A minister spoke of her 18-year struggle with drug addiction that forced her to turn to sex work.
Trudy Makepeace – who now works as a pastor at E5, a church on Jamaica Street in Stokes Croft – started using drugs aged 14, shortly after being taken into care. She first used amphetamines before switching to heroin.
“I was hanging out in the wrong crowd looking for acceptance and belonging, looking for a place to belong,” Trudy added. “They were using things like acid, cannabis or amphetamines.
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“For them, it was a hobby but, for me, because of my past, I couldn’t just do that – it very quickly became a need for me. I was just trying to escape my reality because I was wearing a lot of pain and hurt.”
Having been sexually abused growing up in a difficult childhood, Trudy said it impacted her self-image and had a deep sense of self-loathing, believing something was wrong with her. Trudy – who now lives in Newport – said that, also as a teenager, she began to develop an eating disorder, believing that if she changed her appearance she could be more lovable.
Things quickly started to escalate, she continued, and she began to get in trouble with the police for crimes such as shoplifting or receiving stolen property. Having moved on when she was 16, Trudy said she got addicted to heroin very quickly after trying it when she was 18.
She was introduced to the Class A drug through her partner at the time, adding that she kept trying to clean up but couldn’t. “I was out there shoplifting every day to fund my habit – getting arrested was just a job hazard,” she continued. “I would have a job but I wouldn’t be able to keep it.”
Trudy said that at age 21 she was imprisoned for various offenses including theft, fraud and possession of heroin. She spent a month in prison before being sent to rehab and then to rehab, where she spent five months.
Coming out of rehab, Trudy moved to Bath in search of a fresh start. However, she was then offered a place on a dance and fitness course in Bristol, so she moved instead, living in supported accommodation in Easton at first.
“It didn’t go well,” the 49-year-old said. “I got involved with someone who was a pimp – I was single and just wanted to be in a relationship with someone.
“I was really struggling to pay my way, to get into debt. I tried to do some small jobs but, as the course was demanding, I struggled.
“As time passed and things got worse, I got into it. [sex work]. For me, there was a lack of value regarding my worth and my past played a role in that. I was 23 when I started working [as a sex worker].
“At first I was in a salon and that’s where I got into heroin again. I fell back into injecting and things started to escalate again.”
Trudy said she also started using crack cocaine, and was again introduced to the drug through a partner.
“Crack was right on the scene and it destroyed my life like a hurricane,” she continued. “I never quite finished college and lost my apartment, becoming homeless on the streets.
“I was going from crack house to crack house, squat to squat. It was a dark place – at the time I was getting relentless in my use. I was really out of control with my drug use, I didn’t wouldn’t sleep for weeks.
“I worked in the salon in the evenings and at night, I came home in the early morning to smoke my dope and then I was around the corner at 5 or 6 a.m. And then I spent the day stealing , doing credit card fraud. Eventually I lost the salon job because I was so chaotic.”
Trudy lost her flat aged 26 and once homeless spent her time between Easton and Fishponds, before moving to St Paul’s. She said being on the streets was a matter of survival, adding that she had already been raped, held hostage and nearly had her throat slit.
However, Trudy said you become desensitized to violence when there is a lot of it. Speaking of crack houses, she described them as an unstable and unpredictable environment where someone could be hit with a hammer to the head at any moment.
“It’s so far removed from who I am now that it takes a minute to go back,” Trudy continued. “It was a real breaking moment. I was out of control and really lost in a dark place.
“I had a growing sense of hopelessness. For me, I was removing trauma but, in making these choices, I was adding additional trauma – just the trauma that comes with this lifestyle.
“You are making things worse, rather than making them better.”
Trudy said she believed she was very fear driven and that, for example, she was afraid to face reality, her emotions, or to potty train. It would depend on the availability of drugs and other factors, she continued, but she could spend up to £500 a day on crack cocaine as well as at least £100 a day on heroin.
She had started injecting when she was 19 and, as the veins in her arms closed, she had to turn to other parts of her body to inject, including her feet, hands or even her neck.
“At that point in my life, it was all about my next fix — my whole life was about my next supply,” she continued. “I was obsessed. It starts to take control and it ends up owning you.
“I looked like a walking skeleton, I wasn’t really eating. I was completely unmanageable.”
Over the past few months, we’ve told the stories of several people involved in the city’s sex industry:
The stories come as Bristol City Council considers proposals to ban sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) in Bristol.
Currently, there are two SEVs in the city, both in the city centre, which would face closure if the council’s licensing committee goes ahead with a proposal to withdraw licenses for Site (s. So far, no decision has been made regarding the new PES policy.
After going to rehab for the first time at the age of 18, Trudy said she ended up going through 33 rehabs and going to five rehab centers. At 33, she was sent to a Christian rehab to await sentencing for numerous offences.
That’s when she realized something had started to shift and change. Trudy said she had a faith experience and found what she was looking for.
“It was like the missing piece of a puzzle,” she continued. “I felt this overwhelming love and acceptance. All my life I felt dirty and now I felt so clean.
“I felt like a big weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I felt at peace. I never knew how anxious and restless I was, but now I felt that everything would be fine – that feeling of coming home. It changed everything.
“Since that day, I never wanted to pick up a needle again, the desire was gone and the power was off.”
Trudy said she was sentenced to 18 months in rehab and around that time she started taking college classes, among other things. She ended up becoming a nurse’s aide there before becoming responsible for the rehab at 35.
She went on to earn a degree in church leadership and applied theology at the age of 40, before being ordained a minister in November 2020 at the age of 47. Trudy now works as a minister at E5, a church on Jamaica Street in Stokes Croft.
Trudy now helps people with all sorts of issues, including housing, as well as emotional and spiritual support. She said she always had compassion for people, especially the most marginalized.
“I know where they are, what they’re thinking, but I don’t want to settle for that,” she continued. “I’m happy to be a voice for change, a light in the darkness – it’s a privilege.
“Anyone can change but I understand it’s not that simple. My hope is that my story sows that it’s a journey and that hope is possible.”
Write a book during confinement, Abused. Dependent. Free was released last October and over 3,000 copies have now been released – some being distributed to places such as prisons or outreach projects. You can read more about his book here.