Amanda's story After a lifetime of self-hate, abusive relationships and complicated struggles with addiction, Amanda is finally facing the bright future she deserves. Here’s what happened. Amanda had traumatic and complicated childhood. When Amanda was two and half, her mum simply couldn’t cope, and Amanda was sent to live with her dad and step-mother. Her dad moved to Saudi Arabia shortly afterwards, leaving Amanda behind with her step-mother. Suffering from issues with abandonment, Amanda started drinking at the age of 13. 'I always felt like an outsider. I felt different, like I didn’t fit or belong, and I felt unlovable. Alcohol gave me confidence to mix with people.' 'From 14 I was drinking every day. Even in school I would hide alcohol and drink it under the table.' 'Alcohol definitely lowered my inhibitions but I made some crazy decisions and put myself in dangerous situations. My behaviour gave me a bad reputation which made me feel worse.' 'I felt ashamed and hated myself. I began to self-harm.' Stepping away from her family At the age of 16, Amanda felt she didn’t fit in anywhere – not even at home. She left her family, and moved in with her boyfriend. 'My self-worth came from men,' she says. 'I felt that as long as they loved me, I was OK. I became promiscuous, always looking for that feeling I thought of as love.' 'I managed to control my drinking, but I still used alcohol to block out pain, to give me confidence and impress people. Although I thought I was in control, whenever I did drink, I drank until I was unconscious. I was in a cycle: hating myself, using men to feel better, and then drinking because I hated myself.' Finding heroin At 19, Amanda left her boyfriend for a man 16 years her senior. This, she says, is when the real trouble started. 'He was a heroin addict. I didn’t realise at first, but even when I did, I stayed because I was in love and thought I could change him.' 'Within six months I was an intravenous heroin addict.' 'It was an abusive relationship, both emotionally and physically. I became a prostitute to earn money for us to buy drugs and to survive. Alarm bells should have been ringing and I should have left, but he told me I was useless and worthless, and I just didn’t have the confidence to leave.' 'My self-hate grew and grew.' 'I got pregnant and I was thrilled. I just wanted to be a good mum. I wanted to make sure my child felt loved and didn’t feel how I felt growing up. When he was born, I was so happy, but the first time my partner came to visit me in the maternity ward, he attacked me. Staff reported the assault to Social Services and understandably they wanted to put my son into foster care, but after begging and begging, they let me keep him.' 'We went on to have another child together but after he assaulted me in public, he was arrested and jailed.' 'At that point, I took the opportunity to leave.' Amanda met someone else. 'He was a heroin dealer, and although I wasn’t using when we met, it wasn’t long before I was. We had two children, but because of my addiction, eventually they went to live with him and my older two spent time in foster care.' 'My emotional state and self-hate increased and I attempted an overdose. Everyone despaired of me. If I wasn’t using heroin, I was drinking. This went on for a 20 year cycle.' Amanda then and now 'I didn’t want to die any more' Amanda felt she had nothing left to live for. It was a state of mind that continued for a long time - but with encouragement and love from her son, in December 2012 Amanda decided she no longer wanted to die. 'I decided I wanted to go into rehab. I didn’t want to die any more,' she explains. ‘The real change came on April 16 2013, when I admitted to myself I had a problem, and went into rehab.' 'This was a huge turning point.' 'I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I needed support, so when I left rehab, I went to Recovery Cymru, and from there I was introduced to NewLink Wales. I signed on to their MILE course.' MILE is a 10 week course for people affected by substance misuse who want to move on from their own recovery and volunteer in the substance misuse sector, helping others who are walking the same road. 'There is always hope' Amanda has since gone from strength to strength. 'MILE showed me that there were people just like me and that there was hope for a good, successful life,' she tells us. 'It gave me the confidence to try. The training, knowledge and skills gave me the self-belief to do what I wanted to do.` 'It gave me so many opportunities.' 'I used my knowledge and experience to volunteer on the NewLink Wales Service User Forum, OpenLinks. I’ve skydived and raised money for NewLink Wales. I’ve appeared in recovery videos, had three stories written about my recovery journey, volunteered in amazing places and won an award for Special Achievement.' 'I can’t believe how my life has changed, I’m so happy. My family is closer than we’ve ever been. My dad, step-mum and sister are moving to Cardiff and eleven of us are going on a family holiday to Disneyland Paris in September.' It was hard for Amanda to tell her story - but she knows it’s important that her experiences, and those of people like her, are heard. 'If telling my story helps just one person,' she says, 'it’s worth it.' 'I couldn’t have done it without NewLink Wales. The belief and support I had was incredible. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for them.' 'I want people to know that if I can achieve recovery, anyone can. There is always hope.' Lindsay Cordery-Bruce, Chief Executive of NewLink Wales, says 'we are so extremely proud of Amanda and her achievements. Everyone has their reasons for using substances, but Amanda is absolute proof that with the right support, anyone can achieve recovery.' I couldn't have done it without NewLink Wales. The belief and support I had was incredible. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren't for them.