Paul suffered from a severe drug addiction that resulted in him being homeless. He was interviewed about his recovery by Johna Johnson for Recovery Radio.
“I was so addicted that my friends just got sick of the chaos I was bringing to their lives.”
How did you become homeless?
I was sofa surfing for a while and staying with friends, giving people drugs so I could stay for the night. Eventually those relationships broke down because I messed them up or people had enough of me staying there, so I ended up on the streets. I was so addicted that my friends just got sick of the chaos I was bringing to their lives.
What was life like on the streets?
Mostly it’s just lonely. I’d be wandering around the streets of Bradford, trying to find a place to get my head down for the night. It was so cold and grim. I was only mid-20s and even though I’m a big guy, I was still fearful of someone coming for me when I was just trying to sleep. That’s why I’d spend most of the nights roaming the streets and then in the morning I’d go and get some drugs and take them at a friend’s house, then try and get some sleep there.
“It’s was so cold and grim… it’s not a nice environment.”
What was the reaction of the general public to you when you were on the streets?
Most people were kind, but I did get some abuse, especially from people who’d had a drink or two. They’d be shouting, telling you to get a job. I think because I’m quite imposing I didn’t get as much as some do. I’ve seen some lads get kicked all over. It’s not a nice environment.
How did you survive on the streets?
I survived because I had to. I made money by shoplifting basically. I didn’t want to burgle houses but I knew a few people who were into shoplifting so I just started doing it to provide money for my addiction. I did some begging as well, I sat with another lad by the university. I was blown away by how much people were giving me. One guy came and gave me £50 and booked me into a B&B. People just want to help, even if they don’t know how to. If I’m honest I was just taking advantage of people; at that time I just wanted money for drugs. I look back and it was crazy, but that’s where I was then.
“I survived because I had to.”
What was your recovery like?
I must have been in and out of the rehab at Agape House 20 times in an eight year period. Some were long stints of twelve months, some just a few days, or even hours. Even the short stints helped me realise I didn’t have to take drugs every day and there was a better way to live my life. That’s why I kept going back. Once I’d had that period of being clean I knew that there was another way, and that it was what I wanted.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting their recovery?
You either keep doing what you’re doing or you look to make a change. It can be a small change, but as long as it’s a step forward you’re going in the right direction. And sometimes you need someone with you to help you make the right decisions and show you that life without heroin and crack. That’s what recovery’s been about for me; having people around who can help me.
“Once I’d had that period of being clean I knew that there was another way, and that it was what I wanted.”
More of Johna’s interviews for Recovery Radio on BCB Radio 106.6fm can be found at http://podcasts.canstream.co.uk/bcb/index.php?cat=Community%20Programmes
Photo by Karol Wyszynski