As I walked down my office street my dreams and past aspirations flashed passed my eyes. And all I had was a deeply sad unanswered question, how did I get here? I remembered how many things I thought I would have accomplished at my age and how far I was from my target. Every day just seemed to drive me further away and I had no idea how to fix that.
I had spent countless hours dreaming, countless hours planning and spent what seemed like an eternity believing I could change everything if I just kept on believing in myself. You cannot even begin to imagine my surprise when I found out that almost every book I had ever read and every major tale I had ever heard about success was an absolute façade. It simply did not work. It was inspirational in its way but still something was missing.
I was 25 years old and I still had no major grip on what I sought after. I had attended private schools, gone to two universities, obtained an MBA degree and had 2 professional qualifications. I had achieved all of this before my 23rd birthday yet none of these added up to success in life or happiness. I had never been described as ugly nor did I have any major physical deformities. I was a Christian who deeply believed in all the church ideas on family and love. I had no criminal record, no mental or physical diseases and had not been in trouble with anything ever. I had a respectable IQ and no one had ever referred to me as weird or strange. I was not wealthy; was not happily married to the woman I cared about and I was nowhere near what I felt I could achieve and would achieve in life. So what on earth was wrong? Why couldn’t I just work for what I want just as I read? Why were hard work, determination and undying self belief just not enough?
I blame it on every lie I have ever read, all the “once you believe it you can achieve it” type lines. All the belief and talent in the world was never going to be enough. Success seemed to have more to do with luck and opportunity than with hard work. I had enough of reading the stories and believing them, they did more harm to my self-esteem than if I had gone through life and tried to make the best of every situation. Guidelines to life sometimes ruin people.
I decided to take the next best step. It was time to work smarter not to work harder. I dumped the “belief only” advice and decided that its time that my life taught me what was real and what was not. They weren’t the Geniuses in life, we are. Why should my interpretation of life depend on their view of life? That’s the only reason I decided to write. I have no intention of going on some ego trip rambling about how I have unravelled the great mysteries to life (I think the Bible is the only book than can claim that or at least for the most part tries to claim that) and I do not believe in guidelines to success. We must all follow our paths but the best way to do that is to know what path we are presently walking on.
I guess it’s about the road that gets you to a place where you finally see yourself for what and who you are and lose all sense of false self grandeur. The day you weep your eyes out because for the first time you really see your flaws and you realise that just knowing what they are means nothing if you continue to do nothing about it. That day “your” world takes a new shape. That day friends and family that have stood by you mean even more; “everything becomes an opportunity”, a second chance to get things right. That day maturity grabs you by the throat and becomes your best friend. You finally dissect yourself accurately and on that day self-pity leaves your side and self-action takes its place.
That day you realise that even though your life and options aren’t what you want you learn to take the highroad (not your way), maybe you do this because you learn to look at everything as a lesson, or because you don’t want to walk around angry anymore hoping to rationalise life, or maybe it is because you finally understand the cards that are laid before you.
There are things we don’t want to happen, but have to accept. There are people we can’t live without, but have to let go and that there are things we don’t want to know or face (often about ourselves), but have to learn. There are days we lack the courage to try to change but know we must someday.
Doing something about what we already know is our fault is the real difference.
That’s where truth comes in. That little push helping you to become what you already were. A diamond in the earth was already a diamond even before it was cleansed and purified. Truth is only here to unearth the diamond that was there all along. I have no intention of presenting a story that thinks for you. I do not believe you need me to and to assume so would be to call you stupid or assume you are incapable of thinking for yourself and we both know that is not true. My “rant” will be a guide to what has to inevitably be your decision; after all it’s only fair you decide since you have to live with the choices you make after.
I sat there with my sister Annette looking at the clock opposite us, at Clinic 6 at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, it was first thing in the morning and we had been sitting for nearly an hour, because my records had failed to be taken from archives. But however they eventually came and the long awaited call; “Mr Smylie?” rang confident from behind us.
“Good Morning, Sam how are you feeling?”, asked the Consultant Hematologist, as we sat down next to his disk, situated against one wall of a sparsely furnished clinic examination room. With a bed on the other side and a trolley of medical equipment against the other.
