An former addict who lost his parents and younger brother to drugs is using his example of how he has turned his life around to give back to his local community.
Born in Notting Hill in the swinging 60s Nicholas Brandon’s parents had died from their addictions by the time he was 18 and he was soon to lose his younger brother to a heroin overdose. His life soon spiralled out of control during which time he became addicted to 'recreational drugs' himself and ended up on the wrong side of the law.
Today however you would never guess his past. He is a well dressed, well spoken resident of Ladbroke Grove who overcame his childhood of neglect to become a health and wellbeing practitioner and he is just about to hold an event in partnership with London wide charity Just For Kids Law (JFK Law) .
Established in May 2006 by legal aid lawyers Shauneen Lambe and Aika Stephenson, Just For Kids Law was created to support to children in the criminal justice system.
Nicholas, 46, said: “I was born in Oxford Gardens in 1967. I never really knew my father Albert Brandon but by the time I was two and a half I was mixing my own formula bottles as mum (Anne Brandon) was using drugs and drinking heavily.
“I became very resilient and was doing the food shopping by the age of 10 as we realised that all the money was otherwise going to go on Special Brew. I’m a twin and we also had an older sister and younger brother. We washed our hair with washing up liquid, had newspaper for loo roll and ate ketchup on pasta for dinner.
"We’d often find green bottles of Methadone and alcohol lying around and we’d often have to go around all the pubs in the area looking for mum as she’d disappear but then she’d bring people back and we’d be surrounded by smoking and drinking adults. With all the neglect at home I was in a gang. We were arrogant and nasty and I quickly got into drug-fuelled crime such as breaking into cars and stealing.
“When mum died at the age of 42 in 1983, luckily I was 18 so we were able to keep our housing association flat and take over the tenancy so we weren’t all split up and put into care. I was heavily into recreational drugs by then and was partying hard on cocaine, pills and cannabis.
“It was not a happy existence. As I got older I started to loose more and more friends through drug abuse. By the time I was 40 I stopped using completely as I was still smoking cannabis. Just in the last two weeks three friends have died from disease and illness associated with continued drug taking. I’ve practised yoga for years and teach the Alexander Technique and to work from a place of integrity it all had to stop for my family and my health.
“I have a teenage son and I have to lead by example. I managed to turn my life around but when you’re dealt a rough hand in life it’s very difficult to recognise that help is there. Just for Kids Law does incredible work with children who have very similar backgrounds to my own. I want to be able to show them that you can turn things around.”
Nicholas is organising an event at St George’s Church in Notting Hill on March 15, 12-5pm in partnership with Just for Kids Law, where a number of practitioners are coming together to offer treatments with all donations and entry fees going to the charity.
Just for Kids Law provides advocacy, support and assistance to young people in difficulty; particularly those in trouble with the law, looked-after children and those at risk of exclusion from school.
Jacob Evans said: “Just for Kids Law are proud to be partnering with Nicholas on this unique event. We understand the importance of focusing on a strong community and healthy lifestyle to support the young people we work with. We rely on the generous support of individuals like Nicholas to continue our valuable work.”
Visit www.justforkidslaw.org to find out more about the organisation.