At the end of 2019, we spoke to *Lucy, one of our brave clients who shared her experiences of homelessness and substance misuse. We caught up with her and she told us how her recovery has been progressing.
Before becoming homeless, Lucy had been to university and after graduating, spent a number of years working successfully a recruitment consultant.
Lucy's story is evidence that homelessness doesn't discriminate; nor does ill-mental health and addiction. We spoke to her to find out how she is doing and she told us, in a way that only she can articulate (and what an eloquent lady she is):
What has your journey been like since the end of last year?
2019 is a tad hazy, the majority of which I spent living in the Women's Project with five other women. I drifted through pockets when I acted as a functional humanoid... other pockets of time I spent in bed, in a puddle of bodily fluid, sweating out vodka, waiting for death to gobble me up...
In the here and now, that seems like a million miles away... but it isn't... if I take my eye off the recovery ball.
How did our Women's Project help you?
The Women's Project gave the five of us some individuality, in a place we came to call home.
We could pause, take a breath. Our guards didn’t have to be up... We were trusted to be responsible and attempt at ‘adulting’ "playing house", in a way. A house with a front door, which we all had keys to. A home with two sofas, fluffy pillows, picture frames, positive affirmations hanging on the walls. We had a hoover, a bathroom mat, fresh flowers, occasionally.
As a group, our key workers Jenny and Kelly would pop round with biscuits and we all sit and have weekly catch-up chats. Their positivity was infectious, their creative ways to encourage us to express our feelings and open up, just to each other, brilliant. From defacing and refacing blank masks, to mood boards, self-care afternoons or day trips, it was blooming beautiful.
I wouldn't say any of us were natural 'home makers', (I definitely wouldn't nominate ANY of us for house-wife of the year) but one thing was for sure, we were all there for each other. The support was always there and slowly but surely, I began to trust the ladies. I hadn't trusted myself in a very long time, let alone trusted myself to get vulnerable with others.
It was at the Women's Project that I first made baby steps towards freedom from addictions, by letting my guard down with some of the ladies I shared with.
The women gave me newfound freedom from any doubt or suspicion that my words would not be used against me, that my tears weren't a sign of weakness but of strength.
And do you feel as though you're getting your sense of self-belief back?
I'm not yet there on the whole self-belief thing, I have a long way to go on that one in fact, but it's work in constant motion. As my body was so dependent on alcohol that any attempt at cutting down on alcohol, would typically end with me in hospital. I had fits and seizures in the street, in the house, at Waitrose (one minute I was carrying a watermelon, exchanging pleasantries with Paul, the guy at the deli counter, the next, I'm waking up at the JR, tubes everywhere, minus the watermelon).
Kelly, head of the Women's Project, worked tirelessly with Turning Point to secure me a place at a women's rehabilitation centre. Once again, I was shown another step to recovery."
How did you overcome any major bumps in the road?
"Yes I lost hope. I still lose it, but I am never far from a housemate to pick me up. I still have a note that my key worker Tamsin left in my journal, as throughout a particularly trying time, I began to doubt whether there was any real point in dreaming.
"Why am I here?
What do I want?
What have I felt?"
Simple right? Three very poignant yet seemingly simple questions, which made me think, they still do.
I text her regularly, just with updates... I must remind myself daily or even hourly, on tough days, of where I am going.
What do you see the next steps as for you now?
Learning lessons does not ever end, every day is a school day.
What I make of my life, is essentially up to me...
Only with a sober, clear head, can any attempt at living life on life’s terms really be made.
So I continue on, day in and day out, trying to decide what to make of my life. What I think it is, what it will be.
Although I continue practising the fine art of being 'present', in the moment, on purpose, I continue to struggle with depression and anxiety.
I am working with a sponsor, to go through the 12 steps around both food and alcohol.
I battle with an anorexic mind with bulimic tendencies on a daily basis.
Are there any particular highlights for you in your recovery that you could mention?
My sobriety date was the 19th of September, which also happened to be my birthday, so I will be 36 but more importantly, one year sober, for the first time EVER!!!!!!
In other news, I now have a part-time job in a hospital.
I LOVE it... If things work out, pigs fly and miracles continue to happen, I will apply for a postgraduate degree in mental health nursing in 2021...
What are your hopes for the future?
I would love to work in homeless/ addiction services as a mental health nurse, helping those who are in similar positions as I have been.
Watch this space...
Moving on to me is a stab at independent living, something which I haven’t done in years. A home, with neighbours, maybe some basil in a pot on the windowsill. Buying my own fridge, can you imagine?? A bed, choosing a colour to paint the living room. Moving on to me, is acceptance of self, of a commitment to a future.
The things I'm not quite there with?
The people that addiction has taken from this life, way too soon.
I leave you with a poem Tamsin gave me, that I still have on my wall.
The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
UPDATE - Lucy contacted us again in October 2020 to inform us that she had successfully secured a private rental agreement. We are immensely proud of her.