This Alcohol Awareness Week (3rd to 9th July) Catching Lives volunteer Trevor shares his story of how tackling his alcohol addiction helped him turn his life around.
As told to Becky Barnes (B)
Alcoholism lost me my job and home – here’s how I turned my life around
Like everything it started off fun – weekend drinking with my pals. Then there was the stress of work and things.I didn’t realise I had a problem. I would start with one drink and I was needing more. I didn’t realise I couldn’t just go for one drink. If I went for a drink at lunchtime I needed more. Nine out of 10 times I had more. I would cause arguments for an excuse to drink to go to the pub. Then my ex-partner told me it was time to go.
I moved into a box room at my dad’s. I had lost work through drink driving. Eventually, Dad had enough – I was also taking drugs and the Christmas of 2020 I was homeless in Folkestone. I felt like I was going mad. I spent a week in Epping Forest talking to squirrels and the trees.
I still didn’t think I had a problem.
Then the Winter Shelter (in Folkestone) helped me. I was on a waiting list for housing due to Covid. The Winter Shelter put me up. I carried on drinking.
When I was on the streets, I would drink the last bit of a can if I found it. I would say that was enough and throw it away then put it in the bin. Then the refuse men would pick up the bin and I would chase them down the road knowing there was still a drop of alcohol in there.
I spent three or four months on the streets. It was lonely and scary, very scary. I didn’t want to wake up. It was derogatory – people make you feel degraded. Some people don’t help you – they look at you like you are scum but there were people at the Methodist Church and people who came and gave our sandwiches, which was nice.
Then on 22nd January 2021, at 7.30am I had my last mouthful of wine before pouring the rest away down the sink. I started going to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Meetings.
I realised people would help me if I helped myself. There were services but I had to engage. I believe people helped me because they could see I wanted to help myself.
I went into supported accommodation at Shepherd House for six months then The Cedars and did six months there. Within a year of sobriety I got my own place.
A bright future
Now I go to AA meetings and I volunteer here at Catching Lives once a week in the kitchen.
AA helped me get sober and be honest with people about my emotions. I used to say “yeah I am fine” then turn my back and cry. I used to hate myself. Now I can spend time with myself.
I got lots of help with my mental health during my time at Shepherd House and Cedars. I was an angry ball of fur and with time I learnt to not say the first thing that comes into my head.
Part of the AA programme is you help the next person and that’s crucial to me. AA is not religious, it’s spiritual. I have been given this free so I pass it on for free.
It’s the right thing to do to help the next person and as much as you have got professionals, the best way is to go to meetings because an addict can help an addict.
I pray twice a day and I pray for people I have never met. I wish people well and that is the magical thing. It is not about me. Now, I don’t put pressure on myself, I just take one day at a time. Now, I haven’t got a full time job of worrying when my next drink is going to be anymore. I have got the trust of my family back.
You’re not alone
Anyone going through the same should know there is help. It doesn’t matter what help you are requiring, there is someone out there to help you. You are not alone. We have all gone through it. Everyone has walked through the door for the first time. You will have a life beyond your wildest dreams.
The reason I now volunteer goes back to helping. People helped me and there are people that need it. It’s rewarding that people have got food in their bellies and a nice cup of tea and lots of support.
When I walk out of here I feel proud I have done something because there were some people that looked down on me on the street and there were people who gave me the time and love.
I don’t want other people to go through what I have. It’s their choice if they want to go through this but it’s also their choice if they want help. Today I choose if I have a drink or not. I will worry about tomorrow when it comes.
I didn’t believe I could do it but I have gone and sought help. I now speak about my stuff. If I can do it, so can you.
For more information on Alcohol Awareness Week, visit Alcohol Change. Visit Alcoholics Anonymous to find a meeting near you. Catching Lives offers mental health support at our day centre and also works with the Forward Trust to help any clients affected by drug and alcohol issues.
To support Catching Lives, you can make a donation here.