YEARS of drug abuse has taken its toll on Ron Wheeler from Brierley Hill, he has irreparable damage to his veins from injecting heroin and is struggling to find employment due to his lengthy criminal record.

But the 36-year-old is determined to turn his life around and now gets a buzz from staying drug-free and focusing on helping others who are struggling with addiction.

He admits: “I’ve taken enough out of society, now I want to give a bit back.”

Ron’s life changed dramatically 16 years ago when he stumbled upon a friend taking heroin at a Christmas party.

He admitted he didn’t know what he was taking at the time but it it wasn't long before Ron become addicted to the drug - he even went out to score another hit later that night.

He said: “Before I realised it, I was smoking it every day and I started injecting after a couple of years.”

Slowly the drug took over his life, he lost his job installing cables, his relationship broke down and he was living “all over the place”.

He turned to crime to fund his habit, which cost him around £400 a week: “I started shoplifting and dealing, everything I did was to score.”

He said going to prison “became a way of life” and when he was released he’d end up “back in the same vicious circle” of drug taking and petty crime.

Ron got the wakeup call he needed in March this year, thanks to his five-year-old daughter.

He was due to appear at Dudley Magistrates Court, charged with drug dealing and was told to expect jail: “I packed up all of my clothes and said goodbye to my daughter. She was really upset and said she didn’t like to visit me in jail. She went to school really upset and that’s when I started to think it wasn’t worth it, it still upsets me now to think about it.”

Ron was given a lifeline by magistrates when he was spared jail and issued with a drug rehabilitation requirement.

With help from Dudley Probation, he has stopped using heroin: “I now know where I was going wrong. I’m more positive than ever. I’ve got different coping mechanisms, I know what my triggers are.”

Ron is now training to become a peer mentor, a voluntary position which would help others to overcome addictions.

He remains positive about the future and is determined to find employment, he added: “I feel great, I have never been so proud in my life.”