During Alcohol Awareness Week (13 – 19 November) one companion shares his story…
Gavin Faulkner (50) started drinking at age 14: “My girlfriend at the time had a problem with alcohol. We would save up and get drink and cigarettes from a garage in the village. As I got older we had a little more cash and the drinking got heavier.”
After leaving school, Gavin’s first job meant more freedom and the problem escalated: “Now I had money I could drink to my heart’s content. I drank cans of strong lager – bingeing at weekends with a couple of litres a day. I met a woman and we moved in together, but she was also an alcoholic so everyday we’d start drinking early.”
Eventually, unable to pay the rent, the prospect of homelessness was a real possibility: “We had a daughter together, but by this time our relationship was incredibly rocky; our drinking got heavier because of the worry about where we were going to live.
“When the deadline came we were homeless.
“The council put us up in very basic emergency accommodation for three years.”
When their relationship broke down, Gavin’s mother took him in: “At this point I was still drinking at all hours but in denial that I had an issue. My life had got as low as it could get. Mum was watching her son dying right in front of her and I slowly began to realise that I might have a problem and needed help. Eventually, mum suggested going into rehab and I agreed.”
Gavin battled with his addiction during a year of specialist rehab. On completing the programme, he was referred to the homelessness charity Emmaus Oxford: “As a recovering alcoholic, it made sense to me that joining Emmaus could be a way to keep off the booze; a continuation of my treatment. I had an interview and two weeks later, moved in. It felt like home and it still feels like that after four years. It isn’t so much the physical building but the people; you live and work with others who have had difficult times and so you support each other: your colleagues are also your family and friends.”
Emmaus Oxford provides a home, support and meaningful work for people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion. Those supported at our community live together and help to run our charity shop on Barns Road in Cowley, which raises funds for Emmaus.
Daily life in Emmaus helps Gavin stay on track: “The culture of being kept busy really helps me to stop drinking; every morning I wake up sober, knowing that I will be doing something that I like doing. Whilst I’ve been here I’ve been on training courses and built up skills. I’ve worked on the vans, delivering and collecting donations and also enjoy serving customers on the shop floor and assisting in the office.”
Gavin is now hopeful for the future: “I hadn’t seen my daughter since my recovery started but since I have been at Emmaus this has started to change; we’re back in touch and meet up occasionally. I’ve realised that until my dying days I’ll always be a recovering alcoholic but I feel that I’ve got to the end of the road. My mum says I’m a different person now – at last she can have a relationship with her son. Most importantly, I’ve stayed sober. I’ve done a lot of running away in my life; Emmaus has given me stability and changed me for the better.”