13 February 2019

A former guest of the Glass Door night shelters, Annabel has now started work and has moved into the newly-opened Pret House. Annabel shares her story in her own words.


"I first came to the UK in 1998. I moved here when I was getting married and I got a work permit. I had my three sons here. Everything was fine until I started to suffer from postpartum depression, and I ended up divorcing my husband.

The divorce made everything worse as I became more depressed. I didn’t know that it was depression, but I knew that I was feeling horrible. Depression wasn’t considered to be a real illness in Africa. We had problems like malaria and HIV.

A dark chapter

I met my boyfriend, and he introduced me to another way of life. I was brought up to be a good girl, but he introduced me to alcohol. With alcohol I could forget my depression.

My boyfriend was very abusive. He fed my addiction. You’re not going to exploit your habit with your normal friends; you’re going to have someone who puts up with your rubbish. He introduced me to it, and then we would have fun doing it together. Then he would hit me. I’d cry and then we would make up. That was our life: very toxic and very ugly. I didn’t like to show my arms as there were bruises all the way up them. I’m still working on being comfortable with my arms.

We find that people who do drugs together and alcohol together stay together, even if they are in the worst relationships because they’re feeding off each other. It was very bad, and I’m glad I’m over it even though he’s the father of my kid.

When I drank I had no energy to take my kids to school. I wasn’t a bad mum; I was at all the PTA meetings. My kids would say: "My mum cooks the best meals. My mum plays soccer with me." But alcohol was bigger than me.

When we broke up, my ex-boyfriend threatened me with the custody of my kids. He knew I had a problem, and he saw it as an opportunity. I lost custody of my kids, and they gave them to one of my sisters.

Every day I’d wake up in the morning, drink and then black out. I never showered. I never cooked. I never paid my mortgage, and eventually the house was repossessed.

 

Alcohol is a disease that’s very powerful. It’s bigger than you. You drink, you fall over, you break your leg – you don’t blame the alcohol.  You blame the stairs that you fell on.

After I lost custody of my kids, my sister came to me. She convinced me to come to Rwanda for two days, so I went thinking I’d go for two days. I ended up staying there for three years and nine months.

When I went back to my family, the first thing they did was take my bank card and passport. All they would focus on was trying to get me the help that I needed. I wasn’t eating, I was malnourished, I was only 32 kilograms. I went to seven different rehabs across the world. My family would do whatever it takes.

A fresh start

So I finally got to come back to the UK to clear my name and see my son here. When I got back, unfortunately I had nowhere to stay. That’s when I first went to Shelter from the Storm. There they give you a period of time that you’re supposed to stay, and when that finished I came to Glass Door.

When I was at Glass Door, I swear a miracle happened.

Not only did I have somewhere to stay and food, but I got something that was priceless, which was people who believe in me. That’s the best thing you can give someone. They gave me that confidence boost that I needed so much.

Annabel took part in Glass Door's new film, which features volunteers, staff and guests speaking on what makes the charity special.

I met Patricia at the Ace of Clubs [a day centre that partners with Glass Door]. She was amazing, and she’s so caring. Patricia will believe in you right away. She introduced me to an agency, and they got me a home. So I was in the shelters in October and November, and I moved into a house in December.

Patricia also introduced me to Jay [Glass Door employability coordinator], who right away boosted my confidence. It’s amazing to have someone who believes in you when you’re at that point in your life. People don’t usually want to give you second chances. People like Jay make you dream.

Glass Door not only provides shelter for you, it provides extra support and people to encourage you and show you that there’s a life after this.

Rising star

Jay introduced me to the Pret Foundation and I’ve been on the Pret Rising Stars programme since December. I’ve just started working. Right away they employed me and gave me a chance. It’s been great from then on; they have been so supportive.

I love what Glass Door has done for me. I am appreciative to be alive, to be healthy and to be given a second chance… to get work, to be a mum to my boys again, to be normal, and to have new friends.

The things I used to do, they just were not me. I was a totally different person. It’s not easy to make a change; you need people. I’ve been sober for a while but I still go to AA meetings, when I go there and speak about it, I become stronger.

It’s amazing. The people who work in the shelters make such a difference.

 

When you’re here you can see the light at the end of the tunnel because the support network is amazing.

 

So for people like us, we know that we don’t have to give up on life, it’s not over. Tomorrow might be better than yesterday.

It does make a difference. It gives us another chance at life."


To give shelter and support to someone like Annabel and make a long-term difference in the life of someone experiencing homelessness, consider making a donation