I WAS searching for a new career path in my late 20s and I’ve been employed in the social care arena ever since. It allows me to meet a diverse range of people with different histories to that of my own – people I’d likely not know otherwise.

I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside many service user groups including children and families, adults with learning disabilities and mental health problems, as well as children with autism, prisoners in HMP Barlinnie and several other groups.

For the last five years however, I’ve found myself employed in a small service in Glasgow specialising in providing bespoke support for adults with a condition called alcohol-related brain damage (ARBD).

Broadly speaking, this condition is what develops after years of chronic alcoholism mixed with neglecting a suitable nutritional dietary intake; specifically thiamine, an essential B1 vitamin which is found naturally in certain foods.

This combination can gradually affect the brain’s ability to function, causing deficits with cognition and memory, as well as co-ordination and mobility.

My own journey into social care started with finding my feet in other industries. Gone are the days when you needed to find a profession as soon as you left school and then resentfully stick with it until you’re pensioned off.

My former experiences haven’t been wasted and most skills are transferable. I produced pressed metal components for a subsidiary of the Nissan car plant in Sunderland and working in the factory meant working alone and in solitude for lengthy monotonous periods. This provided me with the headspace to ponder my thoughts and reflect.

Critical reflection is a key ingredient for the contemporary health and social care practitioner. It allows us to turn our experiences into a way of learning, enabling us to improve our practice.

Many years working in the hospitality sector helped me brush up on my people and communication skills as well as honing in on how to deliver a quality, responsive and reactive service to demanding guests and customers in a fast-paced environment.

I feel like I’m suited to helping people and can draw upon my life experiences in my day-to-day business. We all have former versions of ourselves and the same can be said for the people I work with.

It can be a common pitfall to consider a person purely based on their current predicament. At one time, those I support all had jobs and relationships and participated in society to the best of their abilities. They weren’t always addicted to alcohol and living in a daily state of crisis and chaos.

But they are now all unemployed, living alone, in receipt of welfare benefits and seldom have contact with friends or family. However, they were once butchers, journalists, labourers, receptionists, painters and decorators, prison officers, teachers and fork lift truck drivers.

It’s for this reason that I’ve helped most of the people I’ve supported over the years to write their own unique life story. The stories document their lifespan from childhood all the way through to their hopes for the future.

Most people are happy to publish their stories on various media outlets. This contributes towards raising awareness of ARBD.

Realistically, there’ll probably never be enough funding allocated into the research or service provision of this marginalised, stigmatised and sometimes ostracised minority.

I try to raise awareness of ARBD to remind people that sufferers are human, just like all of us. We all have a past, just as we all have a future – so long as we can navigate the impediments which often ground us in the present.