“Fine Doctor”, I replied considering I had just spent a week in hospital having all manner of tests, both routine and very painful, performed on me; after being told at my first visit to the blood donation clinic on Nelson Mandela Place just of Buchanan Street, in Glasgow City Centre, that I should probably go into A&E immediately.
I was 17 years old and all this was starting to get a little daunting for my young confident and growing mind. The Doctor looked at me confusingly, the way a lot of medical professionals were starting to look at me these days, not that I have, by this time, came in contact with a lot, apart from my GP and friends and family working within the field.
“Explaining this can be difficult”, started the Doctor, my sister shifted in her seat,
“Try your best Doctor”, I prompted,
“Okay, you have a rare Bone Marrow Failure Disease called Aplastic Anaemia”, I stared at him blankly, so no cancer? I thought.
“It caused by the bone marrow failing to produce blood cells to a particular degree that it may become fatal”, the Doctor went on to explain, now I shifted in my seat, my sister remained still.
“From what we can see you don’t have any underlying conditions that may have caused this to happen, we are unsure is it is hereditary, because we just don’t know. However your condition seems to be stable and not fatal”, chimed the Doctor as I struggled to take everything in.
“But Doctor, I don’t feel unwell at all”, I protested.
“Most people with this condition look and fell absolutely fine until the “final stages”, in other words if we hadn’t found this condition your bone marrow may have continued to fail until there was nothing left”.
So we left the clinic, and for the next 6 years I attended the same clinic, talking with the doctors and giving blood samples. No real complications ever came about apart from some very severe infections, that were caused by my lower than average white blood cell count.
However I was feeling deflated because dreams of becoming a Police Officer or joining the Armed forces were now non-existent, my girlfriend left me because she couldn’t cope with my growing depression, another added weight came about when I lost my father not long after diagnosis to Lung Cancer.
So I decided to work hard at university; which eventually paid of when I was offered a job with a large and respected IT outsourcing company, with great benefits and a career plan which will challenge me and allow me to mature and develop as a professional. Then after six years of stability everything failed, literally failed. My bone marrow had started to fully pack in, and from being able to run 1.5 miles in about 12 minutes I couldn’t walk half a mile without feeling breathless, frustrated and tired. I began to bruise easily, as well as bleed regularly from my gums and nose. My active life of weight training, running, swimming and learning to snowboard halted.
My social life became non-existent, as I could not go to busy places, work became increasingly more difficult (resulting in me being taken to hospital on Saturday afternoon), and then cam another blow.
“I would advise you not to go to your new employer this year”, advised my new consultant, who had taken the case because of the rapid decrease in stability in my condition.
So there I was on the telephone with the man who had hired me into my new high flying job explaining to him that I couldn’t accept the employment due to my decreasing condition.
I had lost my job, and my freedom then the biggest heart wrenching feeling came as I was advised that I would need to have a Bone Marrow Transplant or things could become getting a lot more difficult and very quickly, I obviously accepted and now here I am.
Never less the past year hasn’t been all bad, by my side I have had my very own guardian Angel, my beautiful girlfriend Rochelle has stood by me through all the disappointment, all the fear and the increasing feeling of frustrated anticipation as knowledge of the future is out of our reach as human beings. With her help I have managed to stay calm, collected and proactive in my treatment. To date I have had 4 blood transfusions to decrease the risk of heart attacks, organ failure or strokes, as I await for my transplant.
I have been in touch with the Aplastic Anameia Trust, the only charity in the UK that focuses on helping people with this rare disease, as only 150 people are diagnosed in the UK every year. That is equivalent to 2 in 1 million people in the whole Western World. Aplastic Anaemia is a killer, just like cancer, it sucks life away each and everyday and the survivors are truly inspirational people.
I still fight to this day, as the BMT draws ever nearer knowing that at the other side of an email, or a telephone I have someone there for me. But most importantly as my condition continues to get worse my angel is still by my side, hand in hand, until that day when I am better, and I can be the man I always wanted to be too her.
