I think the reason I ended up at Emmaus is that my alcoholism crept up on me. I was in a very stressful job, I was in a relationship that was very stressful, and alcohol was my way of hiding it. It helped to get rid of the stress for a few hours.

I lived abroad for 14 years, and where I was living, alcohol was part of the culture. It wasn’t unusual to see someone enjoying a beer at the station buffet at 6am in the morning. My problem was that once I realised that alcohol got rid of the stress, for a short time, I drank more. It crept up on me until one day I started hallucinating and getting withdrawal symptoms. I admitted myself to hospital, and there I was locked away in an institution in the Czech Republic for three months.

After I came out, I managed to stay dry for a couple of days, but the stress was still there, and I started drinking again. I kept going around in this circle of rehab, relapsing, rehab…. This happened six or seven times while I was living in Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine.

I then had a really bad relapse. I was on a train somewhere in Europe. I didn’t know where I was, and I was hallucinating and collapsing on the train. The train stopped and as I got off I fell and smashed my head. I woke up in hospital, not knowing where I was, who I was, and why those around me weren’t speaking English.  I was very scared.

Thankfully I managed to speak to an old friend who paid for my flight back to the UK.

Back in the UK I got myself a job, but once again, the stress was there. I turned to alcohol once again and ended up in hospital. There I met a counsellor and she was very strong with me. She told me I was lucky to be alive, and if I didn’t stop drinking, I would be dead.  She gave me the biggest shake that I could possibly get, and I made the decision then that something had to change. And it did.

I found Emmaus in a very strange way. The counsellor I spoke to in the hospital arranged temporary accommodation for me, and it was there I met an old lady who I got to know quite well. I used to help her with her shopping and chatted to her. She was eventually given a bungalow, and she was given a Norfolk Assistance Scheme (NAS) voucher to use at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney to help buy things for her home.  I went with her to the Emmaus shop in Ditchingham to help choose her stuff, and there I stumbled across the Emmaus community.

I moved to Ditchingham in January 2020. Initially I was confused, I didn’t know how to feel about living in an Emmaus community. It’s so different to anything I had experienced before.  Because of the route I came into Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney, I didn’t know much about how it all worked. The first four weeks I was like a headless chicken, but then I settled into it, and it works for me.

My main job at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney is customer facing. I take in donations, I serve customers in the shop. I really enjoy making sales and putting money in the till. I also get involved in all the housekeeping jobs within the community, from hoovering to washing up, we all take our turn.

The thing I like most about being at Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney is the new me. You wouldn’t have liked the old Jos. For the first time in a long time I am not trying to be someone else. I’m just me. It’s given me the time to focus on myself, to begin to like myself.

I recognise that I could walk out of the Emmaus community tomorrow and could get employment. I think I could get myself back into mainstream life. However, am nervous about doing so just now. What if I am not ready? What if I become the hamster on the wheel again, and then fall off that wheel?

What I want to do, and what Emmaus is giving me the chance to do, is test the water bit by bit, dip my toe in first before I make the jump straight it.  Phase my return to “normal life”.

We’re at the start of the second UK COVID-10 lockdown, but personally I have found lockdown to be a very positive experience. Lockdown has put everything into slow motion and has given me the opportunity to focus on myself, look inward at myself.

The main thing Emmaus has taught me is tolerance. Aside from supplying the basics I need to live, it gives you much more, if you want it. You must have that desire within to be part of a community but if you do, it teaches you to persevere and to be tolerant of other people’s views and life experiences.