“I spent most of my life, from when I was 15 until I was 40, using addictive substances. I got into all sorts of problems like sleeping rough, offending, going in and out of prison. That cycle went on for so long. During that time, I was accessing services that were meant to help but I don’t think they were equipped to deal with someone like me. I reached a point where I thought, ‘What’s the point of trying to get help’ because they weren’t helping me.
Just before coming to Mustard Tree I’d come out of a 12-year relationship, in that relationship I was a carer, which was like a full-time job. When the relationship ended, I found myself in my flat, isolated, with no friends, no family. I was completely alone.
I’d known about Mustard Tree for years. I’d even used it on a few occasions for things like food parcels and clothes. One time I popped in and saw Nick, who I’d known for some time and I spoke to one of the staff on the Freedom Project team because I wanted to access the IT class. They put me down to join the Freedom Project, which I was a bit unsure about at the time. I was worried about going through that door, but if you don’t take those first steps you’ll never see what could happen.
I’m so happy that I took those steps. Mustard Tree has given me the joy back in my life. I’m socialising with people again, building my confidence. Before I was just surviving, just existing. If I hadn’t come here I would have stayed on my own not knowing what to do day-to-day.
Mustard Tree opened doors for me to rebuild my life. They saw things in me that I might never had realised I had, and they pushed me to try things, like with me they encouraged me to apply for a job at Shelter. They wanted to see me develop and progress.
My hope for the future is just to be happy regardless of my circumstances. That’s the most important thing to me. In terms of a career, I want to help people. I’m a giver by nature and I want to help people at risk of going down the same roads that I went down. If I can advise people and steer them in a different direction then that’s what I’d like to do.”
Chris (age 51)
*To protect Chris’ identity, his name has been changed and a photograph has been posed by an actor.
You can support Mustard Tree’s work of transforming the lives of people throughout Greater Manchester. A donation of £10 can allow us to provide one IT Skills class for up to 15 people.