“I was born in a mental hospital. My mum had a lot of mental health problems and my dad would hit all of us. He even hit the dog. It was ok when he wasn’t there but when he’d get back from work I was scared. Everytime my mum tried to get away he would find her and bring her back, and then we’d get beaten up because we tried to leave. We called the police but he would lie to them and they always believed him over us.

Most of it I’d rather forget. It’s where all my mental issues have come from. My sister’s got them too. Luckily I had a friend whose mum and dad were more like parents to me than my own. They would buy us shopping and give us presents because they knew my dad wasn’t supporting us. I left school at sixteen but I always hated it anyway because I was bullied. The teachers wouldn’t believe me about the bullying either. I’d already started work on my uncle John’s livestock farm by the time I was twelve so I went to work there instead. I had to get up at six am to clear out the cattle, sheep and chickens but I was happier there than I was at home.  

My parents died when I was 20. My dad had a stroke and my mum died of TB six months later. She was one of the last people to die of the disease in this country. I had to leave home and I started drinking soon after. I had brothers and sisters but we all lost touch over the years and I became an alcoholic for over thirty-five years until I finally gave it all up 14 months ago. I think I got the alcoholism off my dad. He used to take me to the pub as soon as it opened and leave me outside until it closed. It was the drink that made him angry. A few of his mates would buy me a lemonade when I was young, but when I was about 12 or 13 they started buying me pints and I’d stay in the pub playing darts with them. Luckily I didn’t become like him in any other way.

I worked in the cattle market for about eight years until it got shut down and we all got made redundant. After that my own mental problems got on top of me and I ended up in different homelessness shelters for a long time

I knew alcohol was destroying my life. I almost died once. I had to give it up and now I feel like a different person. The pubs used to keep me busy though so now I try to do lots of volunteering and learning new skills to help take my mind of it and that’s helped me stay clean. Friends tell me I look a lot healthier.”

Les, Banbury.

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