Ben Parker: A Service User Story

Former service user, and now a peer mentor at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust, Ben Parker shared his story of drug addiction and recovery at the 2020 NHS APA Virtual Conference. Ben talked about how being a peer mentor has helped him in his journey and how he uses his personal experience to help others.

Here is Ben's story:


“Towards the end of my schooling I started smoking cannabis. Then, when I was about 15, I started using heroin and crack cocaine.


Even though I knew what happened to people who smoked heroin, I was under the illusion that nothing was going to happen to me.


Back then there was a drug and alcohol service for young people; my mum took me and I was put on a methadone script. I remember that she had to sign for my prescription because I was under 18.


At age 21 I went to prison for about two weeks and as soon as I came out, I started using while on probation. That went on for quite some time. I would go into prison, come out, engage with services, and get a methadone script, which I used as a backup for when I wasn't using.


Family life quickly deteriorated. My dad didn’t want me at the house and so I became homeless. The only person who didn't give up on me was my Mum.


Eventually, one of my key workers suggested rehab. While there, I learned about myself. I discovered it wasn’t really about the substance, it was about me and what I was running away from, and my default setting when things don’t go my way.

I represented the service user voice as I knew what they were going through. I saw myself in these people, and I believed in them when they couldn’t believe in themselves.

I stayed there for about three months, and then joined a peer-led, sober living community. As part of a Health and Social Care Course, I did a placement and volunteered for an organisation called Build On Belief. Initially I wasn’t keen to volunteer as I didn’t get paid – that was my attitude at the time! But it gave me the experience to now be able to support people who are stigmatised by society.


When I started my job as a peer support worker, I remember thinking that I’m going to cure the world! Clearly it wasn’t like that. But I had a supportive team and they encouraged me to bring whatever I wanted to the table.


I represented the service user voice as I knew what they were going through. I saw myself in these people, and I believed in them when they couldn’t believe in themselves.


Right now, I’m in a senior peer support role and facilitate groups for relapse prevention, building self-esteem, and weekly reflections. The thing that I love about this role is that I can share my experience and I understand a person's struggles.


I can bring that life experience.”

Watch Ben’s full presentation from the September 2020 conference.

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