Picture a child of three, healthy, full of energy, smiling. Beautiful. Now take away the energy, take away the chubby exterior, see the Energy drain the energy, go ahead and drain the colour from her skin. Now the smile, it’s hard to picture when everyone around the child cries, or shouts in frustration. Doctors say there’s nothing wrong, the mother must be crazy right?
Imagine Christmas Eve, a happy child gets washed and dressed so quickly eager to get to bed, excitement fills the air, Santa is coming! Now take away the happiness, exclude the excitement. Replace the bed with a hospital cot, beeping machines and drips. The child is dying.
Undiagnosed diabetes, the blood is sticky with blood, acidic with ketones and organs are failing. Dr Carson his rounds dressed as Santa, to spread some cheer other night, delivering twin baby dolls to the dying child, a happy memory to leave with.
Amazingly death does not become her. The child lives and leaves hospital weeks later with two new babies.
Let’s skip ahead a few years. The child becomes a young teenager, attends a grammar school, is doing well. Duke of Edinburgh’s award comes along, she eagerly applies, keeping records of community services, extra curricular activities and a sport, on top of the map work and weekends camping with friends, sounds good, right? Now add the show an tell to leaders the girl has to do to teach them what to do in a diabetic emergency, add the extra weight of insulins and hypoglycemic kits to the already heavy rucksack. All part of the experience!
The weekend doesn’t start well with a broken down bus and late arrival to the start point, the heavy rain and blowing gales make it all the better. All the girls trudged in the dark for hours, 1.30am arrived before they made it to the camp site, but no rest for he wicked, tents have to be erected.
Birds chirp, sun slithers into the tents, waking the girls from slumber, only this girl realises herself and two companions perched at the edge of a cliff. The darkness of the night before had concealed why could have been a fatal fall.
no time to dwell, miles of walking lies ahead! At first our girl keeps up, walks with her group and even did her share of map reading and leading. The energy starts to deplete, the headache kicks in and you don’t even want to know how badly she wanted to vomit, frequently! ‘Just keep going we are half way there’ the older man dubbed as leader repeated more than once.
The camp site was a welcome site indeed, trangias popped up all over to cook up some delightful boil in the bag or pack of noodles. Our girl wasn’t hungry, she crawled into her sleeping bag and slept. Not even the violent shaking if the tent from her companions awoke her the next day, ‘girl problems’ was the diagnosis, ball everyone agreed she could board the bus and skip the remaining days walk!
Back at the school, she slumps in a corner, forced to wash trangias before fleeing to the arms of her mother, an straight to an A+E. Have you ever seen on T.V how the lights blur past and faces swim in front of the acting patient’s face, that really happens!
‘We need a drip now’
‘her heart rate is dangerously fast’
Sharp pain explodes across her back and the scene from the exorcist unfolds, then nothing.
Kidneys shut down, respiratory system needed assistance and the heart almost gave up. Amazingly death does not become her. Pneumonia can be fatal.
Let’s jump forward again, past the usual school business of new friends, new loves and stressful exams. Picture our girl now 16, cramps aren’t uncommon at this stage, but hers won’t go away. So what happens when the pain suddenly becomes sharp and a little more tithe right? Hospital.
Sitting in a bed, the doctors don’t believe her, but she has a pain, so let’s keep her in overnight, just to be sure, right? So what happens when the skin starts to turn grey? Is that still normal? Blood tests suggest it isn’t really, poison? From where? Remember the right abdominal pain? Bingo!
‘This is ICU madam we only allow two members of family in at one time to see patients’
Apparently an appendix can be fatal, amazingly death does not become her.
With life experience like this, what future does this girl have? One in nursing of course, give something back, afterall empathy is needed in such a career!
Year three into her degree, the headaches come. It’s not an easy degree, ward placements on top of university work and exams, anyone would suffer a headache or two, right? So what so you do when it doesn’t go away? What so you do when you can’t write in a straight line? Back to A+E of course. Only this time our girl leaves the hospital with two pain killers and no chance of a ‘just in case overnight stay’.
