For the last 25 years, pretty much all my adult life, I’ve had problems with heroin addiction. A couple of years ago I went into rehab so I’m sort of in recovery at the minute. It started around 1994 but I was a functioning addict for quite a long time. I was holding down a job, driving seven-and-a-half-tonne lorries around London and living a semi-normal life. But when I took the chance in rehab to look at myself – properly look at myself – I realised that it was all a mess really. My recovery’s not 100 per cent because I lost my partner to addiction nearly two years ago and I had a relapse after that. So I’m on the medication at the moment.
Before rehab, I’d split from my partner for a little while and my life went completely out of control. I just couldn’t live alone. I was homeless in Reading for the whole of summer 2017 and I overdosed a couple of times. It was pretty scary. My friends could see I was really reckless and that I was going to die, so they contacted my mum and we spent £20,000 of my gran’s inheritance money on rehab. Even though I had a relapse because of my grief, rehab has been a fantastic experience. It’s changed the way I think and it will be my salvation in the long run.
My mother lives in a village near here and once a week I see her and look after her garden and stuff like that. I only came to Leicester three years ago when I started rehab and I stuck around because my mum was here. There’s also a really good recovery scene, especially a place called Dear Albert, which is a community rehab centre I’ve volunteered at. They give me the support I need. I couldn’t have survived as long as I have without Dear Albert. The beauty of The Big Issue is I can go to these groups in the daytime and it fits around them. It’s flexible. It gives me two things; it lets me earn money and it fits around whatever I’m doing recovery-wise or with my mum.
One of my underlying issues was really bad social anxiety but dealing with the public daily is helping me with my social skills. When I was driving lorries I used to choose jobs where I’d be out on my own because I hated dealing with people and I wasn’t very good at it. But selling The Big Issue is definitely helping. I’m naturally polite, and saying ‘good morning sir’ and ‘good morning madam’ can help. Just before I started selling the magazine I’d got myself a flat but before that I was rough sleeping. It wasn’t great. The first night I woke up and somebody had been through my pockets and stolen my phone. It’s not safe at all.
I love animals, but I’m not allowed to keep any pets in my flat. I’d always had dogs, but when I was with my partner we had cats for 18 years. I trained at college doing animal care and I’ve worked with animals – guide dogs, and I also ran a clipping and grooming salon down in Truro many years ago. In the future though, I’m hoping to get myself sorted then go back to volunteering and maybe enrol on a counselling course. I’ll see what the future holds, but I’d like to work with addicts. All the best counsellors are the ones who’ve been there themselves, I find. I’ve also very recently got a new partner, so things are looking up. It definitely feels like my life has turned a corner.