John's story

Hastings   Rother companion John Cartiledge arranges books 140121

Since being at Emmaus I feel like I have learned how to look forward again. For a long time I’d drifted, but now I feel the surge of ambition. It’s a good feeling.

I was an English teacher for many years and if I do say it myself, I was a good one. An average student, it’s true, but as a teacher I loved getting kids into books and reading. I felt that I could engage them and keep them interested.

Like most people – especially teachers – I had always celebrated the coming of the weekend with a few drinks, but, after my marriage of 20 years broke down, the habit got out of hand. I drank more and more to hide my unhappiness.

I ended up being cautioned by the police for silly things I did when I was drunk. Although I never ended up in jail, I just couldn’t keep my temper in check for a while and that was purely because I couldn’t handle my alcohol. The trouble is, that temporary blip in my life will last forever, as my actions show up on my CRB check.

This has put paid to me getting work in schools. The last job I had lasted twelve months. I loved it, they loved me. Then the check came through and they said: “Sorry John, we don’t want to lose you, but you have to go.”

After I lost my job I didn’t know what to do. I stayed in night-shelters and just went from place to place, I was aimless. It was a former Emmaus trustee at one of the night shelters that asked me if I wanted to start working again. I was pleased to be asked.

I came to Emmaus Hastings & Rother and they immediately put me in charge of the books section. I alphabetized and categorised the titles, and then moved on to the CDs and DVDs. I also run the café, serving teas and coffees, cake and biscuits and I cash up and clear up every day. From time to time I help out in the community kitchen too, helping prep the meals.

Since being here I feel like I’ve picked up the threads of my life again. Having the comfort and time that Emmaus provides has helped me rediscover my purpose. I realise that life has more to offer me – that it isn’t all over.

I want to try something totally new, so I’ve been on a couple of recces with my son to visit Emmaus communities in France. I’d like to try and get a position over there and really challenge myself by learning a new language and living in a totally different way. Less than a year ago, I was unsure of the point of anything. Now, thanks to Emmaus, I am already thinking of the future and making plans.