Give it a few days, rest up, relax, it will go away, right? Wrong! The only thing disappearing for her was her sight. Slowly, but surely. The GP suggests an urgent appointment with an Opthamologist, he suggests an over night stay with a brain CT scan to investigate further. Imagine the fear when one CT scan isn’t enough. Two CT scans and an MRI later, everyone is still being quiet, but you know that look? That sympathetic look when someone knows something and you don’t? Everyone had it. Finally a doctor appears, why the huddle of other doctors and nurses? Apparently they are a specialised team, to devastate a life with the diagnosis of a stroke.
A torn artery to the neck can be fatal, luckily a clot formed, too bad it broke free and settled in two parts of the brain. Amazingly death did not become her.
This girl, the one you have imagined time and time again in different scenarios, well she is real. She lives on today with a nursing degree, a child and a fiancé, in the hopes that death continues to overlook her, to let her live a full and happy life with her family. Not to forget the two dolls, who can now legally drink in any country!
The day it all started was like any other. I woke up in the morning went over to kiss her after the normal “oh, How did you sleep?”. I would like to say I never saw it coming but that is not true. I knew it was coming I just hoped it was all in my head. After all i was told that “ as long as I am still here you have nothing to worry about” and my naive self I believed her. Well not really believed it was, more of hoped it would be true. I guess in my own way my ego could not accept that the me as I was, could ever not be good enough. My pride really did need a reality check.
I remember that day more than any other day in my life because on that day a lot of things changed for me. I guess it was the birth of a new person maybe more like a reincarnation than a new birth.
We had been to the shops during the day, had lunch together and at some point in the evening it all happened. I know you probably think it was a big row that led to something else and some day’s I wished it was, as that way I would have been able to justify to myself or rather hide behind the fight and not have to accept the real problem.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah. So we got back from the shops and that was when she told me that she felt “we” needed some space. “A chance to re-evaluate our relationship” I was told. We needed to break up in a real way, not time apart or a brief split but an actual break-up so we can see if we really chose each other. I guess at the time I thought “you know what”, “How bad can that be?”. I knew what I wanted but if she really wanted to do this then I had to accept this at some point.
I guess I figured out in my own naive way that “most guys are assholes these days, I am sure she would go out and find out that I am actually a saint compared to them all. “The best amongst equals” I assumed. I guess my ego had been so drunk on naivety and smoked so much false sense of importance it was in its own world. I mean in retrospect, what a huge ego trip, to imagine I truly felt that I was better than over a billion possible candidates out there. I will hide under the excuse of youthful stupidity.
I mean think about it. I felt she was perfect in every way yet I thought that no other person out there would see that. Sometimes these days I wish I still had some of that “huge level of self grandiose feeling”.
Anyway I digress again. This isn’t really a story about heartbreak it is a story of survival. A few weeks after the break-up it really set in that this was real. This was not some temporary thing. I had really lost the lady I loved. I guess it sort of hit the spot when I once had to drive her to a date. I think I broke down and cried like a fat kid whose ice cream had been taken from him. I felt she was mine and no-one else’s yet I failed to realise she wasn’t a possession I had bought in the shop. Her heart was not mine to own, it was hers to give.
Back to the break up, so as the days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months I realised how desperately I wanted her back.
I don’t think I have ever grown up as much as I did during that time. For the first time in my life, through the eyes of the guys she dated I started to see the man I wasn’t. I wasn’t as great as I thought I was, I was not as caring, I was not as giving and surely not as thoughtful. I was a lot of things but a great catch really was not it. I dint deserve her especially in comparison to how I saw her. I realised in that period that you truly cannot force someone to love you. You really only have to be someone that can be loved and hope they love you back. Their heart is theirs to give and not yours to own or posses. To anyone that is just about to lose someone they love very much it will do you a world of good to know this to be true. I mean really know it and not just read it. A person’s heart and love is theirs and theirs alone. It is a gift we can never own but must always earn. The minute we forget this, love sometimes starts to dwindle away. While true love can take a while to lead to separation there are a few things worst than lack of love in a relationship.
Anyway, I digress again. After over a year of this break-up and several changes, I finally started feeling again. I realised that I know longer wanted or loved this lady to feel complete. I loved her because with her I wanted to be a better man. I wanted to grow. I no longer needed to be with her but just wanted to be with her.
