose lives have been blighted by such problems gives Peter hope for the future.
His own road to recovery is a prime example of the way addicts can transform their lives, and passions, completely.
Peter continued: “Seeing the drug-death rates going up is demoralising for someone like me.
“I personally know people who have died as a result of drug overdoses in the last few months.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to eradicate the problem completely.
“All we can do is keep working together and make sure people have those opportunities.
“My own story consists of getting involved in mutual aid, recovery cafes and football and, as the old legs stopped working, fishing, which is now my big hobby outside of work and my two boys and wife.
“The community is purely volunteer-led. All the activities we do come as a result of what the community wants to do, not what our four paid workers want to.
“Within Falkirk we’ve got the Wednesday Recovery Ramblers, the recovery cafe in Stenhousemuir, a Saturday cafe in Falkirk with a mutual aid recovery group and then on Sunday we’ve got the recovery cafe in Grangemouth.
“When trying to move away from drug addiction you need to work on your physical as well as mental health.
“We encourage health and well-being throughout and the physiological factors as well.”
Being able to call on the hard times he went through as an addict is what caused Peter to realise he wanted to help those in similar situations.
It was also what led him to take on his current role helping those in the area he grew up in, all while staying on course with his own recovery.
Explaining why he finds his position so rewarding, Peter said: “Nothing helps like the therapeutic value of one person who’s suffered those issues helping another person through those same issues.
“I came along just to do some volunteering, I didn’t plan on working in this environment but I got a real desire to see the community grow because I thought what was going on was really special.
“It’s fantastic — you’re seeing them change their life. It’s the most rewarding thing about working here.
“When I suffered my problems there wasn’t anything like this available. Our focus is on alcohol and drugs although anybody with problems like gambling is welcome.
“In my experience gambling goes hand in hand with alcohol and drug problems. We’re all inclusive, we don’t close the door on anybody.”
Peter added: “The big thing for me is mutual aid, like the 12-step recovery programme.
“What you tend to see is people will succeed if they become part of the community.
“For the people who come and fully engage, I think 100 per cent get that stabilisation in their life.
“It’s beyond compare to see people coming in the same situation, addicted to heroin, methadone or crack cocaine, and seeing them get better and get rewards.”
While many of those who approach FVRC for help don’t immediately aim to take the first step into supporting others, the group finds plenty of addicts soon want to play their part.
That is why FVRC offers three ten-week volunteer training courses, which offer qualifications on completion, as well as a programme which enables those classed as having six months of stability to become a peer supporter.
Ultimately, though, FVRC’s main priority is to help addicts who want to be helped to change their lifestyle.
“We’re not a commissioned service so people aren’t referred to us,” Peter said.
“We need to keep working to make sure people have as many recovery options available to them.
“If you’ve got a desire to move away from a using or drinking lifestyle that’s causing you problems, we’re here.”
FVRC holds its weekly recovery cafes in Falkirk on Saturdays at 32 Vicar Street (10.30am to 3pm); in Grangemouth on Sundays at Rainbow House, 6 South Shore Road (12-4pm); and in Stenhousemuir’s Tryst Community Education Centre on James Street on Wednesdays (1.30-4.30pm).
For more information, call Peter on 07706294599 or visit www.asc.me.uk.