Me and my poison pal

My problems began in 2001 when I had to take several months off
from my job as a mechanical engineer in south London. My tinnitus,
which I had suffered from since childhood, had grown worse and was
affecting my ability to carry out my work.

While I was off work I began to drink more, partly because the
friends who I was spending time with were heavily into drink. After
a few months away from work, my boss phoned to tell me that I
wouldn’t be going back to my job as it no longer existed. That was
a big surprise.

A few weeks later I managed to find new work but my drinking meant
I wasn’t able to keep the job for very long. All this began
affecting my marriage in a bad way and I found myself not welcome
in my own home.

I wasn’t always able to find someone to stay with, so I started to
sleep in the doorways of pubs and in garden sheds. I was surviving
on handouts and soon resorted to begging – something I wasn’t
really very good at. At first I felt embarrassed and ashamed, but
after a while I realised I had no choice if I wanted to survive. I
was beaten up on the streets several times and was not eating
properly. Drink was the only thing that was keeping me alive.

In August 2002 I started going to the Oasis health centre in
central London after some of the other rough sleepers said it was a
safe place to get a shower and some clean clothes. I knew the staff
were Christians but they didn’t pressurise me or ram it down my
throat. They were just friendly and genuinely concerned about me.

At first I thought it was too good to be true and I was a bit
suspicious of them. But after a while I learned they had no
ulterior motive apart from helping as many people as they

During this time I was very depressed and it got to the point where
I didn’t care whether I lived or died. The nurse at the health
centre encouraged me to go on a detox programme, which lasted about
eight weeks before I went on to rehab.

During my time in detox and rehab – it was my second attempt at
both – several of the Oasis staff kept in touch and even came to
visit me. Knowing I had not been forgotten was a lifeline during
that difficult period. It gave me hope because I could see that
what they were doing for me went beyond what they were being paid
to do.

I completed rehab in May 2003. I had a brief relapse into drinking
last January but I have been sober since. Although things are still
a bit rough for me, the last thing I want is to have a drink. It’s
still early days for me, but I would like to help other people in
some way. We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds but I’m
feeling fairly optimistic.

George Davies (not his real name) is a recovering alcoholic.

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