Kevin has worked at The Wallich for nearly 11 years and started his career with us as a Project Worker at our Shoreline Project in May 2006.
He reflects on his own personal experience of alcohol misuse which he experienced for 23 years. He has been sober for 15 years and looks back on his life and how he came to work for our organisation.
Here’s his inspirational story:
I started drinking with friends occasionally while still at school, but still managed to pass my O levels and gain an apprenticeship with British Gas. Once I left school, I started drinking every night at my local pub, thinking this was normal for a man that works hard all day. At the age of 16, when I drank, I never wanted to stop, eventually turning into never being able to stop.
My experience of alcohol misuse really affected my life, work and relationships. I lost my long term job with British Gas after 12 and half years and it led to the breakdown of two marriages and separation from my children.
I lost two homes, one being repossessed by the building society, I became street homeless and gained a criminal record during that time. I couldn’t hold on to any job: I had become unemployable.
My mental health deteriorated and I attempted suicide more than once, feeling stuck in a vicious cycle of drinking. My self-esteem was on the floor. My self-respect non-existent.
On June 1st 2001 when I was 39 I was rushed into a psychiatric hospital to start a detox programme, as I was dying. My mental and physical health were shot. All I possessed was the clothes on my back and after a few days on the detox ward I thought to myself “Is this what my life has come to? Is this all I have to show for it?” I was blaming anything and everything apart from me. I had hit my rock bottom.
I decided I needed to try and change my life and attended my first AA meeting, which was held within the hospital and had the reality call that I desperately needed.
I felt like they were talking about me; I could identify with every single person that spoke. I attended 14 meetings a week day and night for the following 18 months to address my alcohol dependency and attended WCADA for Primary treatment, which helped me to discover who I really was.
After 4 years in recovery and feeling more stable, I completed volunteer training with New Link Wales and then started volunteering with a drug project in Swansea CJIT (Criminal Justice Intervention Team). I enjoyed the experience, but my ultimate aim was to work with people with experience of alcohol misuse and give back to the AA which had changed my life.
A colleague at CJIT saw a job advertised in The Big Issue for The Wallich, at the Swansea Shoreline Project. I read the advert and felt like the job was made for me.
I got help with my interview preparation as I hadn’t had to think about things like that for so many years and luckily I got the job.
Working at The Wallich
I started work at Swansea Shoreline as a Project Worker in May 2006 and loved working at the project, my role was to support long term homeless street drinkers. I spent over 10 and a half years at Shoreline before recently becoming a Senior Support Worker at Gorwelion project, supporting clients to remain abstinent and move back into the community and independent living.
Every day is different, supporting clients to visit agencies, access benefits, and health appointments and to move on into independent accommodation etc.
I’ve been supported to complete both NVQ Levels 3 and 4 in Advice and Guidance and recently completed a Substance Misuse certification.
At the Tenth Anniversary of Swansea Shoreline in the Grand Theatre, I told my life story to the audience that included dignitaries such as the Major of Swansea and Local Councillor, Peter Black and other staff members and CE of The Wallich. I was a bit nervous at first but felt much better after telling my story.
I will always be forever grateful to The Wallich for seeing something in me and giving me a chance, it has given me a new life. Employing ex-service users is brilliant and The Wallich value real life experience and put trust in people who have overcome many things in their life.
I wouldn’t want to work for anyone else, it’s like the job I have is meant for me and from the minute I saw the advert I knew I wanted to work for The Wallich”.
If you’re inspired to work for The Wallich please view our vacancies on our careers page.