I caught up with Ricky at the end of a busy shift in Wintercomfort’s kitchen. He’s been working his way steadily through a mountain of sandwiches, preparing pack-up lunches for service users currently living in temporary Covid accommodation around the city. Ricky has been volunteering within the catering team since mid-March, keen to ‘give back’ to the team who he considers as having turned his life around.
“Wintercomfort means the world to me” he says. “I really love the people here and I’m just happy to be in a position now to do something to pay back everything they’ve done for me”.
Reflecting on his life, Ricky believes that his challenges began with a troubled time at school. Although he excelled in maths and PE, he found other subjects more of a challenge and as a result, was forced to repeat a year at school. He began to hide his lack of self-confidence behind a mask of disruptive behavior – inside the classroom and out. “I fell in with the wrong crowd” he says “and when I was 15, I got into a bad fight which led to me spending time in jail”.
It was whilst in prison that Ricky became involved with drugs, to the point that when he was released, he was firmly in the grip of addiction. “It was all I wanted to do” he says “I just saw it as a way to feel good and to block everything else out.”
Directly related to his involvement with drugs, at the age of just 19, Ricky was viciously attacked in an incident so serious, he was left paralysed for 9 months.
Looking for a fresh start, Ricky moved to Cambridge at the age of 20. He managed to get clean and began to feel that his life was heading in a better direction. With a renewed sense of confidence, he decided to return to Bristol to see friends and family.
“That was a mistake” he says “As soon as I got back, I started seeing the people I used to hang around with and before I knew it, I’d relapsed and fallen back into my old way of life. I decided to come back to Cambridge. I knew that I could get clean again once I was back here. I’d done it once and I knew I could do it again”.
That was around six years ago, and he’s been here ever since.
“When I first heard about Wintercomfort, I thought it was just a place to get some food and get a shower. Then one day I heard someone talking about making an appointment to get some housing advice and my ears pricked up! That was when I met Aggie and she’s been my project worker ever since. She’s helped me so much to get to where I am today.”
And where is Ricky today? He’s currently living in hostel accommodation and is close to being awarded a tenancy in his own flat. With the support of Aggie and the Wintercomfort team, he has worked incredibly hard to get to this point. He is now clean and following a treatment plan for his addiction, he is in a loving and stable relationship, receives regular counselling at Wintercomfort and volunteers regularly with the team here.
“I’m so inspired by Ricky’s attitude and determination in his recovery to achieve his goals” says Aggie, “and I’m so pleased to have been able to play a part in his progress”.
Looking to the future, Ricky is keen to find permanent work and has been saving up to buy a scooter which will allow him to look for delivery work. Wintercomfort are ready to support him with this next step on his journey towards a more positive future.
“I know how far I’ve come” he says “and there’s no way that I’m going to throw this all away. I’ve got the rest of my life to live now”.