I first came to Emmaus South Wales when I was 19, but I wasn’t ready to be here at that point in time. I was still quite young and drinking a lot but I’m back now, at 25, and getting good support for my mental health.

My life before Emmaus was a bit hectic really. I had a pretty big drink problem and was doing a lot of drugs. I went to prison twice for fighting and stuff like that and I’ve been homeless in the past. That’s where I got stuck in the prison cycle. Instead of being on the streets, I knew that I could get drunk, get in a fight and go back to prison where you’ve got three meals a day and somewhere to sleep. I’d never really had my own space, so I saw prison as a place I could have it. I think it was more a cry for help, trying to get my life back on track through prison.

I went to Betel, the Christian rehab organisation, for three years in total. I was 18 when I first went there, and it saved my life. It also taught me about faith. I’m a Christian, but I always say I’m not religious about it, like going to church every Sunday. I have my faith and that’s what Christianity is all about. I’ve met people at Betel who have been there twenty years, are married, happy and have their faith. Before Betel, these people were heroin addicts who had no hope left. It’s great what Betel can do.

Betel and prison are all I’ve known since I was 18 so I think I’m a bit institutionalised in a way and Emmaus is amazing for settling back into a normal way of living. Leaving somewhere like Betel, which is a very introverted community, or prison can be hard, especially if you don’t have anything set up. Coming to Emmaus, you get your own room, bathroom, support and structure which all helps to set up a foundation that you can build on.

Emmaus puts support sessions in place for whatever you need, which is good. A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD). As part of that, I struggle with rejection, and I’ve been around a lot of people who have rejected me over the years, since I was really small up until now. Emmaus is funding psychotherapy for me. That’s the main treatment for BPD, so I really appreciate getting it. I do struggle now and again, but that’s where the support Emmaus provides makes a difference.

At Emmaus, I’ve built up my confidence by working in the shops. I’ve never really been a confident person at all and I’ve grown a lot in that respect. In the shops, I help to sort through donations, assist customers and book people in for deliveries and collections. It’s really boosted my confidence, and I now find answering the phones and talking to customers brilliant.

Now that I’m a bit older, one thing I’ve learnt is to listen to people a lot more and not try to do everything on my own. When I was at a different organisation in Bolton, I gave a couple of talks at a school about my life and what I’d been through. A lot of the kids listened to me, and the school invited me back to talk to the ‘naughty’ kids. I told them a few things – to listen to their teachers as they are qualified and know what they’re on about and to not do everything on your own; if you need to speak to someone, don’t hold it in. That was something I was very good at. I tried to do everything on my own while holding it all in. I didn’t want to listen to anyone or take advice. I failed miserably and went rapidly downhill. The kids gave good feedback about the talk and thanked for me stepping out and being vulnerable with them. Hopefully it helped.

There’s no rush or panic at Emmaus and I can spend time getting the support and structure I need before leaving. Everything is great in the community house as well. It’s good to be around people who have been through similar things. We’ve all been there, done that. It’s an amazing place really.

Whilst I’m at Emmaus, I’m focusing on sorting out my mental health and getting that stable before moving on, getting a job and my own flat later down the line. Emmaus gives people the support they need to complete courses too, so I’d like to do music at college as I’ve been playing guitar for about six years. Jemma, the Chief Executive, was also talking about opportunities to go abroad and visit different Emmaus communities. I’ve always wanted to see other countries and Emmaus will help to get my passport so hopefully I’ll have the chance to do that.

Support and structure in life is all I ever needed. That’s what I’m getting at Emmaus South Wales, along with more confidence and the chance to learn and do new things.