When I was 17 I had a road accident which changed my life. I was cycling home from my brick-laying course when I was knocked off my bike. With broken bones and head injuries, it took me months to recover. I was eventually able to go back to college and retrain, but my legs never healed properly and cause pain, especially in winter.
I’m not making excuses but I think that pain had a lot to do with what happened next. I was working mainly in construction and started drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis to mask the pain each day. I used it as a crutch to get by. At the time, there wasn’t much information around about the dangers of addiction.
Years of messing around followed; I had several relationship breakdowns and I fell out with my family because of behaviour brought on by my addictions. For me, this then became a gateway to doing harder drugs. I started using heroin, crack and amphetamines – anything that was available really.
When I reached my early forties I decided I needed help and applied for rehab. It was a residential 12-step programme and when I left I was finally clean. I moved back in with my ex-girlfriend and surrounded myself with people who knew me before. Unfortunately this meant it was too easy to fall back into old routines and within a couple of years I was back to smoking and drinking.
My relationship ended and for quite a while I had nowhere to live; I slept on friends’ sofas but often had to sleep on the streets.
It was a battle to find somewhere to sleep at night. I mostly slept in a tent in a park, but sometimes the council would remove my tent without warning. Sleeping rough was worst when it was cold. I had no energy – mentally or physically. Every day I had to walk so far to access services like food and showers that I was just so tired.
The general public doesn’t see how bad life on the streets can be – it can be very, very difficult. I wouldn’t want anyone else to see some of the stuff I’ve witnessed on the streets. I’ve seen people getting robbed and stabbings and people getting their throats cut. It’s very emotionally draining, especially around Christmas time. I used to look through windows into people’s front rooms and they had a nice warm fire, Christmas decorations up and nice food; I felt very alone.
Eventually I knew I needed to do something about my life and that’s when I heard about Emmaus. I managed to get a place at Emmaus Cambridge and a few years later I moved to Emmaus Leicestershire & Rutland. I have recently returned to live at Emmaus Cambridge.
I’ve had access to counselling which has helped a lot. Over time, I’ve gradually rediscovered myself and my confidence has improved so much.
The work routine at Emmaus has given me a structure in my life. I felt forgotten and lost when I was homeless and now I have purpose. My main role here is behind the tills serving customers. It’s nice interacting with the customers; I like to talk to people about Emmaus and share how it’s helped me.