Monday 13 November 2017

“I used to drink until I passed out”- Stephen's story

Stephen Smyth at till for news

During Alcohol Awareness Week (13 – 19 November) one companion shares his story...

Stephen Smyth (32) has been sober for over two years, after years of drinking led to homelessness:

I started drinking around the age of 14; I was really easily influenced and would drink because of peer pressure from my friends. My parents ran the village pub, so alcohol was always easy to get hold of. Dad was an alcoholic; although I don’t think that’s necessarily the reason I became one, I was aware of his drinking at an early age."

Stephen was asked to leave the family home at 16:

;For a while I slept on mates’ sofas but then I found myself living on the streets for two years. It was a scary experience, especially at first; I had to learn quickly. I realised it was safer to wait until the pubs had closed and the streets were more empty, before finding a doorway to shelter in. One night I ended up getting into a fight; they punched me so hard I lost some teeth."

After this incident, his brother offered him accommodation. Although off the streets, Stephen’s drinking continued as he met new friends:

I fell into the wrong crowd again, hanging around with other drinkers, but this crowd were also into drugs. I definitely felt pressure to join in and started mixing alcohol with Class A drugs. When you’re an alcoholic, you plan your week around when you’re going to get drunk; you lose control of your life. We used to drink until we passed out. I found a cash-in-hand job, which was actually a bad thing, as I could always go straight out and buy drink and drugs. One night I got involved in a fight and because I had a previous conviction, I was arrested and given a two month prison sentence."

Life after prison led Stephen to a new relationship:

When I found out my girlfriend was pregnant, I didn’t want to be like my own dad so for a while I did stop drinking. Then I found out that the baby wasn’t mine and it hit me hard. All my motivation was gone and for three weeks solid, I drank to excess. One night I bought some dodgy drugs which, mixed with my alcohol levels, sent me into a coma; I was dangerously ill."

Stephen thankfully recovered but his time in hospital was the motivation he needed to sign up for rehab:

This was the kick I needed to start to change my ways. I went through rehab for two years as I battled with my addiction. Once clean, I knew I wouldn’t be able to cope with the outside world straight away; I’d got used to the very strict rehab routine with no freedom. Although I no longer needed to drink I also lacked confidence and the ability to restart my life. That was when I called up Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire"

Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire provides a home and meaningful work for 25 people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion. Some stay for a while as they gain confidence and skills before they are ready to move on to independent living; others are in need of longer-term support and are able to stay for as long as they need to. Those being supported help to run social enterprises, including a second-hand furniture shop in Coventry, to help fund our charity’s work.

Stephen has been supported by the charity for the last three months:

Emmaus have given me the chance to learn to be independent again. I’ve managed to stay clean and I enjoy working in the Emmaus shop, especially serving customers. I like the idea that I’m making money for the charity so that more people like me can be supported out of homelessness. If it wasn’t for Emmaus, I’d definitely be drinking again now, and probably homeless; instead, I have hope for the future."

If you think you might be able to support our charity, so we can help more people like Stephen, please call us on 024 7666 1466 or email