My life before Emmaus was pretty miserable, I got addicted to drugs and that was my focus. Everything I did was to fuel my drug addiction. I’d spend all the money I earned and sell any possessions that I had, to buy drugs. I’ve been clean before, but this is the first time I’ve felt healthy and good about myself.

My mum and brother told me about Emmaus and I’m so glad they did. Before joining Emmaus Gloucestershire in 2016, I would often stay in hostels, but there’s a huge difference between a hostel and an Emmaus community. The support didn’t really exist in the hostels I stayed in, whereas the support I receive from Emmaus has been brilliant. They get to know you, figure out the kind of support needed and in some cases outside agencies are also on hand to assist. There is no real structure in most hostels and I was basically left to my own devices. When boredom set in, I would fall back into bad habits, and in my case, drug use. At Emmaus I have a reason to keep going. I have a role within our shop and I’m responsible for sorting all the clothing when it arrives, ensuring that it’s ready for sale.  I’ve also introduced processes, which saves time, making it easier for other people in the community to price and display the items ready for the shop floor. The public are very generous with their donations of clothing, so I’m constantly on the go, which I enjoy.

I’ve worked all my life, and really enjoy the responsibility I’ve been given at Emmaus. Working within the community was quite straight forward for me, what has been much harder is getting my head back into real life and a routine again – that’s the struggle, but it’s getting easier. When I first arrived at Emmaus, I was living in the big house with over 20 companions and I am now living in a bungalow with just one other person. I’m living independently with support, and have responsibility for my own budgeting, cooking and cleaning.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though, life often isn’t. In July 2018, I very nearly relapsed. A few things had built up – I failed my driving theory test twice and another person at the community left, which hit me hard as we were good friends. I take tablets daily to help with my addiction, which I pick up weekly from the chemist. I began taking too many in one day and would be left for three or four days without any medication, which is hard work. The day I nearly relapsed, I had money in my pocket and was in town about to do what I knew I shouldn’t. I sat down for a while before coming home to Emmaus and as I was looking around me I realised that I could lose all of this. That did something to me and the thought of my mum and dad came into my head – that was it, I couldn’t do it to them or myself again, and so I didn’t. In October 2019, I went to a two week detox centre in Birmingham and detoxed off all my medication. Now, for the first time in 23 years I am clean of any medication.

Besides working and having somewhere to call home, Emmaus Gloucestershire are also supporting me through my driving lessons too. In September 2019, I was delighted to pass my driving test with no minors. The weekend after I passed, I borrowed the community car to visit my parents. I love driving and it is big achievement in my eyes, and in my mum and dad’s. I have also completed level 1 of my portable appliance testing (PAT) and would like to take that further and do my level 2 with the help of Emmaus Gloucestershire.

I’m also volunteering once a week at the soup kitchen in Gloucester city centre every Wednesday night. Companions now lead on this activity, with the help of staff and volunteers. We load up the van with food and rucksacks filled with essentials for up to 40 people each week. I feel like I’m making a real difference. It reminds of the times that I was on the other side of the table – I once received help in the same way and I know how it feels to accept the kindness of strangers. I am now in the position to show that kindness to those I meet every Wednesday.

Looking forward, I have Christmas to get ready for and this year will be so different to previous years. I’ll be going back home for a week to see my two brothers and mum and dad. I’m really looking forward to it as it’s the only time the whole family get together in one place. I’m excited about it, not so much for me, but for my family. For them, there’s no worries about me anymore. In previous years, we would get together but I would leave after an hour or two, so it will be nice this year to spend not just the day, but a few days, with my mum and dad knowing that they don’t have to wonder how long I will stay or worry when I leave anymore. I’ve had Christmases where I haven’t seen my mum and dad at all, and one year I disappeared completely. I was in a bad state then and this year couldn’t be more different.

There’s a sense of being part of a team at Emmaus. It feels as though we’re all in it together, companions, staff and volunteers all working to ensure the community continues to offer the same opportunities in the future for others.

I’d give the Emmaus team 10 out of 10 for their help and support. If I think about where I’ve come from in terms of my former life and where I am today, it’s massive. I now have possessions that I wouldn’t dream of selling – DVDs, a nice TV bought from the shop with help from Emmaus and a smart phone. That’s how much I’ve changed, I feel settled, content and in control of my life now. I also feel like I’m contributing to society, which is the best feeling in the world.