Will joined the Emmaus Gloucestershire community in 2016, and we’re delighted that he has since moved out for employment and independent living.
“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 received from Emmaus was 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 had a reason to keep going. I had a role within our shop and I was responsible for sorting all the clothing when it arrived, ensuring that it was ready for sale. I also introduced processes, which saved time, making it easier for other people in the community to price and display the items ready for the shop floor. The public were very generous with their donations of clothing, so I was constantly on the go, which I enjoyed.
I’ve worked all my life, and really enjoy the responsibility I was given at Emmaus. Working within the community was quite straight forward for me, but what was much harder was getting my head back into real life and a routine again – that’s the struggle, but it got easier. When I first arrived at Emmaus, I was living in the big house with over 20 companions but then moved to the Emmaus bungalow with just one other person. This let me live independently with support, and have responsibility for my own budgeting, cooking and cleaning.
My time at Emmaus wasn’t all 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 years I am completely clean.
Besides working and having somewhere to call home, Emmaus Gloucestershire also supported me through my driving lessons. 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 was a big achievement in my eyes, and in my mum and dad’s. I also completed Level 1 of my Portable Appliance Testing (PAT).
During my time at Emmaus, I volunteered once a week with the soup run in Gloucester city centre every Wednesday night. Companions lead on this activity, with the help of staff and volunteers. We would load up the van with food and rucksacks filled with essentials for up to 40 people each week. I felt like I was making a real difference. It reminded me of the times that I was on the other side of the table – I once received help in the same way and I knew how it felt to accept the kindness of strangers. It was finally in a position to show that kindness to those I met every Wednesday.
There’s a sense of being part of a team at Emmaus. It felt as though we were 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 and moved onto the next stage in my life living on my own and working.