Being unemployed started to hurt more than it would have if I was still with her. I wanted to be a better man. Now I won’t b*****t you, heart break really hurts. It drains you of everything. I have never felt so much pain without actually having physical pain in my entire life. You question yourself at every turn and the worst part is that the pain seems to never go away. It is there in the morning, it is there at night. In some cases it even becomes an obsession. I guess the best way to know if it has become one is to ask yourself a two part question, “is getting her back about love? Or is it now just a project?” “Could someone else realistically be better for you?”.
I survived this by a number of ways. I swore to myself that even if it kills me, another year will not pass by and I would still feel the same (In other words: taking full responsibility for change). I realised that though it is true that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was I still wasn’t un-lovable (in other words: Get some self respect, only make sure it is realistically mixed with true self reflection). I knew I wanted her but I wasn’t going to crawl anymore (although I never told her that though). I could finally re-evaluate what I really wanted from her and not base it on only my feelings. My head could get involved as well. I knew I wanted this girl but I was going to try to do it the right way (In other words: It is okay to want the same person just make sure it is for the right reasons. This doesn’t make you a weak person it just makes you a dedicated person if it is not an obsession anymore).
My self confidence came back. I was still very attracted to this lady. I still wanted her but my motives were real. It meant any time I did anything for her, I no longer felt like it earned me brownie points. It was just what you do regardless of reward.
I know it sounds quick and really obvious but it really works. Do you know how I know it does? I presently have a job that matter’s , a house, a wife and hopefully in the future at some point kids as well. I have a good and very happy life now and I have never felt more confident in my life than how I do now. Guess who I married?
In summary if you want to survive a heart break
A) Re-evaluate everything you feel was great (it could not have been that great if it led to a break up).
B) Never be ashamed of love or give your ego a chance to over-ride your heart.
C) Never give your emotions a chance to over-ride the right thing to do.
D) If you love some-one then you love them. What the hell can you do about it? Accept it and if it goes away then accept that to.
E) Gain some self respect my friend. People generally do not love people they cannot respect and people can see when you have no self respect. Don’t be the fat kid without the ice cream.
F) Accept that just because you worked on yourself and you are now “a better person” in your own head does not give you direct authority over someone. They don’t have to love you back no matter what you do so make sure if you decide to change you do it for the right reason. It must be a change for you not just because of someone else.
G) Wait and see. Do not over think it. I know it’s hard but if it is meant to be. It really will be.
No matter what happens if you gain some self development and a new lesson then great. Someone will find you and someone will see you for you.
I will leave you all with this quote. Success is when preparation meets opportunity (Henry Hatman). Good luck and God bless. If you have any additional questions leave a comment and I promise to reply ( as soon as I can).
I know what you’re thinking, right off the bat; how can there be any ‘Best’ things about being Homeless. I also know you’re probably curious as to where a homeless guy is writing about being homeless from exactly? Do they have free iPads’ and Wi-Fi attached to park benches now?
No. No, they don’t. If they did they would be covered in vomit, dog shit, some Super Strength Lager cans, and that’s if they hadn’t already been sold to buy said lager. But I digress.
Fortunately I have climbed out of that dog shit and vomit flavoured cocktail of park benches and clambered into a shelter. I thank my stars every day as it was the single worst period of my life. I’ve been a lucky man for most of the rest of it, having had nice houses, cars, high powered jobs, and most importantly of all – a beautiful girlfriend and precious daughter.
Sadly, I succumbed to the oldest cliché of all and became a functioning alcoholic, on the way to then becoming a completely non-functioning and very ill homeless man.
5 Worst Things about being Homeless
Oh God, the fear!
It’s probably not surprising to imagine how being homeless would be a ‘bit scary’ to anyone aside from perhaps those that had done a few tours of Afghanistan or something, but being ordered to leave the comfort of your old home with nothing more than a hastily packed bag of essentials is downright terrifying. ‘Drunk’ is also not a great time to rely upon yourself to pack ‘essentials’ either btw.
Where do you even begin?
