A NORTH Shields man who turned to alcohol and gambling after losing his job has praised the service which helped get him back on his feet.
Michael Cook spent every day drinking and gambling in a bid to drown out the depression of being made redundant.
As his life spiralled out of control he took action to change his outlook after one night of drinking too much and failing to remember what he had done.
And after seeing a poster, Michael signed up to Taking Part – run by the NHS-funded Taking Part Workshops Community Interest Company – which aims to improve mental health and well-being.
Michael said: “I used to enjoy getting out of bed every morning knowing that I was going to help people that needed it.
“Then what they call the recession hit and my company decided it needed to make cutbacks.
“Suddenly I was one of these ‘cutbacks’ and was told that the job I enjoyed so much was going.”
The 44-year-old got a few odd jobs, but he used his lunch break to go to the amusement arcades and gamble whatever wages he had earned.
“Sometimes I’d double my money, so would decide to go out at night to bars and clubs and get so drunk that I’d sleep through my alarm in the morning and miss an entire shift at work,” he said.
“It didn’t bother me – I’d just spend the remainder of the day at the amusements gambling any money I had left.
“I felt like it was the only way of drowning out the depression I felt from not having any ambition or drive left in me.”
Michael found the first session of Taking Part strange as he did not have the confidence to speak, but he persevered and made friends with others at the session.
He added: “Everyone made me feel welcome and the support from the staff was just what I needed to bring back the original confidence that I used to have; something I thought I’d never get back.
“Taking Part really helped me gain the confidence I needed and I now feel that I have the right frame of mind and the positive outlook on life needed to pursue the dream career I’ve always wanted.”
Matthew Henderson, director of Taking Part Workshops, said: “We recently widened the types of opportunities that are available for the public to get involved in, as we are building new partnerships within the community.
“Residents can now get all sorts of activities on prescription such as healthy walks, fitness groups, arts and crafts and much more.”
For more information on the support available, visit www.takingpartworkshops.org.uk