A fresh start at Emmaus: Janine’s story

Published on: 10 January 2020

Janine shares her personal story of a fresh start at Emmaus.

I have struggled with alcohol for over thirty years. I first started drinking at 17 but that was just socially and at weekends. At 21, I got into a relationship that became violent and I started to rely on alcohol for confidence to see him. I got out of that relationship after nine months, but the drinking continued.

At 25, I had my first child and went on to have two more children. Two of them are now in their 20s and my youngest is 14. I found it easy to stay clean and sober while pregnant and breastfeeding, I didn’t even think of drinking at all, but I always went back to it.

I was a single mother for 19 odd years, drinking and doing a lot of drugs throughout that time. From 2012, I did a diploma in counselling, completed a two-year Foundation Degree, and won a trophy for the most outstanding student on an access to higher education course. I was doing well considering I was in a bad place emotionally and mentally, but I became homeless and couldn’t finish the final year.

Eventually, I moved into a supported housing project in the countryside and got help. My support worker there was amazing, and after she had seen how much I enjoyed a project to restore an old greenhouse and how it had helped me to not drink, she suggested I think about finding work.

I was terrified: I have a history of being bullied in workplace environments, as well as in social situations and within my family. I wasn’t sure I could cope and didn’t have the confidence. Then I found out about Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney and moved here in March 2019.

I mainly work in Emmaus House sorting clothing and bric-a-brac donations and talking to customers. It makes me feel like I have a purpose, keeps me busy, and makes the day go quicker. The best part is knowing that working isn’t just helping me – it helps the other companions and the community too, which is what makes it meaningful.

The environment of Emmaus is amazing too. The staff and other companions are extremely supportive. It’s is more than just a place to live. We all eat together, both staff and companions, and Eamon, who is another companion at Emmaus, cooks amazing food which really brings everyone together.

Since being here, Emmaus has helped me get on a drug and alcohol programme in Norwich and I’m over three months sober. I have also been meeting with Stacey from Heart of the Matter who visits the community to have sessions with companions. She helps me feel valued.

Now that I am settled in at Emmaus, I want to continue rebuilding trust with my children who put up with a lot over the years. There was never a big argument, but they were frustrated, upset and disappointed in what I was doing, and I understand that. I now have two grandchildren too and was so excited to buy them each a present instead of spending my money on alcohol.

I know at Emmaus I will have the stability and the time to re-establish myself as a new person.


To find out more about how you can support the work Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney and help to make a difference to the lives of people who have experienced homelessness, click here.

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