I started smoking cannabis at the age of 12 and started drinking soon after that. I've been into every drug (apart from NPS) and used them all to excess throughout my life. But alcohol was the one that was always there from the start to the end, causing more and more issues - it was the one I just couldn’t stop. I have been homeless most of my adult life as a result. I sofa surfed for a while but this can never last long. I mostly lived in hostels or in a park in a tent.
I first went into rehab in 2005 at the age of 28. I stayed clean and sober for over 3 years and things were going well for a while. Then I tried to drink in a controlled manner (again) but it wasn’t long until alcohol had its grip on me and it was out of control. I ended up losing everything I had gained in those 3 years sober and went straight to prison.
I had a son shortly after I came out of prison. This was a blessing and I completely adored my son, I still do. So I thought that this would be enough for me to change my ways for good, but I just didn’t know how to live without substances. It doesn’t make any sense but soon I was hiding my drinking and it wasn’t long before it all was revealed and I ended up homeless again.
I made it into the St Thomas Fund on 1/1/14 aged 37, determined to change and full of shame for letting my son down. I started running to help me stop smoking while in rehab. I could barely make it around the block when I first began and suffered all sorts of aches and pains after. I stuck with it and slowly got better.
I tried a couple of voluntary positions and this helped with my very low confidence. Then I began peer mentoring for CGL and this meant holding groups in hostels as well as giving one to one support for people struggling with addictions. I didn’t have much belief in myself and I had to force myself to do it, but I trusted my supervisor and pushed on. Now I have a paid job in a hostel I once lived in. I really have been given a second chance at life, I have an amazing son, a job and now consider myself an athlete, not an alcoholic.
I'm running the Brighton marathon in April as a huge challenge, and this would have been impossible without the help and support of the St Thomas Fund and the amazing peer mentor role that I'm so glad I took part in. I will hopefully raise some funds for some exercise equipment for the service, where it all began for me.
If you would like to sponsor Gabi, please visit his JustGiving page.