I found Emmaus Gloucestershire in October 2019 after a few months on the streets and nearly three months in rehab.
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’re not 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 had met during that time. I also 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 be.
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 which I still go to. 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 out with the Emmaus soup run. This is a regular thing that happens every Wednesday and I help to fill up the minibus with hot and cold food, clothing and toiletries to give out to people who are sleeping rough in Gloucester. I like being in the position that I can give back and help people who are going through a difficult time.
When the lockdown happened as a result of the coronavirus 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 our shops reopened in July, I began working in the eBay office instead of the shops. My mental health has gotten so bad that being on the shop floor is too much for me for now and Emmaus found me something else to do. I enjoy helping with eBay and have received training on how to do it.
My plan for now is to focus on my driving lessons. I received funding from the Emmaus UK Companion Training Fund for my lessons and test, but it was all postponed due to the pandemic. I’ve now had a few lessons and they are going well. By this time next year, I hope to have my license.
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.