The thought of walking up to the nearest fellow vagrant and saying “Sup bro, wanna hang?” is akin to the thought of walking up to a Tiger, kicking it in the balls and calling his mother a dirty great big stripy slut.
So you decide to go it alone and ‘see how it goes’. The idea of stepping into the night with no clue as to how you ‘be successfully homeless’ makes you whimper and shake like a newborn puppy cast into a snowdrift.
However, this initial trepidation pales next to the first night, after deciding upon a bush under which to park yourself, every rustle or noise or sight of another human approaching fills your pants with the same kind of shit as you’re probably sleeping on a makeshift bed of at that very moment.
Up until this point in life I had somewhat prided myself on being ‘a bit handy’ and wouldn’t back down from a fight with all but the toughest of tough guys (OK, up until High School. I never said I was Mike Tyson, alright?!). It became apparent that within any second of that entire night, I’d have squealed away from a squirrel if I thought it had even the merest of a ‘wild glint’ in its eyes.
As a person ‘with home’, you know that if you get caught up in your average downpour, frosty night, or blowy day, you are safe in the knowledge that you can dry off, warm up, etc the second you step back inside your front door.
When you’re literally braving the elements it doesn’t matter if the weather is ‘dickish’, mild, or even pleasant; you are always one (or a combination thereof), too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too flustered.
Sure, some of these are easier than others to cope with, but you’re never really comfortable and are all too aware that it can (and probably will) get worse. Think of it as Mother Nature’s punishment for you soiling her trees and hedgerows day and night. I’d never known what it was like to be truly frozen to the core, appreciate what it’s like to live in the Sahara, or feel as if your skin in its entirety has actually gotten trench foot.
What’s more, when you get kicked off the porch by whomever is donning the ‘shit-kickers’, clutching just a small bag of belongings (and I was one of the lucky ones) you don’t exactly have the correct seasonal wardrobe of raincoat, a light jacket, perhaps some darling waterproof woolly gloves, the right blend of hat options for snow and sun glare, and so forth.
In all fairness, you wouldn’t want to have to lug it about anyway and would desperately try and stow it in a bush and hope you remember where you left it, and or that it didn’t get stolen by a fellow bush-pisser.
That’s why you tend to see homeless people wearing a thick coat, hat, jacket, and boots whether it be baking hot or pissing it down. And it truly feels as bad as it smells, I assure you.
Like most of us on this site, I am a regular technology user, be it Smartphone, internet, social networking, etc. I also similarly rely on the ability to contact anyone/anytime. Oh, and damn if I am feeling really adventurous I even communicate with family, friends, and colleagues – in person!
Homeless people don’t often choose to spend their money on mobile phone top-ups, but I was actually different. Sadly, one night someone managed to wrestle the phone out of my weak, sleep deprived hands, and so I was left with no means of talking to anyone, finding out about the outside World, or keeping in touch with my ‘old life’.
I’ve never been much of a crier and enjoyed my own company, but for the first week I cried a lot. I was so gut-wrenchingly lonely and just wanted to see my daughter smile for Daddy, to have my girlfriend tell me everything would be alright, to hear my Mum tell me she loved me, to make my boss proud – just one last time.
Now through a series of events stemming from my drinking, lying about drinking, or being too stubborn to seek the help to stop drinking, I had let all those closest to me down. Understandably they had walked away one by one. And now finally I was stark-bollock-nakedly alone.
If you ever wish everyone would just get lost and leave you alone; Trust me, you don’t. Not for long.
Following on from The Isolation (and remember not everyone is an alcoholic like myself) is really just the realisation and questioning of exactly what happened to your life; the people you know, the complete removal of your self-respect and self-worth, and for me obviously; the utter and complete shame of being the un-intelligent person who made yourself homeless .
As a chronic binge drinker I’d have long periods (gradually dwindling, admittedly) of sobriety, where life was pretty damn sweet and I’d be in control. In short, I’d ‘beaten it’. Why didn’t I stop before I had thrown it all away?
