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Edinburgh vendor Kenny is using lockdown to work on his recovery

Kenny misses selling the magazine on Rae Place in Stockbridge, but said his usual NA meetings being held virtually has given him a chance to work on himself

Kenny Whitecross Edinburgh Anna Deacon photography

It’s a difficult time for our vendors while they’re temporarily unable to sell The Big Issue on the streets, but 39-year-old Kenny says it has given him space to dedicate all his time to recovery from addiction.

Kenny, who was selling the magazine in Stockbridge, told The Big Issue: “I would rather be out selling but the way things are, it actually came at a good time for me.

“I’ve had a bad drug problem over the past few years, which I’ve been addressing. I’ve been going to NA meetings and coming off methadone.

“I was a wee bit scared about the lockdown at first because I had relapsed a couple of times. It could’ve gone two ways, but they started offering NA meetings online, and it has made all the difference.”

The meetings going digital means Kenny hasn’t missed a meeting while doing his bit and staying safe indoors.

“Obviously nothing compares to a face to face meeting but it’s still good because we can still see each other and speak to each other. It’s just as good as a meeting and with the way things are, it’s really good that we can get them. We all need support right now.”

When we spoke to Kenny last year he was living in a hostel. He has now graduated to a flat supported by the hostel but away from the main building, which he said is an exciting progression on his way to living independently.

“It means the chances of me catching the virus are slim,” he said. “I only go out to go to the chemist to pick up my prescription and don’t really leave the flat other than for that or to go to the shop or get a bit of exercise. The isolation has been quite easy for me in that respect.”

The vendor was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and ADHD, and told The Big Issue that being able to get out for some fresh air is important for managing his conditions.

“I go out just to calm my head down,” he said. “Not getting out and doing things like I’m used to doing is difficult.”

He is keeping busy by doing as many online NA meetings as he can – about four or five a day – and speaking to his mum and his son on the phone every day. “That definitely keeps me going,” he said.

The loss of Big Issue earnings is a concern, Kenny said, because his benefits hardly cover his living costs.

“It’s a weird time but it has been quite productive for me,” he said. “I’m missing interacting with people, I miss seeing my regular customers. They were really supportive before the lockdown happened.

“They all say to me, Kenny, you’re part of the community. Which surprises me because I think, oh, I’m just a Big Issue vendor! But it seems like they took to me. They’ve made me one of their own.

“To them I say: stay safe and I’ll see you when this is over.”

Image: Anna Deacon

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