I ended up homeless because of drinking. I started when I was about 13, and it got worse and worse as the years went on. Every Friday night I’d have eight cans. And then it was every Saturday too, and then it was just whenever I had money. I started smoking cannabis around 16. It was with mates – the same crowd I was drinking with. It was just to fit in, basically.
I was homeless for a year, having lost a house two years previous when I split up with my kids’ mother. After that I moved around a lot with work – the idea was that if I moved to a new city I’d sober up. But I always found a new drinking hole. I’d been drinking every day for 16, almost 17 years. But when I was 29, something happened.
I woke up one Sunday morning, and I had the Lord’s Prayer just going round and round in my head. After wandering around Bristol, I finally walked into Pip and Jay’s for their evening service. It was unbelievable. It was like everyone just disappeared, apart from the person giving the word. It was like he was speaking directly to me. I felt so at ease that I started falling asleep.
After the service, I got up and went outside, and I got talking to this guy called James. He said a prayer for me, asking for God to hold me tight and keep me warm. It was like somebody had just given me a big hug, and I had all this warmness come up inside me. And when I went and told Doctor Claire* that, she said “Yeah, that’s the Holy Spirit!”
I was already having thoughts about giving up drinking – that’s why I was working with Doctor Claire. I was working with BDP (Bristol Drugs Project) as well at the time. But from that Sunday – I haven’t had a drink basically since then.
Doctor Claire referred me to Life Recovery Group (LRG). She knew I’d come to faith, and that I’d been to the Recovery Festival, so she said, “I think you’d enjoy this,” and gave me a leaflet about it.
The first night I came to LRG, I was 28 days sober and I’d moved into The Junction, a local dry house, that day. I’ve been going ever since. I got baptised at there on my 30th birthday – I was LRG’s first ever baptism! We soaked Pip n Jay’s church.
Back last summer, my anxiety and my depression got hold of me again, and I went down a bit. My sleeping got turned upside down – I was up all night playing Xbox and sleeping all day. I still suffer with anxiety and depression. But I’m on medication now. I don’t think I need it, ‘cause I’m happy, but I still take it.
I’ve been working with Stuart (LRG Manager) for the last few months, doing one-on-ones. I told him that I was going to Bristol Bike Project, taking part in their ‘earn a bike’ scheme. Then he said he had a friend who owned a bike workshop who was looking for volunteers. So he put me and the owner, Andy, in touch, took me over in January, and here I am! Every single day now. I absolutely love it. If someone could give me a dream job, this would be it. It was just going to be one day a week – 10am till 2pm on a Wednesday. But I’m here every day now. I’ve even got my own set of keys so I can open up shop in the morning.
I love working with bikes, and it’s good company here – it’s just marvellous. I’d missed out on so much with my old sleeping pattern. Now I just enjoy waking up in the mornings. I feel happy getting out of bed. It’s the first time I’ve felt like that for a very, very long time.
I’d be lost without LRG. It’s my path in my faith. In a normal meeting, we have tea and coffee, then we go into the main room and listen to someone giving a talk, or sharing their story. Then we have a break, some more tea and coffee, and we get back together and feed back on our experiences and what we thought. And then we pray. And you can just come as you are. You can just be yourself, and no one will judge you.
“Come as you are to Christ.” That’s what LRG is. It doesn’t matter what your background is – you’re forgiven and people take you as you are, today. No one judges you at all and that’s the best thing about it.
*Dr Claire Fleming is a trustee of Crisis Centre Ministries and previously worked with homeless people at the Compass Centre.
Holy Spokes, where Jon volunteers, is a bike workshop in Barton Hill. Andy, the owner, said that in talking to people who were struggling with life-disrupting issues like addiction, the one thing people said would be most helpful is simply for other people to ‘be there’. It wasn’t that they wanted something to be done for them – they simply wanted people to be around, to be with them.
So Holy Spokes was set up as place where just that can happen. People like Andy and John can work together, relax and enjoy each other’s company. Jon has become an integral part of the workshop – not just from a business perspective, but also because of the positive relationships he’s developed with people that spend time there.