Thanks to Emmaus my life is now on track and I smile when I think about the future, but it didn’t start out that way.

I was at school when I first experienced mental health problems but no-one recognised what it was. I was labelled as disruptive and fell into the wrong crowd. Things weren’t so strict back then so I was able to buy alcohol at age 13. I struggled to concentrate in class and left school at 15 with no qualifications.

Eventually, drinking became the norm. I’d binge drink and became totally dependent on alcohol. For many years I balanced my alcohol addiction with work but it finally caused me to lose my job. That was it – life went downhill instantly. I stopped paying bills and got behind with the rent. I knew was about to get kicked out my flat, so one day I just got up and left.

I ended up on the streets of Luton, rough sleeping for four months, and was eventually sectioned under the Mental Health Act. This was my turning point. It made me realise I actually had mental health problems and needed help. My drinking exaggerated those problems and I asked for support to help me stop.

When I came out I finally had daily access to the mental health support I needed. After a while, they could see I was working hard to get off the drink and suggested I apply to join an Emmaus community.

When I first arrived at Emmaus Burnley I had no self-confidence, but having a room of my own was a big deal.

You can’t underestimate the feeling of finally having a safe place of your own – to have a home.

The staff encouraged me to continue to work on my mental health – many people there also had drinking problems so we supported each other.

After 18 months I moved to Emmaus Village Carlton to be nearer my sister. During my time at Emmaus I enjoyed helping to run the charity shops. Work gave me a routine after the chaos of my life beforehand. Suddenly I had a reason to get up in the morning and even the motivation to improve my daily hygiene. When you live as part of a community then you owe it to everybody to be presentable every day.

After 18 months at Village Carlton I felt that I was ready to move on and the team helped me find a new home. I now live nearby in supported housing. I come back to volunteer every week, helping to PAT test electrical items before they are sold in the Home Store. I owe Emmaus so much and it’s my way of giving back. The support team are always around if I find I do need to talk. I know my mental health problems are never going away completely but I’m so much more confident now. I’ve started to apply for jobs and hope that soon I’ll be able to start back in employment. Emmaus helped me get back on my own two feet and I’ll always be grateful.