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Simon (not his real name), has been visiting Hope for over 5 years and has stayed at our Emergency Accommodation Hostel numerous times.
Unfortunately, Simon has been alcohol dependent for many years, triggered by an industrial accident. From the age of 17 he was self-employed and involved with a host of local building projects. Then, aged 38, he fell off a roof causing a serious leg injury which resulted in several subsequent operations.
Since that day, Simon has been unable to work. His long-term relationship broke down, the situation deteriorated and resulted in financial hardship, loss of self-esteem and a downward spiral of negative behaviour. He replaced “normal life” with substance misuse as a means of coping. As a consequence, his physical health has suffered and delayed further medical procedures to improve his knees.
Simon has been long-term homeless with periods of rough sleeping interposed with staying at Hope, or a few snatched nights on the sofa of friends. He has not seen his family for many years and this has exacerbated his isolation and loneliness, leading to anxiety and depression.
His years of being alcohol dependent has damaged his liver and it is now not working at full capacity. He was previously dependent on heroin (something he is attempting to withdraw from), which has resulted in him being infected with Hepatitis C. Although treatable, this treatment has side effects; fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dry mouth and poor appetite. Treatment is therefore not advisable for those with poor physical health, a “catch 22”!
Staff at Hope along with his Drug’s Advisor, appealed to him to act if he wanted even a few more years of life. It does seem that Simon has realised that as he is now almost 50 years of age, and with failing health, he needed to change.
As we entered the second half of 2016, his behaviour changed, he became much more responsible and significantly reduced his alcohol intake – after so many years of dependency, this is a fundamental and positive shift. He has successfully completed a 2 week detoxification programme and begun regular Counselling Sessions with Hope’s Advisor.
Hope then progressed Simon from the Hostel to some of our move-on accommodation away from Worksop, to help his recovery and aid his “fresh start”. Simon is hoping that soon, he can start the Hepatitis C treatment.
All was going well but like many others in similar circumstances, Simon was to be tested once more……
In November, Simon’s former partner was staying with him for a few days, but unfortunately the next morning was found dead in his flat. Her family would not allow Simon to attend the funeral. He blamed himself and began to drink and use heroin once again, to deal with the bereavement.
Our team realised that he needed more direct and constant support and so supported him to move back into the Hostel.
During this period, Simon returned to street drinking which tends to make him abusive. This culminated in a Police incident for which he was jailed. Fortunately, this gave him time to reflect on his recent behaviour and he returned much more motivated to address his drinking and physical health.
Simon has been much more engaged of late; meeting his Counsellor, completing another detox programme, and working with professionals to reduce his alcohol intake. He would like to reconnect with his children although realises that is a more of a long-term matter (nevertheless, with Hope’s support he will set-up a Facebook account to contact them, sometime in 2017).
With Hope’s support, a knee operation has been arranged – a real “multi-agency” effort; Health professionals, the Hospital’s Alcohol Nurse, his Drug and Alcohol Worker and Hope’s Support Worker, all intensely collaborating to make it happen. Pain relief was a real issue for Simon, due to his high tolerance resulting from long-term substance dependency, but thankfully he was given suitable relief.
There is a long way to go for Simon, but he is back on the right path; to health, to normality and to a place of his own where he can in the future look to see his children again.
At Hope, we don’t judge people we seek small but meaningful steps on the road to recovery.
Most “ordinary people” believe that they will never be in Simon’s position – that is what most of our clients thought, until they have to knock on our door. However, without family and friends and their support mechanisms, it is so easy to fall through the net, especially now that austerity has removed all of the little pots of assistance that were previously available. Mental health issues (which could be diagnosed or undiagnosed) often compound problems, anxiety and depression can become extremely debilitating when hope looks to have gone.
We are seeing more people like Simon, partner organisations are reporting rough sleeping where none has been before. Landlords are more willing to evict people as a shortage of housing means more people are out there seeking a home. This is compounded by strict benefit sanctions which mean that, if you lose your job it is all too easy to become homeless, as you could be waiting many months for any money, if at all.
If you, or someone you know, is starting to get into trouble, seek help early – its much easier for Hope and other support organisations to find an answer, before it becomes a crisis. Your difficulty is recognising the problem and being brave enough to seek help promptly.
Claire Robinson – Support Worker