Eleanor's Success Story
Imagine spending ten years of your life fighting for a goal that you’re always so close to, but never quite close enough. Imagine someone saying, “If you run like this, you’ll get there,” and you do what they say and then, ten miles from the finishing line, they say, “Actually, what if you hop like this? That will get you there,” and so you start hopping and then, one mile from the finishing line, they say, “But if you do this, you’ll get there,” and then, twenty yards from the line, something else – and something else – and the finishing line keeps moving … and moving … and moving … and then there are extra hurdles and things coming at you from all directions!
That’s what my life was like for ten years and I kept fighting with hope in mind, but eventually you get tired, you’ve had enough. You wonder, if you keep jumping through these hoops, whether you’ll ever get there, or whether the plot is just designed to keep you fighting for what you’re trying to reach.
Sometimes in life there are serendipitous meetings. Things happen for a reason. Meryl coming into my life was serendipitous. It was one of those moments where the stars aligned.
So many people have said in the past, ‘speak to this person’, ‘speak to this person’, ‘speak to that person’. In my life they’ve never amounted to anything. Those people and those meetings were nothing and of no consequence to me. Worse still, they gave me hope that something positive might happen for once. It never did.
Two or three people had said to me, “You need to speak to Meryl, she will help you. She might not be able to sort everything but she will help you”. I figured she would be just like the rest, that it would be a meeting with another person who would promise the earth and deliver nothing, but it would be my fault because of something I’m supposedly not doing or my circumstances haven’t ticked the right box or I think I’ll fit the criteria but I don’t, even though I appear to do so.
Eventually, push came to shove and I finally met Meryl. She was totally straight with me. She said, “Tell me the truth and I can work with you. I’m not judging you, not sitting here trying to make you feel bad, I just need to know what I’m dealing with.” I must admit, that was something new, something I wasn’t sure about, but at this point I had nothing left to lose. So I pretty much gave the whole truth, the ugly truth, on a plate – and I mean the whole thing, from misery, addiction, loneliness, health issues, fighting constantly for sobriety and a home and my family, and a future that wasn’t on the periphery of society.
She told me straight, “I can’t promise you anything but so long as you do what you need to do, I’ll do what I CAN do” – and that was that.
Fast forward nine months, just nine months, and here I am sat in my own home, sober, with my family, hope and a future!!!!! That would not have been possible without Meryl, the soup kitchen and her team. I know there’s the cliché – you know, ‘people are heroes, people are angels, and so-and-so saved my life’. I’m not saying it for entertainment, for clichés, I’m saying it because it’s true.
You yourself have to be in the right frame of mind, you have to want to do this, you have to want to fight – but I’d been wanting to move forward for years and years, I’d been fighting for years and years, but you get tired and arrive at the point where you are on your last legs. I didn’t have any more fight left in me. I’d tried but I never quite got there. This time, I had the support of Meryl and the soup kitchen team in the first instance, to listen to me, not judge me, not make me feel like a tick box exercise, not making me feel I’d got to say the right things in order to get the right outcome. Meryl didn’t promise me anything; in fact, completely the opposite by honestly saying, ‘ I may not be able to do anything but I’ll see what I can do’.
Since that day my life has been turned around, and if you looked at me and that life, and then compared it to me and this life now, you would think they were two different people in two different story books in two different worlds in two different universes!! This is almost completely because of the support, the direction, the cheerleading of the soup kitchen, of Meryl and the team (and that’s without the necessity of food and clothes, signposting me to services, helping me with appointments, dentist, hairdressers, all of that).
You see, you don’t realise how impossible it is, how you cannot sustain yourself on your own, least of all with issues, addiction, depression, anxiety. That’s without anything else. You can’t fuel the machine that is your body with no food, no liquid, you can’t get benefits sorted with no address and no phone and no credit. The list is endless.
When you’re a homeless drug addict, everything becomes impossible (because, apart from the obvious focus on making money and being well from a fix, so you can function normally), everything falls apart around you and, before you know it, you’re so far from anything like normal, you can’t even think where to start to try and climb back up…..
Meryl and the soup kitchen showed me the way, supported me physically and emotionally, they fed me, put me in a hotel room so I wasn’t sleeping under a blanket under a tree in the middle of winter, so I wasn’t begging the few people I knew if I could once again stay on their sofa, jeopardising their homes, their sobriety. Meryl and the soup kitchen fed me proper wholesome hot food when I was so hungry I could have eaten my shoes. I can’t explain to you how pure, unadulterated hunger can literally ruin you. When you’re so hungry you don’t even have the energy to cry. When you think of food every second but you can’t get any because you don’t have any money, because your benefits fell through, because you didn’t answer the letter that you needed to, because you didn’t know it had been sent to the ‘care of’ address that you can’t go to any more. You can’t imagine how hard it is when every penny that you have managed to beg, borrow and steal has to go on your next fix so you don’t go through the evil of withdrawal. You can’t imagine being soaked to the bone, freezing cold and starving hungry and then going through withdrawal, throwing your guts up, every molecule in your body feeling like it’s on fire, your eyes and nose running and running and, whilst that’s happening, the worms wriggle around under the surface of your skin and your guts are behaving worse than the worst food poisoning you’ve ever had. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. But imagine that’s your life.
So then imagine the impact when someone comes into your life and picks you up off the floor and doesn’t judge you and supports you and gives you the tools, the direction and the support you need to gain the strength to deal with what you need to, to go to the rehab services, to have the time and presence of mind because you’re not clucking your socks off and you’ve got a full tummy and a bed for the night so that you can ring benefits, so you can fill in the application for housing, for your ID, for your bank account. Imagine they come in and say, ‘I’ll help you so long as you help yourself’. Imagine how that feels after years of being looked down at, after years of feeling alone and miserable and ill and depressed. Imagine and try to understand the gravity of that. It is difficult to explain what that is like. The nearest thing is like being lifted up on a cloud of warmth, it’s life changing. When I say that Meryl and the soup kitchen changed my life, I’m not being dramatic. It’s a fact.
Today, I’m sat here in the warm, it’s stormy outside, I’m in my own flat, with my family, clean and sober, with the means to pay my rent and bills. There is food in the cupboard. The sofa I am sitting on is because of the care of the soup kitchen. The flat I’m in is because of the care of the soup kitchen. The food in my cupboard, in my tummy, is because of the care of the soup kitchen. The life I have now would not have happened, could not have happened, without Meryl and the soup kitchen. Every day, I thank my lucky stars, more so now than ever, hearing the wind and the rain outside my window, knowing just last year I was out in this, crying under a tree, burning rubbish I had found to try and stay warm and dry, crying because I was so hungry and so cold and had had enough.
I thank my lucky stars every day, but it’s Meryl and the soup kitchen I thank from the bottom of my heart. I will push forwards, onwards and upwards for myself and for my family, but I will do so doubly for the support and care, love and attention that Meryl and the soup kitchen have given me. They’re a big big reason why I will never go back and I will always keep on fighting.
Thank goodness for Meryl and the team at the soup kitchen. They have given me my life, my hope and my future back. I am the reason they fight day in, day out, to do what they do and I hope they know what it means to me to be here because of them.
Onwards and upwards!