Now, ironically I didn’t actually have much of anything much to do all day except drink, or think about my shame, or both. Instead, I walked endlessly around and around the park, replaying every despicable, nasty, selfish, cruel, dishonest, awful thing I had ever done. I was in a continual cycle of self-torture and persecution and I couldn’t escape it.
You can run away from home, or you can run home. Where do you run to when you don’t have one?
The Lack of Emergency Exit Signs
“Excuse me World!
Having contemplated being rock bottom for a LONG time and having stopped the drinking, I’d like to climb back aboard now please.”
Nuh uh, not quite so fast buddy…
Once more, I am sure you have seen for yourself the sheer amount of homeless people out there; with or without drink, drug, or miscellaneous issues. If not, I can tell you. It’s a metric tonne.
I’m not here to tell you why everyone else got into their own messes, or whether it was deserved like my own. However, regardless of how you dug your own hole, rest assured there are a lot of people ahead and behind you in the queue for help.
There aren’t loads of places in government sponsored rehab programmes, there aren’t a bunch of halfway houses out there offering free board. Fuck, it’s hard enough to jostle for some free coffee and bread at the local soup kitchen.
There certainly aren’t any big, flashing neon signs that say – “This way to your new life homeless dude!”
You’ll largely have to find out where you can get help for yourself, knock on a whole bunch of doors (and get a lot of them slammed back in your face), and once you do see any glimmer of help available you sure as hell better fight for it, both emotionally and sometimes physically, and make sure you don’t throw it back in anyone’s face in the process as I saw a lot of people who screwed up the moment they had a foot in the door.
Don’t misunderstand me, there are people out there trying to help, charity organisations, even kind hearted people who WILL try – if you help yourself. But it’s still a bloody hard slog and although I am now thankfully homed in a shelter, I know I continue to have a long way and plenty of time to go before I once again have a place to call HOME.
There are also some not so bad times, honest…
5 Best Things about being Homeless
It’s a bit of a revelation to sit in the sunshine and watch the world go by, completely oblivious to any of its problems. To be rid of job responsibilities, housework, clearing up baby sick. Woohoo! You are free as a bird once more to make your own choices!
After the initial horror, nay, Armageddon of being kicked out of your lovely and painstakingly house by your amazingly patient and gorgeous girlfriend who gave you your beautiful young daughter; pet your dog; watch TV at leisure, oh or eat, there is (believe it or not!), a fleeting yet blissful period where you feel the weight of the World slide away and you begin to think about this ‘opportunity’ to start over in life and make better choices.
To be honest, these ‘better choices’ often became clouded somewhat by the odd can of Super Strength Lager, but a proverbial fresh start was somehow now attainable. Much more than when I was being herded along by my rat race existence, in a job I hated, unable to swim against the tide of ‘regular life’ and do some things I wanted due to simply the perceived ‘lack of time’. Writing for example, reading a book, doing NOTHING but sit by a river in silence.
All those things were brought back to me, in the most horrid way, but I now will make sure they are always a part of whatever the future holds. In short, I’d face planted hard, but I was freshly ‘grounded’ in more ways than one.
In my previously employed incarnation, I had become a mindless middle management drone – sharing the same few conversations with work colleagues about the latest episode of The Walking Dead (how apt…), Call of Duty, the pressures of ‘having to spending time with her indoors’, and of course fatherhood. It’d been a long time since I’d met anyone who felt new, or who’d led a different kind of existence, or who wanted something different out of life.
Now I was meeting and sometime hanging out with characters such a ‘Wheelie Dave’ (he had a wheelchair – us crazy homeless sure know how to give a dude a nickname, eh?) Mental Mickey (oh yeah, they just keep-a-coming!); Stevie (OK, not so hot that one); Father Ted (UK sitcom character – GIYLF), and so many random encounters with ‘normals’, i.e. dog walkers, retirees, commuters, etc.
If you took time to speak politely, they wouldn’t always offer you money but they would often share a tender moment from their own lives, or maybe enquire about your own predicament (if they were feeling especially brave). From these tales of highs, lows, joy and woes, I (as a writer) suddenly had a whole new bank of inspiration, countless fables to regurgitate and regale. Hey, I wasn’t really a homeless alcoholic – I was simply researching for my book!
