Starting to drink as a teenager, risking his job to fuel his alcohol addiction and spending a lot of time incarcerated in various prisons across the UK, Andy never thought his lifestyle would change. In 2019, Andy is now over 3 years sober and starting full time employment. Read his story.
“I was born in Watford, next to the football ground. I am an only child and Mum and Dad were protective. I had a happy childhood, plenty of friends, but always felt lonely.
When I was 9 or 10, Nan had a stroke and died. I was heartbroken. I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral and I was resentful of Mum and Dad about this. I never did say goodbye (this is on my to do list).
When I went to secondary school, I had one solid mate. This is where my drinking started. We would go around each other’s houses when our parents were out and raid the alcohol. We progressed to parties – drinking quickly and throwing up. We found this funny.
It was never enough though. We used to rob lead off the old brewery and sell it to buy alcohol. We started going to pub at 15, no ID needed, 33p a pint then.
When I left school, I had just a few CSEs. I started work, which was great – regular income, I could go to the pub every day and go to the football.
I got a job as a chef. Unlimited alcohol was always drunk at work. This continued most of my working life.
I moved away to work in a hotel – my drinking got worse and I lived in a caravan in a pub car park. When the hotel went bust, Dad came to pick me up but he had to go around all the pubs to find me.
I felt like I was part of something, being part of the football violence thing. I drank Newcastle Brown Ale and it made me more aggressive. I felt I belonged.
Outside the football season, I travelled across Europe. I drank cheap wine and vodka and slept wherever I wanted.
Attempting domestic life
When me and my girlfriend became an item, we got bedsit together. Mum and Dad were happy. I moved out on the Sunday, went back the next day and my bedroom was a dining room. I was so angry I went on the vodka for days.
A year later, I went to India with a mate. We took some whiskey with us – drank over half of it and sold the rest watered down. But this backfired and we got shot at whilst in a taxi.
When I got back from India, my girlfriend was pregnant and I struggled with it. When my first son was born, we were evicted from the bedsit and got a council house. Mum and Dad moved to the south coast. I wasn’t happy.
I got a more secure job as a lab technician and was there for 10 years. I couldn’t get a drink at work so took to inhaling ethanol. My second son was born and I was still at it, getting drunk most days.
During the 1998 World Cup, I did my first disappearing act and went down to Cornwall. We argued when I got back and she was pregnant again.
I got a job as courier in London but I got into a few accidents and was lucky not to be breathalysed.
Then my daughter was born. I adored her. I said to myself, “I’ve got to stop” but I just carried on.
We got married but things were bad. I wasn’t paying bills and was getting loans. We had a mortgage. Then my wife was pregnant again. Another son.
The Mrs found out about the unpaid bills. She told me I was an alcoholic, but I was in denial. I left the family home completely, got a new job as a chef and lived above a bar. Six months later, we got back together. I never understood why she had me back.
We moved to Norwich. It was a new adventure for me – new pubs to explore. I got a job in a pub with unlimited access to alcohol. I didn’t come home a lot of the time – used to go back to work late at night, with workmates, when lines were being cleaned to drink slops.
One night, I went to a party. I can’t remember much but I woke up on the beach. That’s when my family life finished.
Moving – or being moved – to places across the UK became part of my life.
I was getting more aggressive when I couldn’t get a drink and my whole life was unmanageable – I ran out of money, set up tabs in various pubs and did a runner.
I lived in Cornwall for a while, working in a chippy, where it was party, party, party. I set up another bar tab and disappeared when they wanted the money. I walked to Scotland – working and sleeping rough so I had money for alcohol. I got into a fight and was put in a psychiatric hospital for two weeks in Perth.
I was a mess now. It didn’t help that I was bounced around everywhere between Bristol, Scotland, Plymouth and Wales. It seemed easier to give me a train or bus ticket to bounce the problem somewhere else, rather than actually help me.
I got into a cycle of moving into a dry hostel but carrying on drinking, getting aggressive, causing criminal damage and going to jail from Cornwall to Scotland and everywhere in between.
Entering Wales, I followed the same pattern – getting drunk, sleeping rough, always ending with a stint in jail and getting moved on to be somewhere else’s problem.
The jail system
I didn’t have a real connection to anywhere at this point. I ended up in Carmarthen. I sat in a graveyard, cutting my arms with scalpel. The police were called, I said “I wanted to join him” pointing at a gravestone. I saw a psychiatrist there but was back on streets again straight away.
With nothing else to do, I went straight to a supermarket to steal a bottle of JD and made sure I got caught. But I was bounced around again – Haverford West, Watford, then to Aberdeen where I tried to overdose but still, nobody wanted anything to do with me.
When I was arrested in Prestatyn and jailed in Liverpool, I was released with £2 in my pocket and the promise of a hostel place in Swansea – this didn’t happen.
In Swansea, I was back in the cycle. I repeatedly wanted jail and on release, I didn’t want to leave. One day, the screws said to me, “See you in two weeks, Andy.” That hit me. I went to probation and was put in a dry house. I hated it to start with. I threw things. I was doing AA meetings but wasn’t interested. After about three months, I lost the plot and wanted to leave.
The big change
One day, I was sat by a river with a key worker, this was the turning point. I went to meetings for a reason. I went into primary treatment. I was fighting with words now.
I made contact with parents – they told me they have their son back. I was in a dry house and a move-on house for 18-months – I didn’t want to leave in the end.
I’ve now been in my own flat for almost a year, I’m less angry and I’ve been sober for almost three years. I’ve found out who Andy really is.
It was The Wallich’s BOSS project which helped me realise that just because I’ve been in and out of jail doesn’t mean that I‘m unemployable. Before, I didn’t know what I could do and I didn’t think I wasn’t going to get anywhere.
I was also referred to The Wallich’s WISE project which really improved the way I interact with people and to move on with my life. It became my goal to work for The Wallich.
I’ve since made contact with one of my boys and my granddaughter. I never thought that was going to happen but I’m looking forwarding to rebuilding our relationship.
I’m grateful today for what I’ve got. I’ve been offered employment with The Wallich as a night support worker. This is what I’ve been working towards, giving back with my life skills and helping others. It’s my destiny.”