I had quite a bad childhood; my mum died young and for years I was abused by a family member. It’s affected me ever since; I left home with very little self-confidence and had really terrible nightmares. I drifted along and didn’t really know what to do with my life.
After a while I got in into a bit of trouble and ended up in a bail hostel for 18 months. It was there I discovered cannabis; having come from a little village I had never even heard of it before. I never realised it would happen to me but before I knew it I was addicted. Looking back, this was a crossroads in my life and I took the wrong road. I got into cannabis and then when I left the hostel I moved into a flat on my own, but I wasn’t offered any support.
I met a girl and we moved in together for eight years but the relationship eventually started to fall apart; the stress caused me to stop going to work and I started to use drugs and alcohol to help me escape. When the relationship finally ended I found myself homeless.
I moved in with a bloke who had a spare room, but he had a heroin and crack problem. I resisted for about two weeks but then felt so depressed that I started smoking it too, every day. I was drinking too much and smoking cannabis as well. My housemate became very abusive. For a year I lived with his mental torture; he also tortured me physically – he’d beat me up and do things like throwing hot water over me. My depression only got worse; once it grabs hold of you it’s so difficult; I tried to commit suicide twice.
When I left that house, I slept rough in local parks but I couldn’t cope with it. You’ve got to be a really mentally strong person; if you’re not, you get taken advantage of on the streets and you can get into violent situations. I used night shelters too and sometimes slept on people’s couches, sofa surfing.
I then moved in with another bloke who had a spare room, but he was also in the drug scene and was violent; he stole my benefit money and I couldn’t stop him. Eventually I had a breakdown and really felt as if I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. A week before Christmas, he actually threatened to kill me and I realised I had to get out. I planned my escape by hanging my bags out the window so he didn’t suspect anything; I then told him I was going to the shops and managed to get away.
I went to the Salvation Army for help and found out about Emmaus. It sounded perfect – a place for me to do something positive and get away from all the negative people that I’d let in my life. When I heard the news that there was a place for me at Emmaus Coventry & Warwickshire, I was so relieved – I cried my eyes out. I felt wanted and I knew that it was a chance to change my life.
It’s great being here; I’ve been clean for nine months now. I found it difficult at first because I was used to being alone. In my old life I could go three or four days without speaking to anyone, but I’ve now grown in confidence. It is great to be with people who have been through similar things – we all look after each other.
The work has helped me get into a routine and given me skills I never thought I’d have – who’d have thought I would be able to answer the phone in an office?! It’s just brilliant. The support is there if you need it; if I’m having a bad day I can go and talk to them and they understand.
Next year I want to sit down with the support team here, to start talking about plans for my future and think about where I want to go and what I want to do after Emmaus. There’s no pressure to leave, but when I’m ready, I like working with older people so maybe a job in that area might be nice.
This Christmas is going to be good; I’m actually looking forward to it for the first time in years. Emmaus has completely changed my life. They’ve helped me move on and given me a work ethic; they’ve taken my mind off the past, built up my confidence and I’m now a different person.