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Leah’s Story – Racing SMART – self-harm, addiction and suicidal thoughts

With gentle reassurance and support from her welfare officer, work rider, *Leah has slowly learned to open up and trust again. Leah has struggled with addiction issues around food and self-harm alongside low mood and anxiety which led to suicidal thoughts.

Through this time of despair, Racing Welfare provided Leah with mental health support and she recently joined the Racing SMART Recovery Group which provides peer-led support for those struggling with addiction.

Leah spoke to us about her experience and her journey to recovery:

Can you tell us a bit about your addiction and how it was affecting your life and those of your loved ones?

My addiction was the use of unhelpful coping strategies with food and self-harm. I wasn’t eating and I was skipping meals. These coping strategies were used to manage my thoughts and emotions but they were having a detrimental impact on myself and those around me who were trying to look out for me.  I used my coping strategies to help me cope with everyday life which I sometimes found difficult to manage or cope with to the point where I did attempt to take my life on more than one occasion.

When did you initially seek support from Racing Welfare?

In April 2018, my employers were concerned about my well-being as I had an unhealthy relationship with food and they had discovered that I had been self-harming.  They asked Racing Welfare to support me but at the time I was not ready to engage and did not see my behaviour as detrimental to myself.

In April 2019, my behaviours became more extreme and I was also experiencing low mood and severe anxiety and I was struggling to sleep – I didn’t know why this was happening to me.  Once again work intervened and on this occasion I did engage with Racing Welfare.

How did it feel to engage with Racing Welfare and how did the charity help you?

I found it incredibly hard to open up at first but there was never any pressure put on me.  Sometimes we would sit in silence but gradually I began to open up and trust again.  Racing Welfare helped me get the professional help that I needed from the GP, CAMHS and funded private counselling.

My welfare officer who has supported and encouraged me for two years, told me about the Racing SMART group and encouraged me to attend.  At first I found it difficult to open up to strangers but again there was never any pressure and I was allowed to contribute as much or as little as I wanted to and in my own time.

How has Racing SMART helped with your addiction issues?

The group has taught me to challenge my own thoughts and discover new helpful coping strategies. It is friendly, informal and supportive with no judgement and no pressure.  I would highly recommend the group to others.

If you are struggling with addiction and need support you can call 0800 6300 443 in complete confidence 24 hours a day and you can visit our addiction pages for more information.

*The beneficiary’s name was changed for anonymity