Michael's Story

I was born in Ireland the youngest of eleven children. My childhood was quite violent and I wasn’t very happy at school, as a result of this I became quite inward and isolated. I moved to London to get away whilst I was still young and started working in catering and hospitality.

The hours were long, sometimes working up to 70 hours a week, but the social side was good and over time I began to drink heavily. I continued this way for 26 years until one day it finally caught up with me. I was living with my sister in Clapham at the time. She had been struggling to handle my drinking for a while and one night we had a huge row, so I just walked out. I didn’t have a plan or anything, I just stopped going to work, and didn’t contact anyone.

My memory of that time isn’t particularly clear; I just walked the streets for about 6 weeks. People would find me passed out on the street and somehow get me to hospital where I would be patched up until the next time.

I found myself in Camden one day and that’s when the Outreach Team picked me up and took me to
No Second Night Out in Islington. I was taken to their assessment hub and they quite literally saved my life. They sent me to a doctor and sorted out a hostel for me to stay in. I stayed in Holmes Road hostel for a year and during that time I started to drink again. The hostel sent me to a rehabilitation centre called Westcliffe House in Weston Super Mare and this is where my life really started to turn around.

Westcliffe House has a very strict routine, but I needed it. Our first meeting was at 7.45am every day and then we would have different meetings and therapy groups throughout the day. The staff were amazing and really helped me to open up.

This is where my interest in art first began. To be honest I never really knew I had a talent for it but my art therapist Katherine really helped me to focus and use my art as a way to help me work through my problems from the past. The painting of the candle is one I painted during my art therapy and for me it represents light and hope.

I was at Westcliffe House for 5 months and I was completely dry the whole time. I came back to London to the recovery projects Hackett House and Brecknock Road which are managed by Sapphire Independent Housing where I met my Project Workers Rosie and Temi.

Rosie and Temi put me in contact with services such as SHP where I met Kate who was my Key Worker there. Kate helped me to sort out going back to college. I am now at Working Mens College in Camden where I’m studying IT, Maths, English and of course Art.

I have an interview coming up for an art foundation course very soon which I am feeling really positive about it. The art foundation course will help me to put together a portfolio which I hope to use for the next stage which is a degree in Art.

I’m also doing voluntary work one day a week with the elderly at the Abbey Centre in Kilburn and I dog sit for a close friend of mine 3 days a week. I now have my own studio flat in Camden and I love it. I have decorated and I am budgeting really well.

I have got in contact with almost all of my friends and family who I didn’t speak to for years. In fact we are all having a picnic later this month to celebrate me being dry for a whole year. I can’t believe how different I feel in just one year. I would never regret any of the things I have done because they have made me who I am, but I am pleased to say, for the first time in a long time, I am genuinely feeling happy in the present and positive about the future.