I’m from London and all my family are from London and I’ve lived in London for most of my life. I come from a family of big drinkers – that’s how we socialised.
I was working on market stalls at 13 or 14 years old and so I was making my own money and I could go into the pub and buy drink the staff would turn a blind eye to it. Coming from a big drinking family, there was always something to celebrate or an excuse to go to the pub.
Someone told me to get a trade so that I could get a regular income and I tried all of them in the building trade – plumbing, bricklaying, electrical work – I tried all of them, before I started scaffolding when I was 22.
The turning point for me with going to the pub was when they stopped us smoking in the pubs. I remember standing outside having a cigarette once and I was freezing and it just didn’t make sense anymore and that’s when I started drinking at home.
Going out drinking was expensive anyway, so I’d stay in and watch the football on the telly – this was when I got Sky Sports, so it was another excuse to have a beer.
I lost my faith in life in 2006 when my daughter passed away and that had a major effect on my life. My drinking got to the stage where I was drinking for a week and then working for two weeks doing the scaffolding and you can do that when you’re a scaffolder because you earn so much money. I did that for a year and was drinking heavily – often from Fridays all the way through to Sundays. I realised I was blaming everyone else for my problems.
One day, I was sat in the house where I was living at the time. Everyone around me was drinking heavily and I could just hear glass clinking around me.
I realised I’d been sat in the armchair for two days just looking at the telly. I just got up, walked out and walked back to London. It took me four days to get there. When I got to London, I was feeling really ill and I went straight to the hospital.
They did every test possible on me but basically I was exhausted – I’d not been eating properly and drinking and it all caught up with me. They discharged me and I got as far as St James’ Park.
There were lots of homeless people there and they saw I was out of sorts and they just gathered around me and gave me food and beers and looked after me. They sat with me, kept me company and I stayed there for a while.
After that I went to the night shelter and that’s where the alcohol counsellor told me that I needed to go into detox and I was very lucky to get into Gloucester House.
While I was homeless, The Salvation Army looked after me – they gave me food, clothes and sleeping bags and now I volunteer at Booth House with the Sandwich People.
I really enjoy the volunteering and I’ll do anything here that I’m asked to do because they make me feel so welcome.
The staff here are so helpful and they always go the extra mile and everyone here makes you feel you’re part of something.