[Written by Stephen Wright]
Fred Parsons admits he had forgotten how it felt to smile after spending much of his life battling an alcohol and drug addiction.
It has been a year since Mr Parsons stepped through the doors at the Salvation Army’s Harbour Light drug rehabilitation centre in Hamilton, desperate to break his destructive cycle of “getting high, getting into trouble, and going to jail”.
The 65-year-old has been clean and sober ever since and, most tellingly, insists he has “never smiled so much in his life”.
Mr Parsons, who is among nine male residents, believes the Addiction and Life Skills Programme has been instrumental in his recovery and feels confident he will eventually be ready to reintegrate into society.
“I’ve been clean for a year and a few weeks – I’m on cloud nine!” Mr Parsons told Bernews.
“I’m so happy because the programme works. [The residents] are educated on how to stay away from the drugs and given the tools we can take with us.
“The real test will be on the outside when we leave, but what we’re learning is life-changing.
“I’m just so grateful. My spirits are really high. I’ve taken the opportunity to listen and learn. I’m in a good space.”
Although Mr Parsons is not a first-time resident, never before was he ready “in his heart and mind” to beat his addictions.
“Sometimes I relapsed because it’s hard to get off the drugs unless you get the help you need,” said Mr Parsons.
“I simply wasn’t ready before. People say they’re ready, but they’re not, and unless you’re ready, you won’t be able to do it.”
Aside from learning coping mechanisms for his addiction recovery, Mr Parsons said he has been encouraged to share his emotions and feelings in a safe space with the other residents.
“We all have different mindsets, and gradually, we’ve got to know each other,” he said.
“We have a weekly group where everyone sits down, and we share our feelings and explain how we feel.
“I was always a loner, but I’ve really enjoyed interacting with the other residents. I’ve opened up, which I never used to do.”
A self-confessed people-pleaser, Mr Parsons is confident better days are ahead and has a greater understanding of why he developed an alcohol and substance issue.
“I started as a teenager with beer and marijuana before moving on to stronger alcohol and harder drugs,” said Mr Parsons, who participated in the Harbour Light Programme’s annual Recovery Relay at the Flora Duffy Stadium last week.
“I wasn’t brought up right. I spent time in children’s homes and was all over the place. I did good sometimes, but I always fell short.
“I had jobs, but when I wanted to use drink and drugs, I missed work and lost them.”
He added: “Harbour Light has been a big change in my life. I couldn’t smile before, but now I’m smiling.”
Read More About