My name is John Paul McDonnell and I am 39 years old. I have a wife and two daughters.

For the most part of my life, I had never really entertained drugs but then I lost my brother, Peter. I was very close to him he went missing for months. He was found dead by walkers tucked away in a cave. His body was in a very bad way as he had been there for a while and the elements and animals had got to him.

Not long after this I was diagnosed with PTSD. This, I feel, was the point when I started using cocaine. The ‘beast’ kept at me after this and it only got worse.

I tried going to other groups such as AA, CA etc but I just never felt like they understood what was happening to me, I just never connected.

I never spoke in any of the meetings and I just went along with what was being said but I could never really put in 100% into the programme. I didn’t feel my situation was catered for so couldn’t really talk or connect.

My story is long and I have done things I am not proud of but that I why I am writing this. It came to the point where I had my list of things I needed to do before I committed suicide. I did all the things on the list and then went on sites to find ways of killing myself. My wife caught me when I was about to do the act and she talked me round. All the time, still having binges of using then not. My wife was not aware of what I was doing and this made my mental health deteriorate even more.

I couldn’t explain why I kept doing it and no one seemed to understand me when I said I didn’t want to do it. It’s not me.

I then had a nervous breakdown in work and I lost my building business too. So not only did my family have to put up with the shell of a man I had become we then could not afford food as I couldn’t work. I was diagnosed with PTSD for a second time. My wife stood by me the whole time but she knew something was going on. My wife asked me on numerous occasions if I was still using. Something kept me saying ‘no,’ lying through my teeth.

It came to the point only 4 weeks ago that Caroline came home and told me she wanted a divorce, she would not take it anymore. I managed to beg her to let me try anything she thought would help. Caroline is my soul mate and this shock made me realise the torment I was causing her. Caroline got in touch with Marcus and asked if I could attend the meeting. Marcus gave Caroline his number but said that I had to stop and contact him myself.

I was ashamed of myself and struggled to ring Marcus. I thought it would just be another group of people who never understood what was happening to me. How wrong I was. I attended the first meeting and I was in a very dark place. I was shaking with anxiety. I was made to feel welcome the minute the members of the group seen my new face. I have never spoken in a group before but in this one, something clicked. I felt like the people around me understood my story and I spoke.

Since attending the group and going on the walks my whole outlook on life and my attitude has changed. In 4 weeks, my life is transforming. My depression and anxiety are easier to deal with. I don’t have daily suicidal thoughts. This group has probably saved my life, my marriage and the memories of my children.