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Keith's story

Keith's story

Keith had it all. Wife, kids, a home, an exciting job as a chef and all that came with it. However, his perfect life came tumbling down one Christmas morning when, instead of opening presents as a family, his wife found him overdosed in the bathroom.  

No one, not even Keith, knew that he was a heroin addict. He had grown up in a family home where alcohol addiction was 'normality' and at aged 12, his uncle taught him how to inject heroin, which quickly became part of his childhood existence. 

I didn’t know better but from aged 12 to around 24, it was great fun getting high every day. When you’re on heroin you don’t feel anything good or bad; you have a numb feeling and nothing matters. Over 12 years or so, I must have learned how to hide the tell-tale signs because it wasn’t until walking through town one day with a friend that I realised I wasn’t living a normal life even though others thought I was. My friend pointed at someone and joked about ‘junkies’ and I realised I was one too.

Keith remembers waking up one day feeling sick for the first time in over 10 years. Calling to a friend’s home for help, the person explained to Keith that he was experiencing opiate sickness and offered him heroin to smoke, which Keith did and almost immediately the sickness disappeared. From that day, Keith associated the brown powder as the only way to fight his sick feelings and vowed never to live a day without it. 

The seduction of heroin is strange. When my wife found out I was a user, she asked me for the full truth and even though I tried, it was hard to fully explain. I believed things in my life were making me miserable such as not getting paid more in my job, a waitress not carrying plates fast enough in my restaurant or my wife making me the wrong dinner. Heroin would take away the miserable feelings in my life, but I never once thought it was what was making me low in the first place.

For most people, having to tell their wife that they were high on their wedding day or on their child’s christening would be soul destroying but I felt nothing. Even when my family asked me to leave our home, my old friend heroin was there to ‘help’ me through it.

Keith spent a short while living with his mum before their relationship suffered and one night he packed a bag and ended up living on the street and between shelters for over three years. During this time, his addiction to drugs got worse while his mental and physical health deteriorated. While on the streets, someone in a similar position to Keith commented one evening ‘In all the darkness must come the light’ and this resonated with him. In that moment, he decided that he wanted to get clean.

By chance, someone who had supported Keith in the past was in a position of encouraging Simon Community to work with him. A bed was found at ours Saintfield Road hostel and a support plan was created to respond to his addiction issues and homelessness needs. 

I didn’t find Simon Community, Simon Community found me. Their project was relaxed and removed the temptation of drugs, which allowed me the freedom to process my thoughts. The staff worked with me at my best and worst but always without judgement. During my time with Simon, I trusted them completely, knowing that any decision they made or suggestion they provided was only done with my best interests in mind. Because of them, I’ve been able to work on goals to help my recovery.

Helping End Homelessness For Keith 1

Keith is now off heroin and, with the help of Simon, has recently moved in to his own flat where he will spend his first Christmas living independently in many years. Taking each day as it comes, he doesn’t like to plan for the future because it causes him worry and anxiety, but he is happy to have a front door of his own again.

Simon Community have helped me even when I didn’t think I had the right to help. To say that I’m never going to use heroin again is too much of a commitment but saying I won’t use it today is something I can manage. Now that I know how to ask for and accept help, I am in a place where I can work on my illness. My new home will help me on my journey!