43 is how old I am now. Obviously I was 42 previously and that’s when my life seemed to re-start, having begun again at 33 when I met my now ex-wife, who is the mother of my two children (aged nine and six). Not sure what hapopened to 40 but 42 was a good vintage for me and it’s always been a number close to my heart, given that I’m a big fan of Douglas Adams: 42 is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.
That seemed to be the case for me after my marriage ended and I had to move out of the then family home; mainly because of my alcohol and gambling issues.
The former is better publiced than the latter but it was the gambling which drew a line under the loss of the business which I ran with my ex-wife. We separated and I moved from Hither Green to Bexley, alone. I continued to run the business for two years but found it too much on my own. I let it go. I’d mounted up debts (the business was otherwise successful) and decided the best course of action was to wind it up.
One particular supplier was owed £35’000 (not a huge sum in the greater scheme of things) and although there was no company money, the demanded my own on pain of my legs (being broken). See previous journal entries for a graphic description of how that works.
I paid with my poker bankroll and had then lost my only remaining means of finance. I used to make on average £200 a day playing in casinos. Some days I’d lose £1000 but my average gain was £200 per day; playing at £1/£2 blinds at No Limit Texas Hold-em, £6000 is the minimum bankroll required.
So no means of income, depressed and already drinking, I drank more.
Then my now ex-fiance came along: a wonderful girl (again, see previous entries). Alas our relationship became “physical” in the wrong way and one too many spelled the end.
Back to mum and dad’s house in Tonbridge then, which I detested: they didn’t understand my illness (see letter below).
During that tenure, I met my now ex-girlfriend in rehab. We took it slow but then let our hearts rule and the letter to my mum (my previous primary carer) which follows explains that to some degree.
The following letter is the second which I wrote to my by now estranged parents and the first was along the lines which have preceded this.
I’m trying to explain things in the best way I know: via the medium of writing. I wear my heart on my sleeve and don’t hold back. I’m honest and I’ve lost many people as a result.
My own family disowned me just before Christmas. They felt I had my priorities wrong when I chose to go to my girlfriend in hospital over my kids. With hindsight, I was perhaps wrong to do so and that’s covered here and elsewhere:
Dear mum and dad,
(You are still my parents, whom I love and respect, despite everything; I’m still your son, unless you’ve disowned me completely)
Don’t you think I may have paid my penance; served a sentence? I’ve spend over a week on the street now, sleeping rough for my latest misdemeanour. Maybe it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for you. All I know is that for the last several days, I’ve slept on a bench, not washed, been mugged and beaten up. I’ve had my jewellery and medication stolen by the late night predators who prey on the homeless.
On the couple of nights I spent with my “friend” (the psychotic convicted murderer), I at least had a roof, albeit no heating or lighting: not really conducive to sleep, in the same way that this whole situation isn’t conducive to my recovery.
I’ve not had a hot meal since being out here and I’ve gone three days with nothing to eat. To be honest a prison sentence and cell would have been nicer.
“Sleeping rough”: you’ll never know how rough it truly is unless you try it or let me tell you about it: either suits me.
I realise I made an error of judgement but while I was in hospital looking after my then girlfriend, you still could have had the kids, were you not estranged from their mum. Because of all this, she says I have to be dry for six months before I can see my children. That will affect you too. We should talk civily and not be reactionary.
Friends on the street have been asking me how my Christmas was. To rub salt in the wounds, I got thrown out before Christmas and spent it alone; a turkey sandwich in hospital for lunch.
I regret my indisretion; I feel guilty and I’m truly sorry.
I feel I’ve served a sentence. Perhaps you can find it in yourselves to feel some remorse and help me again while I sort something out longer term. There’ll be more opportunities in the New Year. This couldn’t have been worse timed, with so many organisations closed for the festive period. I can do more (or less); I will and I’ll be sorted out and back on my feet quicker than whilst I’m of No Fixed Abode. The current situation is doing me more harm than good.
I hope you’ll give it some thought and whilst (if) you’re doing so, please try to bear in mind that alcoholism and depression are illnesses, just like Autism, Aspergers, Anorexia, Bulimia…
Hard to comprehend and compare but they’re classed as disabilities also (see www.time-to-change-org.uk). Would you throw someone who’s physically disabled onto the street?
I don’t mean to be like I have. I can help myself but I need help and support. Being where I am acheives neither.
The time of year was not the best for anyone, including my girlfriend and me. We really did intend to help one another; her help me especially as she has prior experience of drying out, gaining benefits and all the practical issues. But nowhere has been open. Maybe we’ll get back onto it when things return to normality: I hope they can.
I hope you’re reading these letters and not discarding them (although I’ve heard nothing in reply). I hope they help you to hate me less and to gain a better understanding of things. Show them to whomever you like (my Key Worker in rehab if you wish): they’ll get it.
Regarding my most recent girlfriend, we met in rehab (you know her); she was pretty much dry and I’m due on the detox programme running in January. We became friends with a view to mutual support, then things moved on.
I stayed with her for a few days to give us all a break and to look after her (she was ill, remember?) Alas I was still drinking – albeit in reduced quantities – but I was in a comfortable environment and we fell in love.
We took it slow and only slept together once. Unfortunately the fact that I was still drinking lay temptation in her hay and she relapsed: she blamed that on me, hence us splitting up.
With hindsight, it was perhaps an unwise step into the unknown but over now. We didn’t go well together in our current conditions respectively. We’re both alcoholic and depressed. She’s not in a safe environment and mine is far from ideal.
Whatever happens, Happy New Year.
Before this I’d written the first letter, trying to convey how life on the streets is: not nice.
There’s no doubt it’s an adventure but a dangerous one at times. You get to learn tricks; how to get cheap food; where to spend evenings, have lunch and so on. But I’d rather be back in the old closed prison which was my parents’ house than this open one. I brought it upon myself though and I’m sorting it out.
As recently as today I’ve spent several hours sorting out benefits and housing: jumping through hoops doesn’t begin to cover it but I should be spending my last night on the street tonight. Thereafter it’s initially a rescue centre (free food and showers), then a hostel and then something more permanent. Ultimately I’d rather be back with my girlfriend but better still, my fiance: those are my goals but first I need to sort myself out so that I can see my kids again.
I used to run a successful business with all the trappings associated therewith: how the mighty fall? I have my notebook and pen though; I’m grateful to Network Rail for letting me sit in their warm, dry waiting room and write this stuff, as well as poems for various commuters I meet. Grateful too to Tonbridge Library for granting me membership and the means to type this up and keep the journal (and me) alive. Also Sainsbury’s for discounting their food late at night and allowing me a cheap meal. I’ts not so bad, I’m learning the ropes but it could be better; and it’s going that way.
Eventually this journal may form part of my biography: something published as fiction as you’d be forgiven for not believeing it to be the truth. My life is one which many wouldn’t believe and few may not have survived.
I keep going though: I hope Chapter 44 will follow.