Mark Jones used cocaine everyday for 18 months and would spend up to £1,200 per week on the Class A drug – before losing his home, partner and car repair workshop.
The 41-year-old began using cocaine at weekends aged 21 and after a turbulent two years has transformed his life, which is now dedicated to helping those less fortunate than him.
Mark was referred to the Councils through Going Local, a group of social prescribers based in GP surgeries, which support people and signpost them to means of help.
He worked with one of the Councils’ Employment and Skills Coaches to get himself back on track, securing a part-time paid job at homelessness charity Turning Tides, the biggest service provider for single homeless people in West Sussex.
Mark was living at his parents’ house when he sought help last summer and after banishing the substance misuse, attended Cocaine Anonymous sessions for six months.
The coach helped Mark to build his CV and directed him to a course on Peer Mentoring with national charity Change Grow Live, so he could learn about a job role in that sector and change his career.
He was guided to take up a volunteer position within the Councils’ Homelessness Outreach Team and at Turning Tides, before he gained his permanent job role there as an Advice and Assessment Worker.
Mark, who is a Bosch Vehicle Master Technician by trade, said: “Two years ago my life spiralled out of control.
“I was working 19-hour days at my car repair workshop, taking on too much, and I needed cocaine to get through.
“I started using more every week, then more everyday, then multiple times a day until I could no longer function.
“I lost everything because of that and ended up back at my mum and dad’s house at the age of 40.
“For six weeks straight I continued to use cocaine everyday because everything had collapsed around me. I was a mess.
“I’d already lost my first business, a pub, but I had enough money to pick myself up and carry on – I thought I could bounce back again, but this time it was different.”
Mark also sought help from the Mental Health Crisis Team at Worthing A&E. He started his permanent role at Turning Tides three months ago and said he is now happy with the new life he’s leading.
He added: “My Employment and Skills Coach, Ben, helped to change my life by providing me with emotional and practical support, as well as being a counsellor.
“I’d never have gone to Cocaine Anonymous if it wasn’t for him.
“I used to think: ‘I don’t need to talk to people I don’t know about my life, I’m not addicted to drugs because I’ve got a business and a house’ ...but I was.
“I’m not going back into the motor trade, my life is now dedicated to helping people worse off than me, and I was really lucky everything fell into place.
“I was focused on money, I always had to have an image, now I’m just Mark and I do a normal job.”
Adur and Worthing Councils recently launched the Help to Work scheme, which signposts those at risk of unemployment or who are unemployed, towards organisations which can help them look for work or retrain.
The team make referrals to those partners, get people into employment and make ‘interventions’, which include smaller tasks like job application support and arranging work placements.
Those who need extra help, if they are homeless or at risk of losing their accommodation, are supported by the Councils’ employment advisers.
Councillor Kevin Boram, Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing in Adur, said: “Mark’s incredible story is just one example of how the holistic support provided by our dedicated and passionate team can help to make such a difference to the lives of others.
“I hope it instills confidence in people in the same position Mark was in, that huge improvements to their life and wellbeing can be made.
“We have a range of other services, including alcohol and weight loss services, along with partner agencies we work closely with, which can help people reach their full potential.”
Councillor Val Turner, Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing in Worthing, added: “Partnering with other organisations which can aid a person’s recovery and progress is crucial to the process our team follows in order to get a person, like Mark, where they need to be.
“Whether it’s working with a substance misuse group, a charity which can offer volunteer positions, or getting someone into accommodation, our advisors are well-equipped to help people in need change their career paths and build better futures.”
Turning Tides runs 21 properties across the county and has more than 300 volunteers and 140 staff supporting its mission to end homelessness locally.
The charity believes everyone has the right to a home regardless of the difficulties they face.