Monday 13 November 2017

“It’s a miracle I’m still alive” - Lawrence's story


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

Lawrence O’Sullivan (55) grew up with a father who had a drinking problem. His mother developed depression as a result of her husband’s behaviour and it was Lawrence who supported her:

We became really close and she moved in with me once I left home. Then one day I had a phone call at work to tell me she had died. Devastated is putting it lightly; it was like a bad dream. I had to travel to the hospital to identify her body.”

Left to deal with his grief, Lawrence turned to alcohol to help him cope, and things quickly escalated:

I started drinking spirits to dull the pain – buying it, drinking and not going to work became my new routine. I lost my job and so eventually I also lost my home and ended up homeless on the streets of London for two years.”

Sleeping rough was an extremely difficult experience:

A day on the streets for me was total isolation, and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I had literally no one to turn to or talk to – I couldn’t just stop a total stranger and say “I’m homeless, can you talk to me?” It was often best to keep moving so I sometimes just walked and walked. I would go to the same spot at night; it was a place with a short wall, which put me in shadow so I was less visible to passers-by. But the sleep you have when you’re homeless is never proper sleep – you’re always on edge.”

Lawrence heard about the homelessness charity Emmaus when speaking to someone in a London shelter. He spent some time being supported by Emmaus Hertfordshire and Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney before settling in Emmaus Dover:

I was determined to overcome my alcohol addiction, and I needed support to do so. I’ve come on leaps and bounds in the 16 months that I’ve been at Emmaus Dover. I started out on a 28 day trial period because of my drinking, and they really helped get me through it. I’m now sober and very much involved in the whole community. I work in the Archcliffe Fort shop in Dover and I’m a qualified PAT tester.”

Emmaus Dover provides a home and meaningful work for 27 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 four charity shops in Dover, Canterbury and Ashford which raise funds for Emmaus.

Lawrence is now planning for the future:

Emmaus Dover have done more for me than I can ever imagine. Once you walk through those gates, whatever you were or did before is gone; everyone is treated equally. But as much as I love Emmaus, I am setting a timeline to leave. My main goal for the future is employment and I’m going to look into doing something with the skills I’ve gained whilst I’ve been here. To be honest, that I am actually still alive now is a miracle in itself; Emmaus have been there for me throughout my journey and I’m truly grateful.”

If you think you might be able to support our charity, so we can help more people like Lawrence, please call us on 01304 204550 or email