Eddie Lyons, 34, Perth, Scotland

My customers let me know they’re there if I need to talk. It makes a difference

I’d never touched drugs in my life, but then I came to Perth at the end of 2005 and I started jumping about with the wrong people. I’d take heroin or anything that could get me a buzz but then I started getting myself into trouble, shoplifting to pay for the drugs and spending time in prison. Then a Big Issue vendor spoke to me about getting badged up. That was a few years ago and I’ve been selling off and on ever since.

It’s made a big difference in my life. I’ve no reason to go out shoplifting now and I’m totally drug-free. I used to beg on the street and I feel a lot better in myself that I’m not doing that any more. All my customers know about my background, I never hide nothing. I know myself that I don’t need to say anything but I think it’s better to be upfront with people. Some just walked away from me but lots were understanding. Being honest maybe cost me some customers but the understanding ones, any time they pass, if I’m ever needing to talk or if I feel down they let me know that they’re there. It makes a big difference to my day.

I’ve suffered with my mental health but I’ve got a good support network around me.

I’ve never slept rough, I’m lucky that way. I’ve got a one-bedroom flat in Perth but I don’t like it. This is going to sound a bit confusing – I don’t want to sit in on my own but at the same time I’m not wanting to be in a shared flat. It’s lonely living alone though. I’ve suffered with my mental health but I’ve got a good support network around me. I speak to the doctors and at the day centre I go to there’s a staff member who used to work in mental health. So he can always tell when something’s up. One of the best things I can do is to jump on my bike and head to the hills. How far I can go varies from day to day and depends on how I feel but I enjoy the freedom and the exercise. The longer I’m out the better.

I used to work with the council in the cemeteries. Old gravestones that had blown over, basically I’d clean them and get them up again. I can’t do that any more because I’ve got a bad arm injury. Back when I was using drugs, I once fell asleep on my arm for 48 hours after taking Valium. Now I’ve got compartment syndrome and it’s terrible, I’m in constant pain. Luckily it doesn’t affect me selling The Big Issue and most of my customers are patient with me.

My pitch is in quite a busy part of town and there are people passing all day every day. There are three Big Issue vendors and we’re practically right beside each other but it hasn’t made a difference to our sales. We’re all friends. Things went wrong for me when I came to Perth but if I hadn’t come I wouldn’t have met the people that I did. I go to groups every day, a walking group and a jogging group. It’s pretty good. And The Big Issue is working for me at the moment. I haven’t thought too far ahead yet, I’ll just take it as it comes.

Waterstones, King Edward Street, Perth, UK

The Big Issue

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