A PEMBROKE woman who successfully battled drug addiction and an abusive relationship while raising her three children, has won a national award.

Natalie Lintern was recognised at the 2019 Inspire! Adult Learning Awards in Cardiff.

The awards celebrate individuals, families, projects and organisations who have shown outstanding passion, commitment and drive to improve themselves, their community or workplace through learning.

Family learning has had a transformational impact on Natalie and her family.

After several abusive relationships and battling drug dependency, she was bringing up three young children on her own. In her own words: “life was miserable.”

She became isolated, a lack of confidence, low self-esteem and anxiety made her feel unable to leave the house.

For six months, Natalie didn’t open the curtains and saw nobody outside of the home. She had started taking drugs at the age of 16 and later began taking heroin.

“That six months of my life was when I was at my lowest” she recalled.

“Two of the children were at school and nursery so it was just me and my baby at home. I always looked after my kids, they were always fed and bathed but it was an existence, not a life.”

Now, Natalie is moving forward and is on her way to becoming a drugs support worker after signing up to a family learning programme.

“My eldest had anger issues and would come home from school and stay up all night on the computer,” she said. “My toddler couldn’t speak or make a sound. We didn’t read, there were no books, I had no quality time with my children.

“Life was chaos. I was terrified that the kids would be taken off me but I never let anyone into the house, so nobody knew how bad it was.”

It was at this point that Natalie decided to get help.

Her mum moved in and she connected with a Flying Start support worker. She began counselling and contacted her children’s school for the first time in months.

Teachers told Natalie about Springboard family learning – a Pembrokeshire County Council initiative - and suggested she join in one of its regular sessions. Natalie signed up to weekly sessions.

She said: “I was terrified, I’d never engaged with other parents or staff, but every time I went, I felt better.

“I remember the very first school trip, on a freezing beach,and I was in total panic. But there was something about the way the kids responded to it that made me keep going back.”

Over the next few weeks Natalie and her family made kites on the beach, went rock-pooling, and cooked on an open fire.

She went on: “It became a reason for me to leave the house. I made friends, my confidence grew, the kids loved every second. By summer, we were eating cake on the beach for my little girl’s birthday.”

Family learning gave Natalie the confidence to complete a 12-week Recovery Toolkit for survivors of domestic violence run by the County Council.

Since then she’s attended other family courses as well as a MPower programme for women with low self esteem and a Primary Years Parenting programme.

The children go to school each day and their attendance has reached 100 per cent.

“My children shouldn’t have been through what they have, but it’s up to me to keep us on this path.”

Supported by Communities for Work, Natalie, who is now 18 months drugs-free, is about to start training to become a qualified drug support worker.

She said: “I want to help other people, people who may see themselves in my story. The support network I’ve had has been amazing and I’d urge people to ask for help. I feel great. I’m excited about the future.”