Things started getting tough when I was 16. I joined the army but didn’t stay long so when I was home my parents kept asking me what I was doing with my life. I started smoking weed and, when I turned 18, I’d go straight to the pub whenever I had any money.
Both my parents were drinkers, and I didn’t really get on with my dad, we would argue a lot. We’d end up having a fight or they’d tell me to leave and then they’d call the police. There’s been over twenty-seven arrests, over a period of years.
The final straw was after I got a job with a delivery company. My mum said: “promise me you won’t drink when you get paid”, but there wasn’t much to do where I lived so when some friends invited me to the pub, I went. I came home drunk, and dad told me I had to get out. That was December 2016.
I took everything I owned and found this place called the “All Night Café”. If you’re homeless, you could just rock up there and sleep on the floor. I went to the Council for help, and they found me a place to stay, but I moved a few times which was tough because I was getting further and further away from anyone I knew.
Things got heated, we got into a fight, and I ended up slashing his face with a knife so I got arrested for GBH and burglary.
The last place I stayed wasn’t great for a few reasons. Eventually they told me I had to leave the shared house but there was a bed for me at the night shelter. I didn’t really want to go there but I had no choice. They would kick us out in the morning and because there was nothing to do, I would just sit and drink in the park.
My mental health went downhill quickly when I was homeless – it was a downward spiral. I tried killing myself a few times – I didn’t want to die; I just wanted the craziness to stop.
I was running out of options. I’d been staying with a friend but that didn’t work out. I was banned from the All-Night Café and had no money, so I tried the Council again, but only managed to get back to where my parents lived. It was freezing cold and raining, so I walked to my parents’ house even though I hadn’t seen them for months.
There was no answer, so I hopped over the gate and climbed through the open back window – which was how I used to get in. My mum wasn’t there, but there was a bag full of alcohol, so I just stayed in the house drinking. My brother came home and found me. When I said I’d come to see mum, he told me she was dying. Things got heated, we got into a fight, and I ended up slashing his face with a knife so I got arrested for GBH and burglary.
I pled guilty and was sent to prison. I saw a forensic psychologist and he diagnosed me with antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder and ADHD – he also said that the alcohol and my circumstances had a huge part to play in that.
When I came out of prison, I didn’t think anywhere would take me in because of how serious my crime was. But the woman from probation arranged for me to have an assessment with Transform on the day I got out and few days later offered me a five-day ‘guesting period’.
The deputy manager Sally was really stern with me. She said any antisocial behaviour or drinking, and I’d be gone. I couldn’t believe I had a whole flat to myself. I didn’t think it would go well so I asked if I should bother unpacking, but she said: “Yeah, unpack your stuff.” Every day I came downstairs to do a breathalyser test and, when they said I could stay, it felt really good.
That was when things began to change for me. I realised that if they were going to trust me with a whole flat, I could manage to get sober. All that time spent staring out of my cell window thinking: “What am I going to do?”, well this is it now. Having people believe in me has definitely helped me stay away from alcohol.
My Transform keyworker Simon is brilliant, he’s got a great sense of humour and we’ve been through everything together. The support I get from Transform is more like guidance, they don’t just do everything for you. I thought I’d be useless at budgeting and paying bills because I used to spend all my money on drink, but they helped me budget; and now I’m really good at it. I even like saving money! I just got a job, which I didn’t think I’d ever have. I work in a charity shop and I haven’t been arrested in a long time. The goal now is to get a full-time job and live a normal life.
I had so many chaotic years but it’s not until you talk about it and realise – that was actually my life. When you’re running away from the police, people are shouting at you and you’re in the middle of court cases, it seems fairly normal. I didn’t have a reason to change before but thanks to Transform, now I do.
I’ve worked with Jon since he came to Transform in 2020. When I looked at his history on his referral form we thought he was going to have a challenge to maintain abstinence from alcohol, but his motivation has been amazing. He has not drunk at all – not even a mini relapse since he moved in. He has fully accepted that alcohol ruined his life. Jon has demonstrated a model recovery to date and shown what can be achieved when people choose abstinence.
He is very personable and enthusiastic. When Jon moved in we developed a support plan together so he could identify his goals and how to achieve them. One of the challenging parts of supporting Jon is that he can be very compulsive and will get an idea in his head and want to do it immediately. After about a month of being with Transform, Jon felt like he was ready to move on. We're not here to hold people back, so if they want to move on, then of course we’ll help as much as we can, but we do try and ensure they are ready first. It took a while to slow Jon down, but he realised in the end that it was too soon.
Jon’s main support need when he came here was learning how to live independently, including maintaining a tenancy, which he'd never done before. That included budgeting and helping him sort out his debt. Jon’s motivation to abstain from drugs and alcohol has been strong, however he has benefitted from discussions in the weekly support sessions around relapse prevention and how to manage emotionally without using substances. I think he would agree he's a lot happier now.
There were times in our weekly sessions where Jon would tell me he was having a bad day but couldn’t identify why. It was clear that there was an underlying mental health issue, so I encouraged Jon to get a referral for therapy which he has, and I think it is really helping him. I'm a great believer in getting people to take responsibility for their own mental health. There’s no magic cure. If you can learn to manage your challenges, you can get on with life and do whatever you want to do.
We always try and get clients involved in the local community through voluntary work and structure is important. Jon was resistant at the beginning as he felt he didn’t need to build a life here as he would be moving. Now, though, he’s started voluntary work in a local charity shop. He decided he wanted to do part-time work, so once we'd sorted out what he could earn while being on Universal Credit without it affecting benefits, he just went out and got a job.
We've seen some great changes in Jon and we are pleased to have been able to help him to start to rebuild his life. The foundation for Jon moving forward is to maintain his abstinence and to continue to manage his mental health. It is very positive to see Jon having the confidence to start work and I hope he now believes in the great potential he has.