Companion Stories: Mark
"My childhood was OK, but when I was fifteen, my parents divorced. I had a new step mum and a new step dad and I did a lot of travelling between them. They would ask me questions about each other and I felt they were using me. It was around this time that I started missing days off school and sniffing glue and petrol. My Dad was a miner and his Dad before him, but when I was asked what I wanted to be, I didn’t know, because you couldn’t be a miner anymore.
When I was about sixteen my Mother got lung cancer and passed away. From there it went downhill. At first it was just a party lifestyle, pills and a bit of weed, but I was caught dealing when I was 19 and went into a young offenders institution. When I came out two years later the streets were flooded with heroin. My friends were all doing it, so I tried it too and I stayed on it for the next 17 years.
I can't believe it now, but then I thieved. I begged. I lived in all kinds of hostels. I slept rough in car parks. I had no home for 17 years. I didn’t know who I was. I had no identity. From day to day I didn’t know what was going to happen - whether I was going to live or get stabbed - I didn’t care.
Luckily, at one of the hostels I stayed in, I had a great key worker who went the extra mile for me and told me about Emmaus. When I came to the Community I was so ill I was almost dead. Before Emmaus I probably stayed in about 50 different sorts of hostels and shelters over the years, but here there was no pressure to leave, and that really helped. I knew that I had time on my side, and I could gradually ween myself off my medication. If I stumbled, which I did a couple of times, I knew that the staff would help me get up again.
Over the last few years, I've had to rebuild myself as a person. When I arrived I was a bit of a jack-the-lad, but all my bravado came from drugs. I have had to build up confidence in my own work and my abilities and that has taken time and concentration. Since being here I have taken qualifications in First Aid, Health and Hygiene, Recognising the Symptoms of ADHD and more, as well as courses in management-related subjects.
This is because, after being clean for more than four years, I am going to begin training as a deputy Community manager. This will not be an easy task, and getting here meant I had to be determined. I've had to learn how to manage my temper and I've had to learn how to see the bigger picture, but I have been helped to do this by some great staff, and by being given the opportunity to travel.
I've seen how Communities are run in France, Spain, Italy and soon, I will be going to Africa to help with an Emmaus project there. Understanding that I am part of an international organisation has allowed me to see how I can help others and I have organised training events for Companions from France, Germany Holland and Poland. I’m also active in running football tournaments with local youth teams and other homeless organisations and last year I won an award for my solidarity work - which recognises the amount of time and effort that I have given to helping others.
My new confidence will not only help at work, but has also allowed me to take steps into relationships with women, and to reconnect with my family, after being estranged from them for more than a decade. I’m really proud of how far I have come in the last few years, and I’m looking forward to taking on more responsibility."