“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.

Finding rehab and Emmaus

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.

The pandemic

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 word searches 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 and Emmaus found me something else to do. I enjoyed helping with eBay and received training on how to do it.

Finding employment

I eventually left Emmaus because I got a job in Rotherham so moved back home and a few months later 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 the support team who said it was fine. I was so relieved.

Returning to Emmaus

I returned to Emmaus Gloucestershire in January 2022. The former Chief Executive drove all the way to pick me up, which was a five-hour round-trip. There were a lot of new people in the community, but I settled back in quickly.

Since rejoining, I have been working in the Emmaus shops again and I’ve completed my Level 1 PAT Testing course, did First Aid training again as it had expired, and I’m still practicing driving. I’ve failed a few theory tests, but hopefully next time I’ll pass!

I have also started a reading course through Read Easy and I start the final book soon. Once I’ve finished the final book, I’m done! It only took a couple of months to do. I can read letters I receive on my own now, I don’t get stuck and I don’t have to ask people to read things out for me anymore, which is good.

I’m still going to AA meetings as well and I’ve finished the CGL programme. It’s still hard sometimes, but sometimes it’s all right.

I’m so happy to be back at Emmaus Gloucestershire and to have a bed at night and somewhere to call my own. It’s not somewhere I want to be for the rest of my life, but I will get there and all the training I’m doing will help. Emmaus is a stepping stone in my life until I get myself sorted.

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 keep trying.”