“I want to keep helping others because I understand what some of their problems are like. I know what it’s like to be in recovery and the challenges it brings people, because I am one of them still.”
Walter moved to Alexandra House in late 2020. Two years on he has become a central part of much that happens at the service, and is looking at what comes next.
“Evolve gave me a home. When I first arrived, I didn’t know how things worked and everything was strange. I was an alcoholic, I had been homeless, and I didn’t think about much except drinking and smoking.
But over time I slowly started getting involved in things. I started to find out what was available and what help was on offer – there are workshops, mental health support, anything you need.”
About a year after he first arrived Walter stopped drinking, something he has continued to this day.
“I don’t know exactly why, but one day I was in my room and said to myself ‘this is the day I stop’. I had tried to give it up three times before, but it had never stuck and always made me feel really sweaty and shaky. This time I got support from people at Evolve, as well as other organisations like Change Grow Live (CGL), which has really helped. It has been 53 weeks since then. I have also given up smoking. If someone told me last year that I would give up smoking I would have been on the floor laughing, but here we are!
There is a long way to go. I’m still recovering and have lots to learn, but already I feel much better. I am healthier and I can move around more. When you do something good for yourself it gives you the confidence to go further and build on it. Now I have moved to the ‘Step Down’ section of Evolve, which means I don’t have my own support worker anymore and will be moving on to somewhere else: either my own place, or somewhere a bit like Evolve but with less support. I’m also studying at college and doing some training with CGL. Wherever I move next and whatever I do, I want to stay involved with Evolve and help others.
Even though I don’t have a support worker there’s always someone around here to help. Plus I spend time with other people who live here, and you can always learn things from each other.”
Walter is involved with lots of the projects at Alexandra House, from peer support programmes to cooking. Many of these focus on bringing people together, which he thinks can help them learn from each other and move on from past experiences.
“I worked on Peer Circles and now the Peer Pathway Programme, which help people build new skills and find new opportunities. I cook breakfast for people on Wednesdays, and also want to start some DIY classes and maybe a writing workshop. There’s even a weekly board game afternoon, which is good fun and gives everyone a chance to meet new people. Being social can really help people recover from whatever has been going on for them.
Sharing information is very important. Everyone is an individual with different experiences, but if we share everything we know, it will help us move much further forward much quicker. Knowledge is everything. If you don’t know something, like what help is available, then all you can do is wait – and you don’t even know what you’re waiting for!
People who have been through problems themselves can tell you things no-one else can. If a person wants to give up drinking, then someone who has done that can tell them things that even Einstein couldn’t tell them. Because Einstein wasn’t an alcoholic who had been homeless. In this way, I have lots I can do to help people.”
So, what would he say to someone who is facing homelessness or struggling with addiction?
“If I spoke to someone who is in the position I was, I would ask them what they want to do in the future. Do you want to still be an alcoholic, or do you want to move on and start dealing with the problem? That’s just one example – lots of people have different problems and can be stuck in their own world, which makes it difficult to get help or make change. Some people have addictions, others have other behaviours that cause problems, but whatever it is their mind is blocked and closed to new things. You must try to look ahead, and do things that put your mind in a good place.
I like to go fishing, especially in the summer. When you fish you are just looking at one point on the water. You watch it go up and down and think about what you should do with it – should I change the bait, should I move it? You aren’t thinking about money, jobs or the past, you’re just thinking about the fish. I think that it is possible for everyone to do that – to focus on something they care about and move on from what they have been doing.
I know this because it has happened to me. I am starting to feel back to normal, like I am myself again. Or even better, like myself plus. I can’t wait to get a rod and go fishing again soon.”