Word on the street
Ben’s story – how St Petrock’s helped me rebuild my life
It was late in 2020 and I had tried for the past year or so to turn my life around. Although I had moments of clarity and success, I also had moments of failure and relapse.
I had finally hit my rock bottom and I stood at the water’s edge in Exmouth believing that my only option was to swim out as far as I could, until I couldn’t swim any further and then I wouldn’t be able to get back.
Thankfully someone knew the dark place I was in and called the police. I was arrested for my own safety and taken to hospital where I had a nurse sat with me, I wasn’t deemed safe to be left alone.
I had gone from having my own construction firm, my own house, a family with children, a loving partner, a nice car and life seemed good. The recession came in my mid thirties. In 2008, I lost my business, my family, my house and everything I had worked for.
At this time my unresolved childhood trauma resurfaced, and I tried cocaine for the first time. This basically led me to a ten-year bender, totally addicted to cocaine and alcohol and not even realising I had a problem where everything you can emotionally, financially and physically imagine, was stripped from me. I blamed everyone else and the chances of me turning things around on my own felt impossible and even with help, things did not look good from my perspective.
Living with an addiction is extremely difficult. The shame and guilt I carried from taking drugs were unbearable and led me further and deeper into the grip of addiction. I just couldn’t comprehend how my life had turned out the way it had. Mentally I was breaking, logical thinking was rapidly disappearing week by week.
As the problem got worse, so did the consequences. I caused myself so much more trauma so suicide seemed like a good decision, that would relieve me of my sadness and be best for everyone. I isolated myself from almost everyone and everything I loved or enjoyed. I was riddled with fear of the world, shame, guilt and of being judged. I felt I had let the whole world down and my self-esteem was pretty much non-existent.
I was able to rent for most of this time, but ran out of money in 2019 and spent a year sleeping on friends’ floors and sofas. At this time, I felt so unworthy of life, pathetic and completely useless. It was exhausting constantly trying to hide what I was going through and how I was feeling and having to depend on others. This led me to my darkest and most desperate point on Exmouth beach in 2020.
It was lockdown and after I was released from hospital it felt like the world had stopped so I could start to get well. After being signed off work for two months I met the team at St Petrock’s who gave me somewhere to live while I finally went back to work after two years, in a job for an organisation I absolutely loved, where I had the opportunity to help young adults have a sustainable life.
During that time I trained and got some qualifications. I am now a boxing for fitness instructor, I have a level 2 counselling qualification, am a suicide first aider and am trained in mental health awareness. I’m starting my own business called fitterfor.com which I would like to function under a Christian ethos as much as possible, as introducing God into my life through Rediscover church has transformed my life for the better in so many ways.
I received a really warm welcome there as well as a massive amount of help from Rediscover and started volunteering for them at their foodbank, did an Alpha course and got baptised in July 2022. fitterfor.com is in its infancy and I have just created a website, stating initially it is a boxing for fitness course, designed to run alternative courses within its sessions on budgeting, relapse prevention, employment, education and pretty much any subject.
In time, I would like to include courses on drama, art, music, nature and offer something for everyone who may need support. I won an award from the school of social entrepreneurs and I am currently looking for businesses and organisations to support me with this venture. There is such a need for new initiatives in my opinion, to tackle the issues I have experienced and I would very much like to do as much as I can in these areas.
So I guess although the above is brief and shows how things are so much different over the last few years, I would like to sincerely show my gratitude to St Petrock’s. They gave me accommodation in supported living soon after I was released from hospital in 2020 and that was my first experience of some kind of security for years. I really would not be where I am today if it was not for the passionate, empathetic and super hard-working staff at St Petrock’s.
Not only did they give me a home but they helped me with the benefits system, options around therapy, discussed my trauma in a kind manner, made sure I was safe, understood where I was in my journey, and helped me with a grant and furniture when I moved to my own flat. I feel humble writing this and my support worker helped me understand my guilt and shame. St Petrock’s influence is still in my life today and helps me process my past and my present.
In short, I honestly do not think that I would be here today if it was not for all that St Petrock’s did for me, and all I have now including peace of mind, beautiful relationships with my children, hope for the future and so much more would not have been possible. Words cannot express my gratitude, thank you so much to all at St Petrock’s.
Photo: Ben Cookson outside St Petrock’s.