Witnessing a murder at the age of 12 sent Christian Watson spiralling into drink and drugs.
Unable to get over the horror of what he had seen on his Bradford street, he went off the rails. Drink led to cannabis and the wrong crowd. By the time he was 15 he was out clubbing and exposed to the temptation of cocaine and ecstasy.
Snared, Christian spent more than ten years in the wilderness of addiction.
Now, though, he is clean and using the internet to reach out to people and offer support to those trapped in a drugs lifestyle.
He hopes sharing his harrowing story of substance and alcohol abuse will help others overcome addiction.
The 26-year-old’s new Facebook page Addiction Awareness Bradford says: “I was addicted to drugs and alcohol for years. It destroyed my life and nearly killed me.
“I never wanted to do all the things I did. Events in my life drove me to it. So now I have found a new way of life and want to use my experience to help others who may be lost or want to know more about it.”
Accompanied by a video, the page has already attracted a lot of interest, with more than 1,000 viewings in just four days.
This gives Christian hope he can achieve his aim of setting up a social enterprise to provide the help he says is much needed in Bradford.
“By the time I was 18 my situation was really bad,” he said. “I funded the habit in any way I could – short of stealing. I mostly used my wages as I have always worked.”
A traumatic event in 2012 was the turning point. “I had become suicidal and ended up in hospital,” said Christian, a dad of two young sons, who lives in Clayton.
“I didn’t sleep for three days and took a lot of drugs.”
Then a death in the family pulled Christian up short. “I decided I needed help, but I was too scared and too ashamed.”
The final step on the road to recovery was going to the Life Centre Church off Canal Road. “A programme on spiritual values opened my mind to God,” he said. “I was taken to the church, liked it and stayed. It’s a major part of my life now.”
Christian says Bradford is plagued by thousands of addicts and hundreds of dealers and that “it’s getting worse”.
“I lived in that world and know how bad it is. I see the effects it is having on Bradford.”
Christian wants to change people’s perceptions of drug users. “There is a person behind the addiction,” he says.
While he has started out alone, Christian plans to link up with charities and other agencies as the project gathers pace, hoping to go out and talk to schools and community groups about his experiences.
There is a risk element though. “By being open about my past there could be repercussions,” said Christian. “But I am looking at the bigger picture of helping people regardless.”