A former drug addict who at the age of 14 was selling bags of LSD on the streets of Wrexham to feed her habit has received a special award from a police boss.
Zoe Davies is now 39, has been clean for just over two years, is reconciled with her family and is working to steer others away from a life of addiction.
She was presented with the Rehabilitation Award at Community Awards event organised by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones at the Kinmel Manor Hotel in Abergele.
The mother of three, from Summerhill, Wrexham, says her problems began at about the age of 13 when she started hanging out with older children who were drinking, smoking and taking drugs.
She said: “I was a clever kid at school, always in the top sets and I had a great family but I never felt I fitted in and I was with the wrong crowd. I didn’t like myself and I had low self-esteem.
“The substances I took filled that void and I was confident. When I started taking drugs there wasn’t much drugs and lots of laughter, by the end there was lots of drugs and no laughter.
“I started smoking cannabis and ecstasy and drinking alcohol and by 14 I was selling LSD – there wasn’t much profit in it, it was so I could buy more drugs.
“I progressed to methadone reefers by 17 and I got really good at blagging doctors for prescription drugs.
“In the beginning it was very enjoyable but drugs lied to me. They promised me not to worry and that I’d never feel sadness or pain and at the time it was exciting and by 18 I was an addict.
“Then doctors around Wrexham stopped prescribing methadone and I was addicted to them and I woke up feeling ill, vomiting, and that was the withdrawal symptoms.
“Since then I’ve put myself through detox so many times and then just convinced myself that just having one would be OK.
“I’ve moved away because I thought it was the place rather than me that was the problem.
“I lived in Liverpool and in Lancashire and I went to prison for the first time for dealing in 2008 and after that I actually got a good job, working for a bakery, and progressed to senior sales assistant but then went to jail again in 2013.”
In the meantime Zoe had also had three daughters and the loss of them and her mum falling ill while she was in prison that made her determined to kick the habit.
She said: “I was robbing my children of their mum and robbing my mum of her daughter and thee drugs weren’t masking the fact that my mum was looking after my children and thee damage my addiction was doing to them and to her.
“On my daughter’s 18th birthday, the most important day of her life, I was in prison so when I came out I went on a 12-step programme with recovered addicts showing me there was a way out.
“The more I stayed clean, the more my family realised I meant it this time and now it’s exactly two years and a week that I have been clean to the day I received the award.
“I feel great and I can look myself in the mirror and can be a mum and a daughter and help others and repay the people and the community of Wrexham for the trouble I caused.
“I look at it like a relay race. Someone has given me the baton and that’s why I’m still clean and I pass that baton on to others.”
Zoe volunteers with drug addiction agency CAIS and now also works as a healthcare support worker at the Hafan Wen detoxification centre in Wrexham and she added: “CAIS haven’t just given me my life back, they’ve given my family me back.”
Commissioner Jones nominated Zoe himself and said: “Zoe has always made herself available to others after coming from a very dark place herself, she selflessly goes out into her community trying to show people that there is a better way to live.
“She is always trying to pass a message of recovery on and she has helped many onto the path of recovery because of her.
“Zoe has overcome a very long battle with her drug addiction and life of chaos and has turned her life completely around within the last two years and she is now a beacon of hope for many in the community.”
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, felt it was important to recognise the efforts of often unsung heroes in the community.
He said: “One thing all our winners have in common is that they make North Wales a better and safer place to live and work.
“There are many selfless people who do a lot of good in the community by helping North Wales Police and these silent workers go way beyond anybody else to make a contribution and ensure their communities are safe.
“In the overwhelming number of cases, this a personal commitment made without expectation of any kind of reward or recognition.
“This awards ceremony is an opportunity to recognise the unstinting efforts these unsung heroes and heroines and to encourage others to follow their good example.”