Mickey McCloskey, who admits he ‘lost 22 years of his life to drug and alcohol abuse’, is using his troubled past to inspire unemployed adults with substance misuse in Plymouth to find work through Plymouth Argyle Community Trust’s Changing Room programme.
Changing Room is one of many programmes that the EFL Trust offers through Department Work and Pensions (DWP) that help people who are facing barriers find work, many of whom with a physical disability or mental health condition.
The 12-week adult education programme is run at football Clubs around the country and looks after the body and mind with a combination of improving employability skills and health and wellbeing.
Employability is improved by teaching key skills such as team building, interpersonal skills, CV writing and money management and the health and wellbeing element of the programme combines two hours of physical health through the EFL Trust FIT Fans programme with two to four hours of mental health every week.
The programme offers participating Clubs the flexibility to tailor their courses to suit local issues. At Argyle, an issue locally with substance misuse was identified and 15 people have so far completed the course since its launch.
Mickey, who is Plymouth Argyle Community Trust’s Health and Disability Officer and has been working for the Club Community Organisation (CCO) for 12 years, hopes to use his troubled past to inspire others on the course to make the right choices and like him, turn their life around.
He told EFL Trust: “I lost 22 years of my life and spent 11 of those years in jail. I’ve been there and know what they [those on the course] are feeling. I know what it’s like to get to that point where you don’t think you’re worth anything and there’s no way out.
“My ‘normal’ when I was growing up was drugs and alcohol; it was gangs fighting other gangs. All of my mates were doing it, so I did it too, just wanting to fit in – you don’t know any different. When you’re in that situation and you’re making bad choices and you can’t see a way out that’s your ‘normal’.
“I can see as I share my story with the guys in the room. They know what I’m talking about. As I was talking at one session about the knock on effects to your loved ones, one guy broke down and said ‘I can’t do this anymore’.
“At first, I thought he was talking about leaving the course. However, it all just hit home, it turns out his Dad was an alcoholic and he’s fallen into the same lifestyle.
“I think this was his realisation moment and he went to complete the course with a new determination. When I came clean, I went along to a coaching course that Plymouth Argyle Community Trust were running and started volunteering. I really enjoyed and kept in touch with the guys at the Trust, and it felt so good to have a routine and a responsibility.
“I’ve been clean now for 15 years, I’ve got a good job and a little boy. This just didn’t seem possible when I was sitting where they [those on the course] are now, but I want to show them that it is possible and that there is a way out.
“The choices I made were all mine, and that’s the message I want to get across. You have to make the right choice, not the easy one.”
To find out more about any courses available at Plymouth Argyle Community Trust, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.