Mark Worthington, 48, Co-op, Ivybridge

I’ve been blessed with all the support that The Big Issue has given me through lockdown and before. I’ve got a lot to be grateful for. It’s been a difficult time for everybody in the last few months. For example, I’m a northern lad from Wigan and even my football team has gone into administration. It’s just been so challenging for a lot of people. And I’m not a selfish guy, I think about others a lot, sometimes too much.

I remember my uncle taking me to the football as a boy and I never wanted to move from Lancashire. But my mum and dad wanted to move away from the area when I was 11 to give their kids a better life. Things changed when I moved to Plymouth. I was bullied and I’ve struggled with dyslexia for most of my life so my education wasn’t great. After school I was a bit of a bugger. I was working as a plasterer and I’m a qualified gardener by trade. I used to work on the gardens at the Duchess of Cornwall Inn [in Poundbury] and I used to have a little nosy through the window when the royals visited!

But I got into substance misuse at a very young age and I’ve had problems with the law because of my addiction. I met my partner 15 years ago. She was a beautiful lady and I had three beautiful kids with her. I had everything – the nice house, the nice car – and I lost it all through my selfishness with addiction.

I split up with my missus and ended up struggling to get by in Dartmouth. That’s when I met a guy who suggested selling The Big Issue. From that moment I have sold the magazine on and off for the last 12 years. This pitch is a special pitch to me. I’ve got a lot of friends, I’m so blessed. People confide in me and come to me with their problems, they share stuff with me. I believe that it is God or some sort of power that put me here. It’s not all about selling magazines, it gets me out of my mental state of being. I like to have a laugh and banter with my customers too and I like to make up songs on my pitch. I used to do a bit of magic too.

I’ve been clean and sober for some time now. I reckon if I hadn’t found The Big Issue, I would have been in a dark place. On my journey a lot of people I’ve known have gone, I’m grateful to be one of the ones who is still here.

Through the lockdown I was literally living in my car with no toilets and it was a nightmare. With the help of The Salvation Army and The Big Issue, I was housed in a little bungalow in Ivybridge. Ten years I had been homeless. That first night in my home was overwhelming. I was emotional, thinking ‘Thank God, I’ve got a home’. I was sick and tired of all of it – living in a car, living in a tent, making bonfires. But that first night I remember lying on the bed and thinking: “This is lush”. At long last I’ve got a roof over my head. At long last I can sit peacefully and not have to worry about getting robbed. At long last I’ve got my own key to my front door. It was massive, it didn’t feel real.

I’ve learnt that I was the problem, not the drink and drugs. So I want to go to university to study psychology so I can be a drugs support worker. I want to help others because that is what lights me up. It makes me feel excited when someone tells me that I have made their day. I want to give back to The Big Issue and the community form all the help they’ve given me.

Image: Tony Cobley

Co-op Food - Ivybridge - Glanvilles Mill, Ivybridge, UK

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