Meet Cullan

"I turned to heroin to cope with OCD - now I want to help others"

Cullan, 29, struggled with severe OCD since childhood, and spent his twenties trapped in the cycle of addiction and offending.

“I’ve lost a decade of my life being addicted to heroin and crack, being in and out of prison.

I always believed I’d die young, and when a close friend of mine died of an overdose last year, that voice in my head told me I had to change or I wouldn’t be around much longer.

Most people had a really difficult 2020, but I can honestly say I had the best year of my life. I have a girlfriend, a new home. Life is good. There were so many things I wanted to do over the last decade, go on holiday with my friends, visit my family in America and Greece, I wasn’t able to do any of that. But I’m making up for lost time.”

Time for Change

Cullan was part of Kaleidoscope’s clinical treatment pilot for Buvidal. A long-acting alternative to methadone, patients receive a monthly injection that frees them from having to attend treatment centres and pharmacies daily, creating more time to focus on improving other areas of their lives.

“When I was rushed to the hospital the doctors told me I could stick with the methadone, but my health was so bad I’d have to come in every single day, even weekends. I thought, I can’t do that. At first I was scared to go on Buvidal, I thought I’d cluck, but I’d totally wrecked my lungs and couldn’t go on like I was. Buvidal worked for me and I’ve put my life together, but it’s not a silver bullet and I’d never say it will work for everyone. You’ve got to be ready because it changes everything and your head suddenly becomes clear. Not everyone is ready for that clarity of mind.”

A Voice Through Adversity

“So many people out there are struggling, I think lots of young people feel lost and don’t get the support they need. My OCD makes me believe that if I don’t do certain rituals, something bad will happen to me or someone I love. For years growing up I’d have four baths a day, brush my teeth 10 times a day. I lost countless jobs for being late because of all the rituals I’d have to complete before leaving the house.

But I suppressed it, I never spoke to anyone about it, and drugs really masked those anxieties for me. It’s easy to fall down a slippery slope.

When I was a teenager I fell out with a close friend and took myself away from the whole gang. Bothering with a new crowd I went from smoking weed to sniffing coke on payday, then crack, next it was heroin. I was told that if you didn’t smoke it for a week you’d be fine, that you couldn’t get addicted.

I don’t blame anyone for me getting involved in drugs, when you’re part of the scene it’s just so normalised. But in spite of my addictions I always enjoyed work, I’ve been a team leader running a bar, a hairdresser, all sorts.”

Onwards and Upwards

Now Cullan is ready for his next venture, starting Cardiff’s first weekly podcast, The Central Club, alongside two childhood friends. He hopes it will give people strength to overcome mental health challenges, addiction and destructive cycles to live a better life.

Childhood friend Luka, 21, has struggled with severe depression and often felt suicidal and Tom, 25, a straight A student who grew up around the same estate but broke away to establish his own barbering chain, pulled Luka out of a dark place.  Host Cullan will interview guests, from local legends and activists to actors and musicians, on pressing issues like mental health and personal growth.

Since we shared Cullan’s story with Wales Online his story has been shared internationally in the Epoch Times and he’s made appearances on ITV. Wales’ First Minister has even joined Cullan as a podcast guest.

“One year and everything can change, so never lose heart.”