SURF supporting people struggling to cope with life

PUBLISHED: 15:00 21 July 2012

Ana Carvalho and Nick Blackshaw.

Ana Carvalho and Nick Blackshaw.


ADDICTION, struggle and panic – these are just some of the emotions and issues members and volunteers of SURF have managed to conquer with the service’s support.

SURF is a service-user forum, which operates out ofits recovery centre in Weston’s Oldmixon Road and helps those who are in and out of treatment for addiction.

With seven different programmes under its umbrella, SURF offers guidance to parents, alcoholics and those who have suffered from sexual abuse, to name just a few.

And with these services come leaders who have all been in the same boat.

“We are not professionals, but we have been through it all,” says 51-year-old Ana Carvalho, a recovered drug and alcohol addict who has been clean for two-and-a-half years.

Coming from a wealthy Portuguese family, Ana said her addiction took her to a dangerous place which left her living on the streets of Weston.

Ana, of Baker Street, came to the town in 1995 and said: “It was horrible living on the streets. I was in a treatment centre, like a hotel, but they kicked me out. I asked them to find me a house, but they would not and I ended up on the streets.

“I begged and did whatever I had to do to get food or money.

“My family was far away and I felt really alone. I came from a wealthy family but my preoccupation was with drugs and alcohol and that is where my addiction took me.”

Ana said because of her addiction she was never able to reach her full potential, but after help from the treatment centre Brother Lodge and getting involved in SURF, she feels she has made it.

She said: “I’m the team co-ordinator at SURF and I’m very proud of what I do, and I’m very proud of the team.

“I know where I went wrong and I’m very passionate about helping people to get well.”

Ana said before SURF she felt there was not an adequate service in the area to really make a difference to those who struggled with addiction and personal problems.

She said: “People told me I was just trouble and I felt very angry. I think the situation is getting better and SURF is a big part of that.

“We are working closely with the police, with ex-offenders, volunteers and people from prison and we try and make changes by taking the information from the forum to commissioning meetings.”

SURF has also branched out to Weston College, with one of their volunteers Nick Blackshaw providing help and advice through the service Substances Which Affect Teenagers (SWAT).

Nick, aged 40, who is a former heroine addict, moved to Weston four years ago to turn his life around. Since that time he has become a leading member of SURF, completed his college course and will be heading to Cardiff University in September.

Nick said: “When I was a college student, lecturers said more parents who were facing these issues were coming in and saying they did not know what to do, so I set this service up.

“It was a struggle to recover, it’s not been easy but it’s not easy for anyone to decide to do it. I get more satisfaction from being able to help people, especially the teenagers who have barriers in front of them. I can empathise with them.

“Everyone needs help with a step up and SURF is there to give them that. It’s not always about speaking to professionals.”

Ana said: “If you spend your life addicted to drugs and in prison what skills do you get? SURF is about being part of something positive. We are not professionals but volunteers and have been through the issues, I think that is where the difference lies, we have the personal experience.”

n To get help or get involved with any of the SURF services contact 01934 818047 or email northsomersetsurf@gmail.

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