Paul is a 49 year-old man who was street homeless in Brighton for four years, suffering from heroin, crack cocaine and alcohol addiction. He also had multiple physical health difficulties. For a long period of his life, Paul’s closest companion was his dog Lil. As Paul explains in his account below, he was someone who other support services found difficult to reach, but he eventually managed to turn his life around with the support of BHT Sussex’s Addiction Services.
“In the Summer of 2014, I set off around the country after being made homeless in the North East, with my dog Lil. We ended up in Brighton where I had a mate from up north that had lived here for years. Lil and I stayed at hers for about a month, then had to move out so we ended up on the street. “Lil and I ended up spending the next four and a half years on the streets of Brighton, sleeping in car park stairwells, bin cupboards, sometimes tents in bushes – basically anywhere that was sheltered and out of the way – avoiding shop doorways for safety reasons.
“Being part of the ‘invisible’ homeless community, I was also being missed by the homeless services – they knew about me but not where to find me. That wasn’t their fault. I was also alcohol dependent and addicted to heroin and crack cocaine, as I had been all my adult life to one degree or another, so taking time to access services myself was out of the question. I needed to make the money to buy my drugs and feed Lil and myself. Lil and I were a regular sight on my begging pitch on London Road for 3 to 4 years.
“It was here, on London Road that I heard about the Recovery Project and ‘Number 5’ (the Detox Support Project), by seeing people I knew from the street that had accessed BHT Sussex Addiction Services and amazingly they were clean of their addictions and doing well. It was good to see.
“Sadly, ‘our Lil’ passed away on the 6th October 2018. I was devastated and completely alone. I hit rock bottom, drinkingand using more and more. I had to do something different. Although the loss of Lil was terrible for me, I know that I would never have left her to start exploring the possibility of rehab if she hadn’t died, as she was my life. It was me and Lil against the world.
“Determined to change, I got myself a prescription for Subutex (a detox medication) from Pavilions Partnership and, after hearing about the weekly Drop-In sessions at the Detox Support Project and the Recovery Project, I started going to these regularly. The atmosphere in these Drop-In groups was friendly and reassuring and, with support from my Pavilions Partnership Care Coordinator, I was referred to the Detox Support Project.
“On the 23rd April 2019. I was accepted by DSP to detox from opiates. This is the date my life started to really change. Thanks to the very kind help and support of the staff and my peers at DSP, I completed my detox on the 10th June 2019. I left there a week later for the Recovery Project, where I’ve been since.
“I didn’t realise when I set out on this journey that getting clean would be an ongoing process, involving a lot of self-realisation about who I am and what made me an addict. Without the support of BHT Sussex Addiction Services, I would surely be back on the street and lost in my addiction. I am massively grateful for this opportunity to draw a line under my old life and start afresh with the help and support that I’ve received.”