When my business collapsed I became a drunken, homeless dropout. I
literally lost everything when I turned to drink and became an
alcoholic. It is a miracle I am still alive. Within a short space
of time I had fallen from a lavish lifestyle to sleeping rough on
the streets of Newport, Wales.
My life took a turn for the worse between 1996 and 1999. During
this time I underwent three operations for tumours and was stabbed
on four occasions in various fights, usually while under the
influence of drink. I dried out in various institutions in England
and Wales, and often woke up in hospitals and police stations
oblivious to how I ever got there.
Finally in November 1999, I successfully sued those responsible for
my company’s closure after a manufacturing blunder left me
penniless when it could have made me rich. Unfortunately, one of
the directors did a runner with my long-awaited court award. Early
estimates from my accountant were that I could have amassed a
£23m fortune by then. I wanted to locate and murder those
responsible for my demise. I had turned into a very dangerous,
unpredictable man, hell-bent on revenge. I wanted to shoot all
three perpetrators. On one occasion the police searched my place
for a gun after a friend tipped them off about my plans. Luckily,
nothing was found.
By now I was technically homeless, and ended up in a hostel for
homeless men in Warrington. There I met lads in similar situations
to myself, as many of them had drug or alcohol problems.
Immediately I developed a rapport with them. We would spend our
time around “rug rat city”, a nearby hangout for the hostel’s
alcoholics. About 14 of us would regularly drink ourselves
senseless, play rugby with empty vodka bottles, and have mock
fights that would often become real ones.
After spending three months in a drunken stupor, I knew I had to
get a grip. I started to go to the gym to vent some of my
aggression. I came to the conclusion that physical exercise was
good and that I needed some other form of help. So I went to see
Reverend Bill Burgess, the minister of Wycliffe church in
Warrington. He wasn’t the stereotypical holier-than-thou preacher,
but the sort of bloke who would listen to you no matter what you
told him, and he wouldn’t flinch or judge you.
I started to go and see him regularly, usually after I’d been to
the gym. Over time I shared many of my grievances with him, and my
addiction to alcohol began to subside. My perspective on life
started to change.
Now I attend the Bethshan chapel in Warrington. The chapel’s
minister, Tina Cooper, her four grown-up children and her
grandchildren, along with the rest of the congregation, have made
me part of their family. This makes up for the one I never really
had. In my experience of being homeless, the worst thing after
addiction was the feeling of loneliness and being excluded.
Stephen Gerard Hayden was formerly homeless.