By the time time she was 12, Salford schoolgirl Maleeka was taking drugs and getting drunk.
Now at the age of 28 she has revealed her story in the hope it will help prevent others avoid the trap of substance abuse.
Maleeka, who does not want to be fully identified, has spoken out just months after Salford was named as the “UK’s booze capital” .
She described how she was a high-flyer at school and college, even if having drinking problems and high grades at the same time can be viewed as mutually exclusive by many.
Her problems started when she was 12 when her mother moved into a separate house. She said: “When I was 12 my mum moved into a new place due to various issues we had in the family at that time.
“My sister then moved in the flat I was living in with my brother. There was us three in that flat with my sister’s two young kids. My mum moved about half an hour walk away.
“People close to me offered me stuff like alcohol and drugs. I went to school every day, I used to get only A-Grades, but after coming home I just used to drink from the morning, till night.
“I would drink until I’d pass out. I would wake-up with vomit on me, and carry on drinking,” Maleeka remembers.
After four years, when the family issues started to get resolved, Maleeka’s situation got better, as she started living with her mother again.
“At 16-17 I moved back in with my mum, I was a bit better, but I was still doing it in college. At 18-19 it just stopped.
“What stopped me smoking it was the fact that I got asthma, and I had a really bad asthma attack and it was embarrassing, and you shouldn’t have an asthma attack at 17-18.
“I think it was just more a case of I don’t want to waste my money on being drunk all the time. I told myself ‘my mates have kids, my mates are going uni, and I’m not how I wanted to be’.
“I was going to college, do something I didn’t even want to do because I wanted money. It was like a wake-up call,” she explained.
Maleeka admits she was dependent on cannabis and alcohol when she was a kid, but now she can consume alcohol in normal quantities just for leisure reasons.
“If someone’s telling me ‘let’s go and have a drink’, I can just have one drink.
“I’m always thinking: what’s the point? You’re just wasting money. On what? Or you can have a spliff. For what? Your buzz is going to go in a couple of hours.
“It’s not a case of ‘if I drink I’m going to become dependent’ is just ‘I’m not going back’. When I’m going on holiday I can enjoy a drink, of course. But not like back then.
For anyone who struggles with substance abuse, especially at a young age, she has a message that hopes to be spread so it will reach the right people:
“Do not give in to the peer pressure. Don’t waste your money. Spend it elsewhere. Save it. Go somewhere. Do not fall out of the crowd.
“If you’re getting bullying, talk to someone. If you need a drink, talk to someone. Don’t just waste your money. For something that you get a buzz off for half a day, it’s not worth it.”
For people in need who don’t know where to start, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust is the lead provider of treatment and recovery service for substance misuse in Trafford, Bolton, and Salford.
According to NHS figures published this year, Salford was revealed as “UK’s booze capital”. Published statistics show that “1,403 out of every 100,000 Salford residents were given prescriptions for alcohol-related issues”. This is almost seven times the number of prescriptions handed out in London, which was 189 per 100,000. The lowest rate was recorded in Horsham and Mid Sussex, which was 24 every 100,000 people. The figures emerged in a table of local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
Achieve Salford is a service which is part of the Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation and helps young people to recover after drug and alcohol abuse by offering one-to-one counseling. Jacqui Selby from Early Break/Achieve Salford explained how young people can get back on their feet if they just start to ask for help.
She said: “Any young person that approaches Early Break for help or advice will be contacted within 24 hours. Initial support includes Advocacy, which is where you are assigned a worker who will work with you on a one-to-one basis to help you achieve your goals.
“They will work with you for as long as you need the help. Or it could be that a family needs some support around substance use where parents/carers are using substances. Early Break’s Holding Families programme supports every member of the family to help them make positive changes for a happier family.
“So, whether you are a young person or a family that needs help, please get in touch with us.”
Achieve Salford is working with various local health and social health providers and organisations which are involved in recovery and rehabilitation services.
Below is a detailed map where you can seek help if you are going through difficult situations regarding substance abuse.
Find more about treatment and recovery services in Salford by clicking here.
Photo Credit: Maleeka’s personal archive