'I woke up in a bin': Recovering addict on how he turned his life around

Former drug addict, Walshy (Richard Walsh), also known as Street Shots, with some of his photographs

Recovering drug addict Richard Walsh, who turned to photography in 2020, in front of his work - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

A few years ago he was spending hundreds of pounds a day on drugs - forcing him on to the streets.

But now Richard Walsh, 43, happily has a roof over his head and is aiming to work with young people caught in the snare of the drugs trade. 

His journey began when he turned to the Matthew Project Next Steps recovery centre in Oak Street at the start of 2020. 

Former drug addict, Walshy (Richard Walsh), also known as Street Shots, with some of his photographs

Recovering drug addict Richard Walsh, who turned to photography in 2020, in front of his work at the Matthew Project Next Steps centre - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

And now he is hoping to embark on a career in street photography and light painting - a skill he did not have before 2020.

Richard, now known as Street Shots, hopes to exhibit his many pictures of the city.

He said: "Since starting at the Matthew Project my life has changed. I thought my life was over and couldn't have imagined where I am now.

"Addiction is crippling. It is something you don't notice but it is a disease that creeps up on you.

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"The hardest thing is to make that first step, look at your life and what is going on around you.

"There is always help for people no matter how badly you are affected by addiction but you have got to want to do it for yourself." 

A light painting by Richard Walsh from Norwich

A light painting by Richard Walsh from Norwich - Credit: Street Shots

Richard, a father-of-three, who grew up in Wymondham, first got involved in drugs aged around 14 when he started smoking cannabis recreationally to "look cool" while on the bus to college in Norwich.

But after getting kicked out, he was used by people older than him to deal drugs in Norwich's clubs as a teenager and over the next 20 years his habit escalated to ecstasy, cocaine and crack cocaine and heroin.

He said he fell into the wrong crowd in his school years.

After settling down with the mother of his son and daughter, now in their teenage years, he continued drug taking which caused him to become moody and secretive.

It later led to the loss of his job as a lorry driver.

"I never saw myself as an addict", he added but said anyone with an addiction lived with denial.

"It is a selfish disease and you don't realise the destruction it causes to people around you."

A black and white portrait by Richard Walsh

A black and white portrait by Richard Walsh - Credit: Street Shots

After leaving his Wymondham home, partner and children, Richard admitted his life "spiralled out of control" and was spending £300 to £400 a day on drugs after moving back to the city.

He funded his habit through shoplifting and dealing and was living in hostels.

He said: "Life was a bit chaotic in terms of the environment I was in. I remember once waking up in a wheelie bin outside Greggs in St Stephens Street and thinking, 'What the hell am I doing?'"

For nearly a decade Richard sofa surfed and tried to get help from different programmes. 

The last time he took drugs was 18 months ago - but began the road to recovery having started the Next Steps photography course.

A picture taken by Richard Walsh representing his recovery from drug addiction

A picture taken by Richard Walsh representing his recovery from drug addiction - Credit: Street Shots

Richard said: "For 20 years my identity was partying, drugs and dealing. It was the case of having to change my whole life.

"I was lucky that I have been able to come out the other side and not end up in jail or worse - dead.

"I'm trying to put back into the services that helped me and saved my life."

This includes working with young people caught up in County Lines drug dealing and helping homeless people through the Pathways project.

A colourful picture by Richard Walsh

A colourful picture by Richard Walsh - Credit: Street Shots

Richard, who loves people watching, learnt a lot of his photography skills from YouTube after the first Covid lockdown prevented face-to-face lessons at the Next Steps centre and said it offered him an escape.

Visit www.streetshotsphotography.com 

Chance to support recovery centre

People can help those recovering from substance misuse through supporting a week-long fundraising drive by the Matthew Project.

The charity's Big Give Christmas Challenge is running from 12pm on November 30 until 12pm on December 7 to raise much-needed cash for the Next Steps centre which does not receive any government funding.

So far, the campaign has attracted £15,000 in pledges from local trusts and foundations but it is hoping to attract £30,000 to keep the centre running at full capacity.

All donations, which can be given for that week only, will be match funded.

The Next Steps base, which opened in 2019, provides specialist one-to-one and group support to adults in recovery from addiction, as well as supporting the running of youth clubs for young people affected by parental substance misuse, and evening groups for veterans affected by substance misuse and PTSD.

It costs £1,200 to put an adult recovery from drug and/or alcohol addiction through the eight-week recovery support programme.

£10 could pay for equipment for adults to use at a Recovery Support Programme class including clay, paint, tools, or cooking ingredients.

Visit https://donate.thebiggive.org.uk/campaign/a056900001tyPe4AAE

Richard's top photography tips

A picture of a man by a bus by Richard Walsh

A picture of a man by a bus by Richard Walsh - Credit: Street Shots

1. Everyone has a mobile phone now so have a go with yours.

2. Find a style of photography you like and follow that.

3. YouTube is great for hints and tips.

4. Pick a theme to photograph, for example beaches or people.

5. Enjoy it and have fun.






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