“I found Emmaus Gloucestershire in October 2019 after a few months on the streets and nearly three months in rehab. I later left the community after finding a job in Rotherham, where I’m from, but my drinking started again and I came back to Emmaus Gloucestershire in January 2022.
My drinking started at the age of 13 and went on for 10 years. Loads of things were happening as I was growing up that I wanted to forget, and alcohol seemed like the best way to do that. I had a lot of family problems, began struggling with depression and anxiety, and experienced difficulties with family members accepting my sexuality. It wasn’t long before my life revolved around drinking constantly. I would get drunk every morning as soon as I woke up and think about alcohol when I wasn’t drinking it.
At 22, I got kicked out. I went on to spend three months on the streets where I grew up. My uncle would give me food most days, but I wasn’t able to stay with him. I occasionally stayed in hostels, but they weren’t a very nice place to be sometimes.
My drinking escalated while homeless and a typical day on the streets became waking up and getting drunk or taking drugs with some people I’d met during that time. I spent most days worrying about whether I was going to be beaten up or not – something I saw happen a lot to other people. I mixed up where I would sleep, but I was so drunk that it normally didn’t matter where I would end up.
When I was 23, I went to rehab, and it helped in a few different ways. I was put on medication, attended support groups, and began regular AA meetings. My family were very supportive whenever I spoke to them and we began to reconnect. After rehab, I moved to Emmaus Gloucestershire and liked it straight away.
When I first joined Emmaus, I worked on the shop floor serving and assisting customers, cashing up and organising stock. I was nervous at first, but I settled in well and started learning new skills like handling money and banking, which really helped to raise my confidence. One of my favourite things about working in the shops was seeing all the regular customers and waking up knowing that I could be doing something different every day.
I also started to help with the Emmaus soup run. This was a regular thing that happened every Wednesday. I helped to fill up the minibus with hot and cold food, clothing and toiletries to give out to people who were sleeping rough in Gloucester. I liked being in the position to give back and help people who were going through a difficult time.
When the first lockdown happened because of the pandemic, my life at Emmaus Gloucestershire changed. I’m high risk and a few weeks before the official lockdown I was advised to stay away from other people living in the community and keep to my room. Not long into lockdown, I had to have my appendix out. It came on suddenly and was very painful. It was a scary time in the middle of everything else going on, but with the help of the support team I recovered in two weeks.
I found lockdown very hard. I was bored and drained at the same time. To stay busy, I listened to music – my favourite artist is Ed Sheeran – and I did lots of wordsearch and crossword puzzles, but my mental health was definitely impacted a lot. At one point, I thought it was going to affect my recovery. I couldn’t go to AA meetings, but thankfully they moved online.
When the Emmaus shops reopened in July, I began working in the eBay office instead. My mental health had gotten so bad that being on the shop floor was too much for me for and Emmaus found me something else to do. I enjoyed helping with eBay and received training on how to do it.
I eventually left the community because I got a job in Rotherham so moved back home for a few months before the company offered me an Assistant Manager role in Blackpool. I accepted and moved into a place with another person working at the same company. It just didn’t work out. Leaving a place like Emmaus and living on my own was stressful and my drinking started up again. I knew that I needed to come back to Emmaus before it got worse. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to, but I spoke to Joe (CEO) and Debbie (Support Coordinator) who both said it was fine. I was so relieved.
I returned to Emmaus Gloucestershire in January 2022. Joe drove all the way to pick me up, which was a five-hour round-trip. There were a lot of new people who I didn’t know in the community, but I settled back in quickly.
I’m now working in the Emmaus shops again and I’ve just completed my Level 1 PAT testing qualification so I can test donated electrical items. Before the pandemic, I received funding from the Emmaus UK Companion Training Fund for driving lessons, which I’m going to start soon and I’m really looking forward to it. Debbie will also be helping me to find AA meetings again as well.
I’m so happy to be back at Emmaus Gloucestershire and to have a bed at night and somewhere to call my own.
For anyone reading this who may be in a similar position to what I was once, I want to tell them to get help. Go to the council or find out how your local services can help you. It might take a few tries to get somewhere but do keep trying.”