My childhood was somewhat colourful. I was severely bullied throughout my time at school. My home life was rather unsettled and at a young age I discovered the power of alcohol. Drinking gave me a presence and the self esteem and the confidence I needed. Soon after that I realised drugs could do the same, and getting a paper round provided an endless supply of butane gas which I used to get high. As my life progressed so did my substance of choice and I moved on to using lots of hallucinogenic drugs. At this time, I was already starting to suffer with mental health issues although at the time I didn’t realise. Perhaps I was self medicating with drugs and alcohol.
My time on the streets and in squats was extremely frightening and lonely, however I did manage an apprenticeship in hairdressing giving me funding to experiment more with the world of narcotics.
I never felt like I fitted in anywhere; I always felt out of place so I suppose I hid behind my addiction. I went on to set up my own successful businesses but unfortunately I was forced to sell them to fund private treatment to help me get clean.
Days after I left rehab I discovered art and became a skyline artist. Painting distracted my mind from the endless thoughts of using. I can’t lie; my recovery has been far from plain sailing. No recovery is. But I work hard on a daily basis to help others suffering with addiction and mental health issues. I have talked in prisons and treatment centres sharing my experiences and hopefully inspiring people.
My children spend every other Christmas with me. So with the thought of spending this Christmas alone I decided to invest my time in something productive, rather than just watch the endless cheap alcohol campaigns on TV at this time of year.
Four weeks ago I put a single post on my Facebook page asking friends for unwanted bedding. A friend saw my post and contacted me; she set up the Pillow in the Park Facebook page and now we have thousands of donations to deploy to the pavements over the Christmas period. Some forty thousand people are talking about this on social media now; I can’t believe it!
In 2017 we plan to organise some fantastic events to raise awareness of homelessness, addiction and mental health issues - all of which unfortunately tend to go hand in hand. With your continuing support in 2017 we can achieve miracles.