I was born in County Down, Northern Ireland. I was adopted at the age of 3 and moved with my new family to Larne, County Antrim. I was a nervous child and was picked on because of my glasses but I was happy in school and I enjoyed our family life.
Problems started in the family when I was about 8, my father had started to see someone else and there were a lot of arguments. My parents got divorced when I was 10 and my father got custody of the children, which I found difficult as I was closer to my mother. My father had started to get quite physically abusive so I started skipping school. By the time I was 13 I was sent to a juvenile court because of skipping school and petty thieving, which had started when I got involved with a bad crowd.
The juvenile court sent me to a boys’ school where I stayed for one year. I then moved to another boys’ home in Belfast and because I was bullied I kept running away. I started drinking at 15; it was a way to socialise and try to fit in. Drink gave me the confidence, I lacked.
I left the boys home when I was 16. I could take or leave the drink then, but I enjoyed going into the pubs and socialising. I got myself a job and was living with my adoptive mother. I was doing ok but as time went on I started to drink more heavily. My drinking started to affect my work as I was turning up late and so on. I ended up losing my job and signing on.
Around this time I decided to find my natural mother. I managed to find her but it didn’t go well. She was a schizophrenic and to cut a long story short she told me she didn’t want anything to do with me. That’s the first time I went out to get drunk. This wasn’t social drinking; I wanted to block everything out. I started to self harm as well, by the time I was 18 years old I was submitted to a psychiatric hospital.
I was 19 when I left hospital and I managed to get my own flat. I started letting friends from school into my flat and binge drinking with them. Eventually I couldn’t pay the bills and I lost the flat. There was no life for me in Northern Ireland anymore so I decided to move to the UK.
I thought it would be good for me to join the Army. I went along to the selection centre but I managed to mess this up because of my drinking, so with no other plans I headed to Blackpool where I worked the summer season. When it was over I had nowhere else to go so I went back to Northern Ireland for a while but it didn’t work out.
I came back to the UK and since then I’ve been travelling from town to town mainly living in hostels and B&BS or on the streets. It’s been more or less my life over the years. I’ve ended up in A&E many times because of the drink and self harming.
By 2009 I was still drinking, getting in trouble with the police or ending up in A&E. I’ve been in and out of rehab many times, but as soon as I return to London and my old life I start to drink and gamble again and the vicious circle continues.
I was put in touch with Camden Alcoholic Advisory Service. I went to AA meetings and I realised I needed to have something to keep me occupied during the day. Someone told me about the New Hanbury Project so I went to check it out. I loved doing the gardening there and I also started to go to a social evening there on Friday nights, which is for people in recovery.
By 2010 things were looking up, I was in a dry hostel and I was keeping myself occupied during the day but then after about 18 months I was told I needed to move on. I was offered a flat in Harlsden. I wasn’t keen as I don’t know anyone in Harlsden and I know from previous experience I need to be near a good support network if I want to stay dry. I declined the flat but still had to move out so ended up back in a wet hostel. After a while temptation got the better of me and I started drinking and self harming again.
By September 2013 I’d had enough and on 30th September 2013 I had my last drink. I moved to Hackett House towards the end of 2013. I’m now in Brecknock Road and the team have been great. I do voluntary work for FareShare two days a week and I go to the Mind Yourself and The London Irish Centre to do a computer course and art classes.
I have been sober for nearly 8 months now, which is the longest I have ever done. I am feeling really positive about my future but know there are going to be struggles ahead. I would like my own place eventually but for now I am concentrating on looking after myself and doing all that I can to stay dry.