A FORMER drug addict has shared how he turned his life around after his addictions left him poverty-stricken and alone.

Tony Mercer, 55, wants to share his struggle with cocaine and alcohol for more than two decades in an attempt to destigmatise addiction and encourage people who need help to make the first step to recovery.

Mr Mercer, who is now a public health consultant at Worcestershire County Council, says he understands what it takes to actually reach out and get help.

He said: “It is so important that we put a face and voice to people in recovery so that people realise that addiction can affect people from all backgrounds.

"Although I have always managed to hold down a job my addiction encroached on other parts of my life, my relationships broke down and I faced severe financial hardship.

"The worst thing about addiction for me was the isolation. I could be surrounded by people but still feel alone, this was further exacerbated by the shame and guilt I felt.

"This is why a lot of recovery is centred around connection."

This week he chaired a conference for National Recovery Month which recognises those in recovery and aims to remove the stigmas attached to addiction.

He said: “Recovery month is about celebrating recovery and challenging stigma, because the stigma can prevent people coming forward and getting the vital help they need.

“I’ve been fortunate, working in public health I’ve not had to face the stigma that so many people have, but it still takes a lot to accept you need help.

“We want people to know that treatment and support is available here in Worcestershire for those struggling with a drugs or alcohol problem, and support is available for their families too.”

In addition to his official public health role, Mr Mercer is also a volunteer for FAVOR, Faces and Voices of Recovery, an advocacy charity promoting recovery.

In the UK, as part of National Recovery Month, FAVOR are co-ordinating a number of events to promote the theme, Recovery is for Everyone.

These events promote treatment and recovery, recognize the strength and resilience of people living in recovery, and acknowledge service providers and community members who make recovery in all its forms possible.

County councillor Karen May, cabinet member for Health and Wellbeing, added: “We are very supportive of Tony and his work to promote drug and alcohol services in Worcestershire.

"This year’s theme reminds us that people in recovery and those who support them can be anyone, that no one is alone in the journey and recovery belongs to all of us.”

If you or someone you know needs support, the county’s drug and alcohol recovery service is delivered by Cranstoun Worcestershire.

They can be contacted via email cranstounworcsreferrals@cranstoun.org.uk or by phone on 0300 303 8200.