Justin Jansen first turned to drugs while struggling to cope with a traumatic childhood.
He was left in a really dark place when his mum left home when he was young and later died.
“That left me with a feeling of not belonging, not being good enough, and with a lot of insecurity and I suppose fear,” he explains. “And I started looking for ways to belong; to be accepted.”
Like many others now facing addiction, Justin started smoking marijuana when he was at school, progressing to cocaine and eventually heroin.
He was taking drugs as a way to take away the pain.
“What they made me do was feel OK, not feel the reality of my life,” he says.
“And I suppose in the beginning it gave me the sense of belonging and a crowd to belong to.”
Taking drugs to cope: He hit rock bottom…
But taking drugs usually only leads in one direction and Justin ended up feeling the pain of addiction instead.
“I tried to kill myself because I didn’t think that life was worth living anymore,” he says. “Everyone had given up on me.
“That’s when I finally hit my bottom – I always say rock bottom is when a person is broken enough to ask for help.”
That was back in 2010 and Justin has been clean from alcohol and drugs since then.
And after getting the help he needed at a treatment centre, he was so inspired to help others he studied to be an addiction counsellor.
‘I didn’t have to go through it alone’
“To be able to give myself a chance to find happiness again, and self belief, and to become comfortable in my own skin was not an easy journey.
“It involved facing my past and my trauma and going through the pain.
“I was just lucky through the treatment centre there were people there supporting me and I didn’t have to go through it alone.”
Justin turned his life around and continued studying, eventually graduating with a degree to become a psychologist and opening up his own treatment centre in 2014.
For the past year, he’s been working as the service manager for the Quarriers Arrows Service, a drug and alcohol support centre based in Elgin.
Staff have helped 749 people who have accessed services there over the past three months alone.
“We’ve seen, over the last few months, a huge increase in the number of people needing our services,” he says.
Although, there’s still a lot of stigma attached to substance users and Justin says this often makes it difficult for people, and their families, to walk into the building.
‘I was very much a victim in my life’
But he’s keen to highlight that it’s a free and confidential service and that staff realise that many have faced trauma in their lives.
“I would just love people to know that Arrows is a non-judgmental service,” he says; “It’s a service built up with a lot of people with lived experience who have been there.”
There’s also a newly launched project called Our Promising Futures helping families and children affected by a relative’s drug or alcohol addiction.
Families can refer themselves if they need help or advice.
And Arrows also runs the Bow Cafe in Elgin staffed by volunteers cooking up discounted meals for local residents facing financial hardship.
Around 15 people also turn up every week to play in an (Addicts) Recovery Football Team launched by the Quarriers charity service.
Everyone struggling with drug or alcohol addiction is described as a survivor.
Justin says many are just looking for a solution and taking drugs to cope with the pain of a traumatic life.
“I think I’ve never really given up in life,” Justin, who is originally from Johannesburg in South Africa, says.
“I was always looking for something and I see that with a lot of the people we support as well.
“They’ve been through the mill and they haven’t given up.
“I was very much a victim to my life, blaming my trauma and my circumstances.
“But I think through treatments and counselling, and all of the things that we offer in substance use services, I was able to get that positive outlook and find hope.
“I think you just need one person to believe in you, to have that person saying you could do this and have a good life.”
Quarriers CEO, Dr Ron Culley, said the service is a source of great pride for the charity for all its work helping Moray residents on their recovery journey.
He added: “We’re strong advocates of using lived experience to enhance insight and support, and Justin and the team continue to do a remarkable job in helping people to transform their lives.”
Struggling with addiction?
If you live in Moray and are struggling with alcohol or drug addiction and want to find out how Arrows can help you, call 01343 610500 and speak to one of the team, or leave a message.
Services are also available to help families and friends who are worried about their loved ones taking drugs to cope with their lives.
More information about Arrows and the services it provides can be found here.