Steve Wyatt: Poole drug addict's life 'restored' by fixing old furniture (2024)

Steve Wyatt: Poole drug addict's life 'restored' by fixing old furniture (1)

Nikki Mitchell

Home Affairs Correspondent, BBC South

  • Published

A heroin and crack cocaine addict who is approaching a decade of abstinence is now on a mission to give other addicts hope.

Steve Wyatt, from Poole, Dorset, spent three years homeless on the streets, three years in prison and four years in rehab in the 22 years he was hooked on drink and drugs.

“I didn’t want to live,” he says, “but I was too scared to die.”

His salvation came in turning battered and beaten pieces of furniture into something beautiful. He is now sharing his story in some of the prisons he did time in to inspire others to follow his lead.

“It’s taking that negative behaviour and turning it into something positive,” says Mr Wyatt, who now specialises in restoring a whole range of iconic mid-century pieces.

As he fine-sands an Ercol sideboard in the back of his shop before giving it a final coat of varnish, he says he finds the process “therapeutic”.

“Whatever I’ve got going on in my life, this is my best thinking time.”

The 47 year old has a lot to think about. Dozens of his friends are dead from overdoses. Others were murdered.

He has cured hangovers with heroin and plunged filthy used needles into his veins. The bigger the hole he jumped in, the deeper he dug.

“I put my family through living hell,” he admits, although he did not see it at the time.

“I thought it wasn’t affecting them. I thought it was all about me. I had an inability to accept personal responsibility. Nothing was ever my fault."

Image source, Steve Wyatt

As he switches off his electric sander, Mr Wyatt stresses he has a “great family” and had a “great childhood”.

He was adopted by his parents, Ron and Pat, when he was six months old. His older twin brothers had been adopted seven years earlier.

“My dad worked really hard and mum looked after us,” he says.

But he describes feeling “totally different” to other children. He was bullied at school and set fire to things, smashing windows and bottles as an "escape".

He soon earned the nickname "Wyatt-the-Riot".

Image source, Steve Wyatt

He describes his journey into drug addiction as like “scaling a ladder”.

“The first time I really went heavy on the drink, I was about 12 years old,” he says.

By the start of his teens, he was sniffing glue and smoking cannabis.

Then, he found the ecstasy-fuelled rave scene in Birmingham where he felt the drugs “took me out of myself”.

He ended up on heroin and crack cocaine, living on the streets and in hostels, going in and out of what he describes as the “revolving door of rehab”.

Image source, Steve Wyatt

“I’d tried that many times and I’d failed that many times, I was really losing hope,” he remembers. "It was literally live or die.”

"Iwastotallyin a place of brokenness," he says, as he shows me a battered, creased photograph he keeps to remind himself of his darkest days.

During previous long spells in rehab, he had learned to restore antique furniture.

“The seed had been sown,” he says.

As he progressed through what was to become a final, successful court-ordered 12 step drug rehabilitation programme in 2014, he decided to start a social enterprise restoring furniture with a friend.

At last, he had a purpose.

“I did it. I finally got clean,” he says proudly, acknowledging he could not have done it without the help and support of his family.

Image source, Steve Wyatt

Mr Wyatt moved to Poole in 2017.

“I didn’t know anyone,” he remembers.

“But with the skills that I’d learned, I taught myself to restore mid-century furniture. I really worked hard.”

At first he sold his restored items online, then in a vintage emporium, until a shop became available.

“It was a scheme Legal and General were piloting just before Covid hit,” he says, “to give away 10 shops rent and rate free for the first two years.

“Poole has accepted me for the person that I am and even when I’ve got it wrong.”

Getting through the pandemic and subsequent cost of living crisis has been a struggle, but he is still “passionate” about what he does.

He jokes “furniture is my new drug of choice".

“I'venowhadthegreatopportunityofgoingbackintoprisonandshare mystory,” he tells me, in the hope he can inspire other addicts.

When I ask Mr Wyatt what his message to others battling addiction might be, he is suddenly overwhelmed with emotion.

“I battled for twenty-two years,” he says fighting back tears, “and I didn’t give up.

“Every time you fail, get back up and keep fighting.”

Image source, Steve Wyatt

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Related Topics

  • Drug rehabilitation
  • Poole
  • Addiction
  • Dorset
  • Inspiring stories
Steve Wyatt: Poole drug addict's life 'restored' by fixing old furniture (2024)
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