WHEN Richard Watson was 18 his mother died of cancer. It was then his casual use of alcohol, cocaine and cannabis took a serious turn, plunging him into addiction for more than 20 years.

But after getting clean and sober three years ago, the employment leader and addiction specialist for the Department for Work and Pensions turned his life around and now uses his experience to help others.

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“There’s a fundamental lack of understanding of addiction,” he said. “It wasn’t until I got to rehab that I linked my problems to not being comfortable in my own skin.”

Despite losing homes, jobs, relationships and his relationship with his children’s mother, Mr Watson, 42, didn’t consider himself to be an addict. 

Even being hospitalised at 19 for drugs-induced psychosis because he took ecstasy “like Prozac” wasn’t a wake-up call.

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 “I still didn’t understand that I had an addiction problem and unfortunately nobody I spoke to at the time understood that if the root causes aren’t dealt with I’d just keep going back to the same old problem,” he said.

In 2016, after borrowing enough money to attend a private rehab, Mr Watson got clean but relapsed after 36 days. Thanks to recovery services in Glasgow, it was the last time he has used.

“I was really lucky,” he said. “I met people who had recovered and for the first time I had hope because they led by example.”