Shane, M&S, Cornwall St, Plymouth

Shane has moved to Plymouth to turn his life around, and he's feeling optimistic for the future

I nearly died on November 18 last year. I get seizures and it’s like I don’t even know who I am, I don’t even know my own name, it’s like I’m brain dead. I was in intensive care for a little while in Torquay. I was living in a tent at the time, and I had five seizures in one day. The hospital said if I hadn’t got to the hospital when I did I would have died that night. I’m from Gloucestershire originally, but I moved down to Devon after I got attacked about 14 years ago. I hit my head on the pavement and I had to have my skull stapled and glued back together. It left me with brain damage. It’s why I have seizures and why I can’t do another job. 

I had a troubled childhood. I’ve been an alcoholic since I was 11, I was brought up with parents who were both heroin addicts. I’ve been in foster care and stuff like that so it’s a different lifestyle to what a lot of people might be used to. I’m not that healthy. I might look OK but deep down I’m not. I have cirrhosis of the liver from the drinking too. After I left hospital they moved me to Plymouth so now I am in supported accommodation, it’s basically a rehabilitation house. I’ve come here to get away from the lifestyle I was in. I’ve been with my girlfriend for seven years and one minute we’re fine, the next minute we don’t see each other for a month. But she has a lot to deal with: she’s got leukaemia. I couldn’t carry on living like that, I needed my own place. 

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I don’t know anyone in Plymouth. When I got out of hospital they got me a taxi from Torbay Hospital to Plymouth and I’d never been here in my life. I still don’t really know it that well and I’ve been here about four months. I’ve been selling The Big Issue for a couple of months. One of the reasons why I started was so I could actually start meeting people. The brain damage means I struggle with socialising and find it hard to meet new people, so the magazine helps with that. It also gives me something to do, helping me to not drink or take drugs or do something stupid. When you get bored you do silly things that make you relapse.  

I got to know the guy who was on the pitch before me, and he suggested I started selling it. I was begging and the street wardens kept moaning about me. It feels better to be a vendor, it doesn’t feel like I’m taking the piss with people. It feels like I’m actually doing it and customers actually seem to appreciate it more too. Selling The Big Issue makes me happier rather than being down and depressed all the time. 

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I do love fishing, it’s been a hobby I’ve had since I was four. That was when my dad first took me out. Me, my two brothers and my sister were taken off my parents when I was six but when we used to visit my dad we all used to go fishing. I find it therapeutic and relaxing. It’s peaceful, isn’t it? I like decorating for the same reason. It’s nice to see the job you’ve done afterwards. I used to have a decorating business in Gloucestershire, but I can’t really do it any more because of my health. I’d love to get back to that. 

I’m making progress. It’s nice to be indoors now and I get on with the people I live with. I’m hoping that my girlfriend will be able to move over here with me and we can get a flat together. I don’t take anything any more, I don’t drink any more. I’m doing a lot better than I was, I’m getting a bit stronger in myself. I’m feeling optimistic for the future. 

Interview: Liam Geraghty

M&S, Cornwall Street, Plymouth, UK