YOU need a change of heart before you can change - the philosophy behind a Worksop church project which is proving its worth in more ways than one in tackling drink and drug addiction.
The Zacchaeus Project, which was set up by former Worksop police detective sergeant Lawson Main 13 years ago, focuses on getting people into rehab and tackling the root causes behind their addiction.
It has been running weekly sessions at St John’s Church, in Overend Road for six years with great success.
Lawson, who has been in full-time ministry since retiring from the force five years ago, said the project prides itself on being part of a strong network of local churches working with other agencies at the heart of the community.
In the past two years alone, the project has helped nine Worksop people off drink and drugs - saving taxpayers a total average of £540,000 a year.
“When you consider our income me last year was just £9,000, I think that’s real value for money,” said Lawson.
“I believe the church is here to stay - we are very skilled and equipped in helping people to move on and are a serious alternative to the methadone project.”
The Zacchaeus Project is named after the short man in the Bible story who climbed a tree so he could see Jesus.
And in Worksop many people have successfully made that climb , including Manton man Richard Gray who beat a 20-year heroin addiction and is now a senior support worker at The Lighthouse homeless project in Rotherham.
Richard recently appeared on Channel 4’s 4Thought programme and spoke of the need for a change of heart to address deep-rooted problems.
Former Bassetlaw Hospital nurse Jan Smith also found a new lease of life after she turned to alcohol when a relationship broke down.
Said Lawson: “At one point her addiction was so bad she ended up in a wheelchair, yet now she has turned her life around and is running marathons.”
And some people have only just embarked on the journey, including Richard (not his real name) who is learning to break free from a lifetime of drugs and crime.
“I have been on drugs since I was nine . I had a bad upbrining and a family member sexually abused me and my siblings,” he said.
“I took drugs because they helped to take away the pain but it only brought more pain with it.”
After varied spells in prison, Richard started dealing drugs and knew he needed help to break free.
“People thing dealing is the high life but it isn’t and brings with it many more problems.,” he said.
After meeting Lawson and his team, Richard was referred to the Lighthouse Project and later to Teen Challenge - a major rehab organisation which runs in more than 100 countries worldwide.
“I am now a volunteer at Lighthouse - it really helps me to to give something back to the community.,” he said.
“I am now trying to live a normal life with my partner and kids - being a family man and working. It’s hard not having experienced it growing up, but I am gettting there with continued support.”
Lawson said rehab funding has ‘almost dried up’ and said that out of £1bn spent on annually on drug treatment and serviced, only 1.75 accounts for rehab funding.
“The most successful people are the ones who have left Worksop - it’s too small a place to change yourself,” he said.
“They have also gone into rehab and completed it and made sure they stay plugged into the Christian church.”
He added: “We need to look at the underlying problems which cause addiction - in 90 per cent of cases it’s down to factors such as sexual abuse, neglect or lack of a role model.”
“It takes a lot of efffort to change and only those who are willing to put in the effort will be successful in the long run.”
To find out more about the Zacchaeus Project, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Lawson Main on 07530 044913.