'Shelter' from the storm

'Shelter' from the storm - 15/06/2020

Thank you to B who shared this story with us...

“No I don’t think I’ll need any help. There must be a lot of people out there who need more support than me. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be alright.”

Here am I coming out with these old lies again. Self-deception and denial at it’s finest. The worse thing is this is unconscious denial born out of a desperate desire that it’s true. I can and will manage this time, on my own. This is pride and pain in equal measures. It will be different this time. White lies to make myself feel better. Of course I can have a normal, scratch that, balanced life.

I’m speaking to Charlotte a support worker at ‘Shelter’. I asked them for help while desperately seeking a new place to live after my previous tenancy became extremely dangerous. I was the victim of a crime known as ‘cuckooing’ where a local gang moves into the house of a vulnerable person and expoits them and the property whilst selling drugs. The people usually targeted have, mental health issues or addiction issues or have learning difficulties. I suffer from alcoholism and have sought help for over twenty years to maintain total abstinence. On top of this ongoing battle and all the mental health issues around addiction I had now just fled my house at knifepoint and moved into a brand new area in a totally unfurnished flat. Perhaps you can see how my claim that 

“I’m going to be alright now.” wasn’t quite the rock solid affirmation I hoped it was.

Thankfully Charlotte must have seen the potential flaws in my thinking,

“Well look...How about I do stay in touch with you just once a week? Yes there are lots of people who need support at the moment but that doesn’t mean you don’t or shouldn’t be offered it as well. I’m going to put you down for a call next week.” she sounded very confident that this was how it should be so I agreed.

“Okay.” I would just tell her in a weeks time that I was indeed fine.

Over the next 7 days my sense of dislocation and ever present alcoholic thinking increased. Added to this I was now experiencing PTSD from the three months of mental torture I had experienced at my previous address so I was very paranoid and anxious. Having been attempting recovery for so long I no longer have anything that I can blame for my drinking, no reasons or excuses will suffice. I suffer from alcoholism therefore I sometimes drink, no family history or stress or highs can satisfactorily explain the return to the bottle and the devastating outcome for me each time I relapse. However I will say that the move and other issues certainly made me more vunerable to relapse and I did indeed pick up again. 

Twenty four hour drinking, sleep pattern out the window, caffeine pills and no food. Is where my disease has progressed to now. This means that I quickly wear out the patience of friends and family, if I even stay in touch that is. 

I have been attending and supporting Kickback Recovery Community CIO for around three years now. There support is excellent and I was able to attend some meetings. However my main support was Charlotte who when I explained what had happened now began to call two times a week.  I had been spending a lot of time in my bedroom looking at the floor and drinking and listening to music so when I noticed that my left foot had swollen to three times its normal size and was bright red Charlotte was the first person I told. She immediately offered to pay for a taxi to get me to a Doctor’s Surgery but I was too paranoid by this point to go alone. Eventually I told another friend who correctly diagnosed Cellulitus and took me to A&E at Northern General. 

Covid-19 was full blown at this point and the sight of everyone in masks and ambulances wheling people in with frightening regularity was a wake up call. I’m grateful my friend was with me. I was prescibed very strong antibiotics which did affect me in a number of ways which Charlotte explained to me whilst checking on me and that I was taking them.

I think one of the hardest things to accept is support and friendship. It means accepting ones frailty and vulnerability. It means listening and doing things differently.

I have never met Charlotte but her twice weekly calls have been, and meant, so much emotionally and practically.

Here is why…

  • I wrote a number of poems during lockdown which Shelter provided a national platform for.
  • I needed food and Shelter organised a parcel.
  • I needed a new cooker and washing machine installed and Shelter organised a council engineer during lockdown.
  • I was lonley, isolated and relapsing in the middle of a global pandemic then I managed to stop drinking and go into withdrawals and Shelter called and encouraged me.
  • Charlotte called when she said she would every time. I’m so glad and grateful that she recognised something I couldn’t see and helped me choose to stay in touch otherwise I think things would have been very different.

I’m really looking forward to meeting Charlotte and getting involved with all the activities and workshops that I have heard about. I really want to be around such a pro-active team of people who made such a huge difference to my, and no doubt many others, lives over the last few months.

Well done all of you."


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