Either way (and like the corniness or not), unless I was starving hungry or jonesing for a beer/cigarette, such moments often lifted my spirits immeasurably more. There are a lot of very interesting strangers out there to meet and share your life with. Never mind on Facebook and Twitter. Talk to someone! A lot of them also still care about other people. You might just have to prove you’re not a mental or likely to get a bit stabby.
It’s worth making the effort to share your stories with others though, however that may be.
Man Make Fire, Strong Like Bull
Before my excursion into whimpering myself to sleep each day (you NEVER sleep at night unless the lagers were really flowing that day…), I was a successful videogame producer with a love of techno, comics, sci-fi, i.e. a financially affluent geek. I’d had a middle class upbringing and I couldn’t honestly say I had lived in the vague vicinity of anything resembling ‘Da Ghetto’.
As such my survival skills were somewhat limited, to things such as ordering pizza, a bit of DIY, and a pretty good range of ‘Streetfighter’ noises. Putting it bluntly I was no Bear Grylls or Andy McNab.
OK, you got me, I’m still not, but I can now: –
· Find a secluded spot in any park where I won’t be seen or smelled by passers by. Similarly, I can tell someone approaching from about 500 yards away, more if they are upwind and smoking a cigarette.
· Start a fire even in damp conditions with damp paper.
· Erect a makeshift shelter from nothing more than cardboard boxes, using preferably a waterproof groundsheet (I never said I was back in the literal Dark Ages), and make sure I remained largely dry and out of the wind long enough to attempt a power nap.
· Find food via a mixture of scavenging from the bins at one of the local bakeries, donations from kind strangers (thank you again, whoever you were), and bartering for cig/booze with fellow wanderers.
· Last but not least – Find a place to crap. As long as there are no kids about or persons likely to take offense, most men will whip it out and have a pee, but you don’t think of how difficult it is for a homeless person to find place to make number 2 until you are one.
Public Toilets aren’t around like they used to be, and the newer ones even require ill afforded payment, so you are required to either beg a local pub/restaurant/cafe owner to let you walk through their establishment and using the facilities (not easy!), or you learn to hide in the bushes, arse in the wind, and make sure you collect discarded newspapers where you can. Yup – it really is that glamorous!
Humility and Appreciation
Probably the best thing for me personally was re-learning humility and appreciation. *Stop puking at the back!*
In all seriousness though, I’d taken for granted my girlfriend and daughter, had stopped giving them the life they deserved; I’d thrown my family’s love back in their faces time and time again, they all enjoyed a drink so why couldn’t I?
I’d messed up my career, relying on the many ‘last chances’ my former bosses had given me thanks to my past glory (during the ‘dry times’) and imagining it impossible they would dare let me go.
I’d been a complete shit to any friend who had tried to just be a friend for friend’s sake or to try and help me; my ego seeming to think they would always come back because deep down I’m a great guy, remember?
Underneath it all, I had been a successful big shot at major companies, and had it all, so even though I deep down knew the success was fading, and people were becoming disenchanted; there was simply no way I could really lose it all. Was there?
This whole experience has made me remember how lucky I have undoubtedly been in my life. It has rediscovered my drive to be an honest, loving, grateful man and fix those relationships I have messed up. Most of all I was appreciative I was even still alive. I had been remind of my desire to be the Father my Dad never was (he died 3 years ago incidentally, aged just 55 years old – I’ll let you guess what of).
The Only Way is Up
Another possibly contrite statement, but true nevertheless – I have never been to such depths of hell as I have during my relatively brief time on the streets. I’ve tried to summarise it above, but there are a million other ‘worst’ things, yet not so many ‘bests’ about this colossal fall from ‘grace’ of mine.
Un/Luckily, the only way for me is up now. I don’t want to go back there. I CAN’T. I’ve been forced to remember who ‘Sober Louis’ is, and you know what? I kinda like him. Other people kinda like him too.
I am starting from scratch and hopefully by regaining the trust of those around me and with their forgiveness combined with mine to myself, maybe I can even reconnect with my own little family, circle of friends, and career path. ..