Barry's Story

I moved to London from Cork for my work many years ago. I am a chef by trade and have worked in a lot of restaurants and brassieres over the years. You work long and unsociable hours as a chef so when I got time off I liked to enjoy it and, I suppose if I’m honest, over time I became a bit of a binge drinker.

About 4 years ago I had to stop work because I became ill. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me, I was having a lot of tests done and suddenly I had a lot of spare time on my hands. It turns out I had a brain tumour, which I had removed 2 years ago. But during this time I got used to spending my new found free time drinking.

I was living in a shared flat in Stoke Newington and I wasn’t a particularly good flat mate, I became obnoxious when I was drunk, which was becoming more frequent. In February this year my contract was terminated and I found myself sleeping rough. I spent 15 days on the streets during one of the coldest winters for a long time. I kept warm by travelling up and down on the buses throughout most days and nights.

I went to the Irish Centre in Camden for some advice and they managed to get me a place at Conway House. When I arrived I was still drinking, which continued for the first few weeks. Then I started meeting with Barry from Camden Alcohol Service every Thursday and it was through talking with him and my key worker Sidi that I finally admitted I was an alcoholic. It was with their support that I finally stopped drinking. I haven’t touched a drop for 3 months now, which I know doesn’t sound very long but it’s something I couldn’t have imagined when I first moved into Conway House.

I was in Conway House for about 3 months but I was mixing with friends who were still drinking and I felt I needed to get away from that environment so I moved into the recovery project at Hackett House. Of course I had to prove that I wasn’t drinking anymore before I could move in. I have been here for about 3 weeks now and I feel it is a much better place for me. There are 7 of us here and we all support each other as best we can. The staff are brilliant too, they have an open door policy and everyone gets on really well.

I am now trying to give my life some structure that isn’t focused around drinking. I work 3 days a week as a volunteer in the local Oxfam shop, which I’ve been doing for about 2 months and I’m also undertaking a structured day programme at Camden Alcohol Services. The course lasts for 12 weeks and you attend for 3 days a week. It teaches you how to cope with not drinking and learn how to spot triggers and dangers.

I’m also doing lots of work with Camden Ex-cell; I have a key worker Stacey who visits me and helps me get involved in voluntary work and courses that might interest me. In September I am starting a computer course at Camden Working Men's College and also an electronics course which could help me in the future as I would like to do PAT testing.

For now though I am just concentrating on building a new life for myself which doesn’t involve drinking, which is why Hackett House is so good for me. It has given me time to think, which is important for me as I am really trying to get to know myself again as a sober person. Every day is an achievement for me, I know I still have a long way to go but I am feeling positive and am enjoying getting to know myself again.