I’ve been at Emmaus Hertfordshire for about eight months.  I was at Emmaus Burnley for about four months before then, so in total, I’ve done about a year at Emmaus. I have family in London who I have started to build bridges with, so I moved to Emmaus Hertfordshire to be closer to them.

My journey before Emmaus is a bit of a story. I was addicted to drugs at 15. I was a heroin and crack addict, an alcoholic. I was on all sorts of pharmaceutical medications to help me with my heroin addiction, but I totally abused it. Abused the system that’s involved. I’ve been in and out of prison most of my life. I was 17 when I first went to prison.

My last time in prison, I got a long prison sentence and when I got out I ended up in Liverpool. From Liverpool, I managed to get a place in a dry house Weston Super Mare, but I didn’t really understand what a dry house was. I knew I couldn’t use drugs or drink in the house, but I didn’t know you couldn’t drink at all outside of it either. I ended up being slung out and started sleeping on the sofa of a drug dealer.

I ended up getting a place of my own but my drug addiction had spiralled out of control, my alcoholism spiralled out of control.

From there, I got treatment in a treatment centre for drink and drugs in Bournemouth. I did seven years in Bournemouth, the last two years of that I was homeless.

I ended up going to a friend in Bournemouth who was running a hostel. I was meant to go in there but someone who was leaving the hostel couldn’t move on to his new accommodation, so there was no room for me. My friend found another community called Betel on the internet and within 48 hours I was living there and was there a few years before coming to Emmaus.

I’ve been clean now for a little over five years. I was 42 when I got clean. 15 years to 42 years – that’s a big majority of my life that I’ve been consumed by drink and drugs.

Since then, I haven’t had a drink, I haven’t touched a drug. I haven’t touched any pharmaceutical drugs like codeine. If I have a headache, I will have a glass of water and if that doesn’t work I might stretch to paracetamol but that’s it.

It’s part of my life; it will never leave me. I know I will never be able to do that stuff again. My new work colleagues have recently invited me to a party but I had to decline. That can be tough at times. But there’s other stuff that’s coming up that I will be able to be part of.

Like all companions at Emmaus, I worked in the social enterprises. I’ve never run a shop before, but in the end, I was running one of the shops alongside Gemma (Retail Manager), but she left me to get on with it.  I’m organised and pretty good at speaking with the customers.

One morning Duncan (Emmaus Hertfordshire CEO) came along to the house meeting and mentioned an opportunity coming up with a big firm in St Albans called Morgan Sindall. He’d put it up on the noticeboard and told us to speak to him if we were interested. I thought about it for a couple of days and thought I had nothing to lose. I have no qualifications or anything like that, but I have a lot of experience in that sort of stuff.

I had to do two weeks at college, which is something I have never done and so I had to overcome that, which I did, and then I had two weeks of work experience. I then got a formal job interview with Morgan Sindall and the rest is history.

If it wasn’t for Duncan bringing it up to the meeting, this opportunity would have passed me by.

I am now an apprentice at Morgan Sindall, doing a multi-skilled apprenticeship. In September I will be starting college once a week, studying plumbing, carpentry, groundworks and electrics. I’m out in the field for the rest of the week, learning from other people. I go into people’s houses, fix their fences, change their sink basin or put in a new bathroom or kitchen suite, hanging doors. It’s all really good experience so when I go into college I know what they are talking about.  Every week I’ll be working with someone different so I can get a real feel for the job. It’s for two years, with a secure job alongside it for two years. I’m out on

I’m still living in Emmaus Hertfordshire community at moment and will be staying on a bit longer in the move-on flat. At the moment I am on an apprentice level wage, but I am willing to knuckle down and get through that so when I get through the other side and qualify, I can move on to my own place and support myself.

I’ve never really stood on my own two feet. I’ve always had a safety net, whether it’s the prison service, drugs services, probation service. I’ve been in the system for so long. It’s daunting for me but as time goes on, it seems to all be falling into place.

I’ll never forget Emmaus Hertfordshire. I’ve already volunteered to work with the team here once a fortnight on weekends to support with upholstery on seat covers for furniture being sold in the shops. I really appreciate places like Emmaus and what they have done for me, so I want to give a little bit back. They’ve given me enough.

Photo is a stock image.