I had a great life – a good job, a lovely wife and three wonderful kids. From the age of nine I had boxed and done judo and kickboxing, and when I discovered Mixed Martial Arts it really appealed to me as it combined all those different disciplines into one.

I won more than I lost at it, and even did some coaching, which I enjoyed. My problems began when I badly injured my knee, and my doctor put me on heavy duty painkillers.

Up until then I wouldn’t have even taken a paracetamol, I was always very fit and healthy and into my training. Once my knee was shattered, though, I went onto very heavy medication, and it just snowballed from there.

The longer I was on it, the more I was taking and the more I was getting used to it. It got to the stage where my knee wasn’t bothering me anymore but I was still going to the doctor and playing up that I was in pain to get prescriptions.

Eventually he knew I was chancing it, so he gave me a final prescription. So then I just started sourcing them myself off the internet. I began taking a range of prescription drugs.

Physically, I was just like a zombie. At the start I had been genuinely in pain, but once the pain was gone I liked the feeling I got from the tablets. They made you feel like you didn’t have a care in the world. But I just didn’t realise the effect it was having on the people around me.

It’s like I ‘wasn’t there’ for three or four years - my wife was almost like a single parent because I was of no use to anybody. She did everything she could to help me and get me back on track, but I just didn’t want to know.

I didn’t think I was doing anybody any harm, but it cost me my marriage, I’m out of my home, and I don’t have as much contact with my kids - it cost me everything.

"It came to the stage where I realised I couldn’t go on like this anymore and I needed to be there for my kids, I needed to set an example to them. My parents were worried sick about me too."

Young Family Outdoors Walking Through Park

I had already paid to go through rehab at a place in Dublin, which did nothing for me, I just wasn’t ready. A friend of mine told me about Extern, so I went along to their Reach Out project on the Shankill Road, and have been working with them ever since.

I had made the decision for myself that I wanted to change, and Reach Out were there to offer support and advice. They offered help, got me counselling and were always there to talk to.

If I needed to pick up the phone or call down and talk to them I was always made to feel welcome. It was good to know you had somebody there in your corner.

From the very beginning they couldn’t have been nicer or any more helpful. I honestly don’t know where I would be today without them.

They have helped me access courses, and recognise my potential to support others going through similar issues. Reach Out have even helped put me through an NVQ to become a personal trainer - now I can help people in body and mind.

"I don’t have a problem with addiction any more, that’s a road I’ll never go down again. I still have regrets and some depression, because of what I lost, but to anyone who is considering working with Reach Out, I would say that it really helped me. They’re non-judgmental, they’ll go out of their way to help you. They’re there 24/7 if you need them. They genuinely want to help and are always there for you."

Ian (45), Belfast
Project: Reach Out