Stories from guests, volunteers, trustees and friends of Devizes Opendoors
One of our regular volunteers, Caroline Reid, who is a shift leader and trainer, has been getting to know some of guests and volunteers and in this regular feature on our website we will publish her stories.
First of all, let’s get to know Caroline:
Caroline has been a volunteer on the Wednesday shift since January 2017. Despite her accent she is a native of Devizes but spent 40 years living in California, til retirement with her Californian husband, Chris. They have one son and a cat, love movies and their garden.
Regular guest Shaun promptly agreed to this interview saying that he'd never been interviewed before! He started drinking at 7 years old, the sensitive and artistic son in a family of sporty types, disconnected from his Dad, who had offered him his first drink. He quickly realized that drink would make life easier with his Dad and brothers. Until, of course, it didn’t.
Shaun described himself as a functioning alcoholic from about 11 years old, all through school, through uni, through training and working as an Art Therapist until the point where his addiction made him a danger to himself and to others. There were psychotic episodes, periods of rehab and relapse, a time of homelessness on the streets of Salisbury, and then in September 2017, he showed up at Opendoors. Shaun spent much of the next year depending on the 3 hot meals each week as his main source of food while he continued chronically drinking and abusing various substances, whilst in and out of semi-supported accommodation, hospital and police custody. He said that during that period of instability, Opendoors was a safe place where he knew he would be welcomed, whatever state he was in.
Shaun described how he was incapable of getting himself into rehab, even though he knew that’s what he needed. In 2018, Turning Point were exploring funding for residential rehab, but it was taking too long and he had gone through rehab many times before and relapsed. What finally made the difference was a worker at Springer’s House making a phone call to his doctor and on this basis he was admitted for a medical detox in a Salisbury hospital. During this 2 1/2 week admission, he went through supervised withdrawal, losing and regaining the use of his legs. Following the detox he moved into Ruth House (a dry house).
Life today is a far cry from a year ago. Shaun lives with a variety of addiction-related health issues, he is a peer mentor with Turning Point, art is again a major part of his life and he is making plans to regain his certification as an Art Therapist. He credits the services and the individuals, including a doctor, who went ‘above and beyond’ to help him. Volunteering is a way he can give back, “It’s a part of my recovery,” declared Shaun. “I need to have a social network to continue , as well as ongoing support from specialist services and, of course, my art. It would be really interesting to work with addicts, knowing what I know now.”
“I don’t see alcohol as a fight, because there’s no way I can win that fight, I can’t beat it. It’s more like being in an abusive relationship: I’ve left that partner and every day I have to make the decision to just walk away. You lose the sense of who you are when you’re that addicted. So I’m a 49-year old man learning how to deal with the difficult, painful and unwanted feelings that we all experience for the first time. Feelings are a part of our contract with life. It’s a difficult but sometimes surprising challenge."
A sincere thanks to Shaun for telling his story, and Caroline for recording it. We look forward to more inspirational stories in the future.